On June 9, I had an op-ed published in the Montreal Gazette on the subject of the Quebec anglo community and Bill 101. Here is the text in full as well as the link to the piece in the Gazette.
By Noah Sidel, Special to the Montreal Gazette
Robert Libman’s June 6 opinion piece “Quebec anglos, Bill 101 and Yosemite Sam” is centred on the old angryphone argument that our community is marginalized because of Bill 101. His statement “This transformation to minority status was a shock to the psyche of a proud and historic English community” says it all: The generation of anglos that abandoned Quebec in the 1970s and 1980s either by leaving or by staying and acting as if it were Anglo Hell on Earth still can’t wrap its collective head around the fact that we have always been the minority and always will be, and that it’s normal that the majority — especially one as culturally and socially rich as Quebec’s francophones — be steering the political and social ship.
That doesn’t mean we can’t live here and thrive both in our own communities as well as in the larger Quebec reality. But that takes a willingness to be part of the solution instead of constantly battling against reality.
Our school system — in particular the English Montreal School Board — is upside down not only because Bill 101 drained our pool of potential students from the immigrant population, but also largely because we’ve disengaged as a community from managing it by entrusting it to commissioners elected by the few and responsible to no one.
The political system fails us not because of Bill 101, but because as a rule, we send the same people back to Quebec City one election after the other with no accountability or responsibility because they know they’re going to win no matter what. Someone once said to me “the Quebec Liberals could put a dog in a red hat on the ticket in D’Arcy-McGee and it would win in a landslide.” Well, why should the political class take us seriously when we don’t take ourselves seriously enough to present any sort of community front aside from online petitions and the occasional huff from a Côte-St-Luc city councillor that McDonald’s doesn’t have bilingual signs?
Libman was right when he formed the Equality Party and shocked the political class in the 1989 election. That was the one and only occasion in my lifetime that Quebec anglophones stood up for themselves by taking a seat at the table instead of throwing stones from the sidelines.
I hope as we approach both this year’s municipal elections and the 2018 Quebec election that anglo Quebecers realize that in order to be comfortable in our home, we need to actively take part in its operation. Our elected representatives need to be held accountable and made to listen, not by trying to fight the battles of the 1970s, but by being told if they don’t work on assuring our place in Quebec society that we’ll find someone else who will.
I’m 36 and part of an almost-completely bilingual generation of anglo Quebecers who are enriched by the results of Bill 101. My children will not only be bilingual as well, but hopefully with some hard work and support, will be able to speak French without an accent and be able to navigate through their professional and personal lives here in Quebec with ease as a result.
Bill 101 is our reality. With some appropriate changes from its initial writing, it has stood up at no less than the Supreme Court of Canada. It’s our past, it’s our present and it’s our future. If we participate in society as partners with the francophone majority, it makes us stronger. It may have been a shock to my parents’ generation, but I’m proud of the heritage of Bill 101 in Quebec.
Noah Sidel lives in N.D.G. and is the vice-president of a facilities maintenance company based in Côte-St-Luc. He was a candidate in the 2014 Quebec general election, representing the Coalition Avenir Québec.