Everyone understood the threat on the day of the Governor General’s appointment.
In this increasingly multicultural Canada, French had been relegated to the background in favor of diversity.
If the case of Mary Simon seemed to be an exception on the altar of Reconciliation, the census data made public this week suggests the extent of the risk.
Statistics Canada has confirmed what everyone preferred to ignore: bilingualism in English Canada is an illusion.
The number of Anglophones who are bilingual continues to decline, while the number of Allophones who choose French as a second language is only 6.1%.
French immersion classes in Vancouver and Toronto won’t change that, they are no match for the high volumes of immigration.
The founding myth of the two Nations is no more than a view of the mind. This immigration on which Canada relies to ensure its economic growth is not identified with the importance of respecting this national pact and learning French.
Certainly, many Anglo-Canadians have never believed in it. But at least they pretended to safeguard national unity.
Today, the paradigm is hanging by a thread.
Officially, the Trudeau government still believes in this official bilingualism.
It tries to strengthen the Official Languages Act. He has also made this commitment sacred in his most recent appointments to the Supreme Court. Mahmud Jamal and Michelle O’Bonsawin are two Ontarians who speak French, one of Kenyan origin, the other an Abenaki from the Odanak First Nation. A boon !
The government’s efforts in this regard should be applauded. But the pressures he has faced to waive the requirement for the country’s highest judges to understand French are cause for concern.
Will the calls for a court more representative of Canadian diversity get the better of bilingualism in French when it is necessary to replace Judge Malcolm Rowe of the Atlantic in 2028?
In a Canada where Francophones only represent 21.4% of the population, the question deserves to be asked. Above all, it has serious consequences, because it is all the federal institutions that weigh in the balance.
Already the Trudeau government refuses to say whether it will maintain the requirement of English-French bilingualism for Aboriginal public servants.
Besides, the reaction to Bill 96 speaks volumes. The protection of French, its affirmation as a common language, is seen as a brake on Reconciliation, an attack on the full integration of indigenous people into civil society. As we have seen, the same logic also holds for the other minorities.
If this is the reaction in Quebec, imagine in English Canada!
There is only one step left before knowledge of French as the existential basis of Canadian bilingualism is seen as a source of systemic discrimination.
The latest census data therefore heralds an explosive identity debate for all of Canada.