Situation of English speakers in Québec

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Introduction

Québec's English-speaking community represents approximately ~8% of Québec's total population when counting native speakers of the language. The proportion rises to ~11% when counting individuals who, during population census, claim to speak mostly this language at home.

Québec English speakers are mostly concentrated on the west end of the Montreal island, where the community has a well established network of educational, social and cultural institutions built after the British Conquest of Canada in 1759-60. Other important communities exist in the Québec portion of the Ottawa-Hull region on the Ontario border and the Eastern Townships, settled by United Empire loyalists and other British Americans in the late 18th century. Historically, the English-speaking community has given its loyalty to Great Britain and its Empire and gradually broke ties with this nation after the Second World War like the rest of English-speaking Canada. This separation from Great Britain allowed for a Coast-to-Coast Canadian nationalism to prevail among the English-speaking population, clashing, on the territory of Québec, with the much older nationalism of the francophone majority.

Since the rise of Québec as a society mainly controlled by its French-speaking majority, the English-speaking community of Québec is increasingly bilingual (English-French) or trilingual in the case of allophones who adopted English later on in life. Many Québec anglophones identify strongly with Québec, however they in the majority think of it as a special province of Canada, not has the historical homeland of the Québec people, a people to which they in general do not identify to in the same manner that the majority of Quebecers do.

prevalence of the English

The prevalence of the English language being what it naturally is in Canada and North America, approximately 40% of the population of Quebec claims to be able to carry on a conversation in that language, despite the fact that only ~8% speak it as their native tongue. That makes a lot of second language speakers. Within this climate, where English is often the only or best common denominator between citizens, about half of all language shifts are directed toward English, instead of French, the language of the majority in Québec and its sole official language since 1974.

It is not common for an important linguistic majority to see its language have so little influence on natives of other tongues. How did this ever happen? Is it entirely natural? What role did politics play into this? To understand, you'll need to read a lot on Québec's history as well as acquire some basic notions of language demographics and sociolinguistics, which is beyond the scope of this article. You can start by reading Key concepts to understand Quebec politics.

A minority?

As a minority in Québec but a considerable and organized majority in Canada, the comparison between the situation of anglophone Quebecers and the francophones minorities in the other provinces of Canada is dubious. Yet, the federal state of Canada choses to ignore this and even encourages people to believe that the efforts by the Québec government to redress the situation of the French language are illegitimate as they step on the rights of the anglophone "minority". See the strictly factual article on Québec's anglophones for all the stats.

Communication problem

There exists a major communication problem between Quebec francophones and the anglophones of Canada, including those native of Québec. Despite significant progress in mutual understanding between the two major language communities of Québec, quantity of myths and lies on Québec francophones continue to be widely taken for facts by anglophones as well as allophones who have a working knowledge of English but not of French. See A few important facts and Myths and fallacies about Québec for examples.

The propaganda machine built in the 1960s for the opinion war against communism, socialism was used to instill fear and suspicion of Québec separatists with great success. The role played by the RCMP Security Service in this is better known today because of the declassification of files previously kept secret for reasons of national security.

Battle against the Charter of the French language

The constant battling against the Charter of the French language, the sovereignty movement and Quebec nationalism in general greatly affected the perception that anglophones have of themselves and of francophones. A climate of fear, distrust is continually entertained by corporate media allied to the main federal political parties engaged in the fight against the renewed Quebec nationalism.

See also