Jolin-Barrette asks the French Academy to help counter the “Anglo-American steamroller”


Quebec’s language minister says the availability of bilingual public services is a “worrying phenomenon.”

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The Quebec language minister, Simon Jolin-Barrette, went to Paris on Thursday to offer his collaboration to the French Academy in the face of what he called the “Anglo-American steamroller”.

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Jolin-Barrette was invited to speak under the famous dome of the Quai de Conti in front of an audience of academics and 150 guests. The participants came to hear him discuss the new version of the Charter of the French language, initially adopted in 1977 and revised by the government of the Coalition Avenir Québec this year.

After recounting the historical journey of the French in America, from François I, King of France to the present day, Jolin-Barrette explained why his government was so keen to update “Law 101”.

English has become the “lingua franca” of Quebec, Jolin-Barrette said, according to the written text of his speech. Once the language of the powerful colonial minority, English has become the language of globalization.

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“We would be wrong to view the massive shift to English as a benign phenomenon,” he said. “It is presented to us as an opening to the world, dismissing all objections.”

“The massive choice of English is not immune to criticism. Especially when it’s not so much the language of Shakespeare as the language of Silicon Valley. What is presented as an openness to the world too often masks an acculturation that is accompanied by a significant loss of memory and identity.

Jolin-Barrette, Quebec’s first-ever French language minister, compared the “digital revolution” wrought by the American tech giants known as GAFAM (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft) to “a roll Anglo-American compressor, which shakes up the ecosystem of our language and our culture… promotes large groups and compromises the balance of our societies.

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In this new world, nothing would be more natural for France to become the “spokesperson for the diversity of cultures and the dignity of nations”, added Jolin-Barrette.

Quebec is “reaching out to you,” he said. “It invites a union of forces between our two nations, based on the certainty that French is not a cause of the past, but a seed for the future. An engine of resistance and rebirth.

Jolin-Barrette also threw a few punches at the Canadian federal system, where “individual rights have become almost absolute”, and argued that the reform adopted this year, “this gesture in favor of the collective rights of our nation, constitutes a decisive counterweight. ”

“The Charter of the French language has been blocked since its adoption by the constitutional framework of the Canadian federation, which I propose to rename, with humor, the “Canadian Shield”, declared the Minister.

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“Although our project is thwarted by Canadian multiculturalism, which finds its equivalent in what you call communitarianism and which combats the claims of Quebec to be a distinct nation, the French language must really become the language of use of all Quebecers,” the minister said in the text of his speech.

Jolin-Barrette also deplored the “bilingualization” of certain sectors in Quebec. “A person can obtain, on request, public services in French or in English, just like self-service in a business. … To counter this worrying phenomenon, it is necessary as quickly as possible to rehabilitate the exemplarity of the State. We have a duty to be a coherent actor.

Addressing the integration of immigrants, Jolin-Barrette explained to his audience that “continental and global linguistic dynamics favor English in every way”, and that French should be “a language of integration, a principle of unity and a precious vector of participation in life”. our democratic life.

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He also deplored that certain articles defaming Quebec have recently been published “with too much complacency” in English-language American and Canadian newspapers.

“Some lax authors portray our struggle in the most denigrating and insulting light, trying to pass it off as rearguard action, a form of authoritarianism,” he said. “Our fight for the French language is just, it is a universal fight, that of a nation which has peacefully resisted the will to power of the strongest.”

It is exceptional for an elected official who is neither head of government nor head of state to be invited to address the members of the assembly which thus brings together the elite of French-speaking literature. The French Academy was founded in 1634 and has 40 members, including the Quebec writer of Haitian origin Dany Laferrière.

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In presenting Jolin-Barrette, the Chancellor of the Institut de France Xavier Darcos declared that the minister “was going to give us an example of loyalty and an example of ardor”.

“We will no doubt be able to draw inspiration from it in our desire to promote, enhance and protect our language, this heritage that we have in common,” added Darcos.

Hélène Carrère d’Encausse, permanent secretary of the French Academy, deplores that the French language, although “venerated in Quebec”, is “mistreated in its country of origin”.

“The descendants of Jacques Cartier are entitled to our gratitude,” she said.

During his brief mission to France, Jolin-Barrette also plans a series of meetings as Minister of Justice of Quebec.

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