Bill 14 Threatens Our Soldiers’ Children

Bill 14 Threatens Our Soldiers’ Children

Opinion piece by Colin Standish

DDO School parents and community

DDO School parents and community

When I think of Bill 14, I think of Sandra. Sandra goes to the English-language Dollard-des- Ormeaux (D.D.O.) school just off Valcartier military base near Quebec City. When I met her, she choked back the tears as she asked why she would have to change schools and lose her friends. Her father serves in the military and was wounded in Afghanistan. She lives with her mother, her parents separated partly due to the strain of post-traumatic stress after her father returned from combat. Now, the one constant in her life, her elementary school and close friends, will be taken away by Bill 14.

There are 600 Sandras in Quebec City and Bagotville, who come from military families and who would lose the right to attend school in the language of their choice because of Bill 14. Almost 20% of the children in English-language educational institutions in Central Quebec School Board (CQSB) would be removed from their schools.

Bill 14’s attack on the children of war veterans and members our armed forces lays bare the glaring contradiction, and indeed cruelty, of nationalistic governance in Quebec since the Quiet Revolution; where a society predicated on preserving a minority-language group (French) systematically seeks to victimize, weaken and marginalize its own minority-language group (English).

The Quebec government’s proposals to revoke the exclusion from application of s. 72 the Charter of the French Language granted to the children of members of the Canadian armed forces who are assigned temporarily to the province of Quebec in articles 79, 80, 81, 88 and 89 of Bill 14, An Act to amend the Charter of the French language…, will serve to further marginalize and isolate military families and hinder equal access to government services for linguistic minority communities across the province.

Article 80 of Bill 14 reads, “Section 3 of the Regulation is repealed.” Rarely does the term the ‘banality of evil’ so readily come to mind, or been embraced so succinctly by a government in words of their own choosing. These few words would strip the rights of the sons and daughters of war veterans to go to a school which best meets their educational, social, and linguistic needs.

This would prove to victimize children of families in the armed forces who have family members in harm’s way. These children often endure painful and stressful separation from family members serving overseas, and are relocated around the country with a high frequency. They are forced to adapt to a new school and social situations. Bilingualism is a necessity for military children, who crisscross Canada with their soldier parents.

Restricting the rights of parents to choose the language of instruction for their children would compound the issues confronting the children of military families. This would potentially diminish military children’s education and socialization at a critical time in their development by forcefully mandating the linguistic environment in which they are educated.

The majority of D.D.O.’s children share a reality that the teachers and administrative staff understand, chiefly what it means for a child to have a parent posted to a warzone. They are equipped with the adequate tools to help children effectively manage and deal with the reality of separation anxiety and stress. Removing children from these schools would not only reduce their capacity to successfully complete their education, but their overall mental and physical well-being1.

This is not to mention Shannon and surrounding communities in Quebec City, which still retain their Irish and English-speaking character from their original settlers (including Brian Mulroney’s ancestors) which depend on the D.D.O. school for their children’s education.

The proposed changes would also continue to diminish the enrolment in English-language schools in the province of Quebec, and call into question the viability of numerous smaller schools and school boards. Enrolment in English-language schools across the province dropped from 248,000 in 1971 prior to the adoption of “Bill 101”, to only 108,000 in 2007.

Notions of language, identity and community are inseparable for all societies, especially for linguistic minorities in Canada.
As the Supreme Court of Canada reasoned in the landmark education and language Mahe v. Alberta case,

“Any broad guarantee of language rights, especially in the context of education, cannot be separated from a concern for the culture associated with the language. Language is more than a mere means of communication, it is part and parcel of the identity and culture of the people speaking it. It is the means by which individuals understand themselves and the world around them.”

Mahe recognizes that schools provide important institutions for the entire community. This is the case in the Quebec City region, where schools help to anchor the English-speaking community. As Mahe notes,

“minority schools themselves provide community centres where the promotion and preservation of minority language culture can occur; they provide needed locations where the minority community can meet and facilities which they can use to express their culture.”

The Royal 22nd Regiment, the legendary French-Canadian military infantry regiment, is based in Quebec City’s historic Citadelle and Valcartier along the city’s northern outskirts. The Royal 22nds are known colloquially as the ‘Van Doos’, an anglicized version of their regimental number, ‘vingt-deux’ (twenty two). It was founded to encourage French-Canadians to serve in the First World War. The regiment fought with distinction in all major Canadian battles of the Great War, costing them over 4000 wounded and dead. They have fought with determination and honour in the Second World War, the Korean War, and in numerous Cold War engagements. Her members have earned three Victoria Crosses. In Afghanistan, fourteen of her members have made the ultimate sacrifice. They have defended Canada’s honour in times of war. They have served gallantly as Canada’s francophone emissaries to the world.

All Canadian soldiers risk their lives in faraway lands to preserve our basic freedoms at home. Military families are separated for months, and live with the constant anxiety and fear that their father, mother, or husband and wife, will not return to them alive. All they ask for in return is dignity and respect from their country and community.

The slogan the CQSB and concerned armed forces parents have adopted to fight Bill 14 is, “the battle has begun—it must be won!”
Military families fight for us. They defend and protect our basic freedoms and democratic rights.

Now we can fight for them. We can defend their children and their constitutional rights.

We can ensure the sons and daughters of war veterans and war heroes are schooled in the language of their choice by pressuring the Quebec government to amend Bill 14 and for opposition parties to vote against Bill 14.

Take action and please sign the petition to denounce the governments’ plan to eliminate the exemption for military children in Bill 14, at https://www.assnat.qc.ca/en/exprimez-votre-opinion/petition/Petition-3565/index.html

In this province, where we have often been defined by our different languages, we can speak with one clear voice that victimizing the children of military families is one step too far.

Quebec has recently been mocked around the world for the pettiness of language laws when applied to the mundane, namely restaurant menus. I can hardly imagine what the reaction will be when Quebecers, Canadians, and the world learn of the pettiness of our language laws when applied to the seemingly untouchable; the sons and daughters of war heroes.

1 Source: Voice of English-speaking Québec, Brief regarding the General consultation and public hearings on Bill 14 : An Act to amend the Charter of the French language, the Charter of human rights and freedoms and other legislative provisions.

Categories: News, Opinion

About Author

Colin Standish

Colin Standish has a law degree from Université Laval in Quebec City and a history and politics degree from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Colin was born and raised in the Eastern Townships of Quebec and is currently a candidate for the Liberal Party of Canada nomination in Compton-Stanstead. He has learnt French in order to be able to study his chosen degree subject in the language.

Comments

  1. katherine
    katherine 27 February, 2013, 12:44

    Very well put, Colin! I had already signed the petition, but if I hadn’t, this would spur me on to do so.
    Thanks.

  2. rosamaria
    rosamaria 27 February, 2013, 12:45

    As a military, we take the steps and precautions that we can to insure that our children are as effected a minimally by each move, and each deployment. We carefully weigh the options available to us, based on the knowledge of career paths and posting expectations. Taking away the right to register our children in English school would take away the means in which we have to deal with these factors. We were lucky enough that because of my own education, we were able to register our children in English regardless, but other families will not be so fortunate.

Only registered users can comment.