French divide

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There’s a reality many French-speaking Canadians outside of Quebec face where their ability to speak the language is overshadowed by whether or not it’s considered “real” French.

The recent defeat of the Parti Québécois in the Quebec provincial elections may already be forgotten by many, or celebrated as the final defeat of nationalism in Canada’s second-most populated province. Some may be inclined to dismiss bilingualism in the rest of Canada as unnecessary and expensive. Many others, such as myself, feel differently.

You see, my Canada includes both English and French with rights protecting both official languages and branding them equal counterparts in the eyes of Canadians from coast to coast.

As a proud French-Canadian, born and raised in Ottawa to parents originally from Montreal, my experience as a French-Canadian living outside of Quebec is at times frustrating.

Franco-Ontarians, like all other Francophones living outside of Quebec, are often seen as inferior, caught in limbo where they’re not “French” enough in the eyes of Quebecers and still not as Anglophone as the rest of Canada.

This drive towards linguistic purity has created an arbitrary and deep divide among Canadians, perpetuating the false argument that one language or dialect is better than the next. What many Anglophones fail to recognize is the variety of French dialects in Canada.

According to Statistics Canada, more people outside of Quebec reported French as their mother tongue than in Quebec — approximately 1,067,000 in 2011. The census also revealed the geography of French in Canada, whereby 77 per cent of French-speaking Canadians living outside of Quebec reside in Ontario and New Brunswick.

Spanning over just these three provinces, the quality of French and the expressions used vary wildly. The only constant is the language they speak. It should bridge these Canadians together, not tear them apart.

Language is a powerful way to unify a nation. At the same time, it can be divisive to our national identity, pitting French and English speakers, or even French speakers, against each other.

The ability to express myself in French shouldn’t be overshadowed by the place I come from. Canadians everywhere should celebrate their capability to speak French, regardless of its quality.

Emilie is the Journal’s Assistant Photo Editor (Video). She’s a third-year geography major.

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