Tuesday, 26 October 2010

English Kids in French Schools Produce an Interesting Demographic in Montreal

Is Montreal the largest English city in Quebec, or the largest French city in Canada? That's a question posed today by Gazette report David Johnston, in the backwash of considerable debate about admitting non-Anglophone children to English schools.

In case you'd missed it, the Supreme Court of Canada told Quebec it had to modify regulations regarding admission, which had allowed children who were otherwise ineligible under Quebec's language laws to attend province-supported English schools after they had started their education in English in a non-subsidized English private school. Not enough flexibility, the Court said, and the result was a complicated piece of legislation passed last week which gives English langage rights to children who pass three years in a non-subsidized English school. The debate up to the measure's passage was very heated, fueled by a number of recent reports on the declining percentage of Francophones on the island of Montreal.

The only people who are going to benefit from this are Francophones and immigrants rich enough to shell out tuition of $15,000 or more a year for a non-subsidized school. The subsidized English schools, public and private stand to gain a few more pupils once they've accomplished the three year passage elsewhere, but we're talking no more than maybe 50 new students a year.

The thing is that over the last 20 years Allophones and many Anglophone families who chose to stay in Montreal and sent their kids to French schools. There is a whole generation of non-pure laine Montrealers who speak and work in French quite happily, but who may speak English among themselves. You'll hear them talking to their kids in English on streets in the East End where they've moved, attracted by lower rents and the coolness factor. The kids are going to French schools, and becoming yet another generation of truly bilingual folk.

This has demographic implications for all sorts of reasons, which I frankly think are positive.

Now, what would be interesting is if there is an exodus of cool young types from Toronto to Montreal, after the election of a right wing Mayor there yesterday. I bet there are some English school board officials here who are hoping for such a reaction.

1 comment:

lagatta à montreal said...

Especially of cyclists, whom the Great Oaf wants dead, and who could claim refugee status... I know that if they are educated in English in Canada, they have a right to attend English schools. Otherwise, screw them. You don't move to the US and expect to get free education in French.

While I like people to speak as many language as possible, I am very distressed about the future of our French-speaking culture. I don't want to live in some bland place in English-speaking North America, where people wear loud lycra outfits to ride bicycles. Nope.