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In an advertisement broadcast by the Parti Québécois a few days before St-Jean-Baptiste Day, party leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon declares, to a background of soft music and friendly images:  

Québec’s Fête nationale is a time to unite beyond our differences. At a time when people are trying to divide and categorize us, it’s important to celebrate what we have in common, the fact that we have a shared future in our hands.  

So whether you’re a francophone, a francophile, a polyglot, on the left, on the right, and no matter what year your family arrived in Quebec, if you’re proud to live in Quebec, proud of our linguistic and cultural differences, if you refuse to be pigeonholed and put in a box, come and hold the flag with us. Because we are all Québécois, through and through! 

Understandably, many people immediately saw this as a message of inclusion. On X (formerly known as Twitter), for example, one participant was quick to retweet: ‟Well said. A celebration for all Quebecers, without exception.” Another added that ‟French, the common language of Quebec, is what unites us. If you have one or more other languages, no problem, of course, but French is still foundational for Quebecers.”  

On the other hand, when I expressed surprise at the absence of any reference to Quebec’s anglophonie in the PQ leader’s remarks, I received this reply: ‟Anglophones are Montrealers or Canadians. That’s it. They don’t give a damn about Quebec.” 

We could go on and on with similar reactions to the Parti Québécois advertising, all pointing in one direction or the other. How can the same message be interpreted in such diametrically opposed ways?

From the outset, it is not surprising that St-Pierre Plamondon targets his audience based on language, and that language is implicitly part of defining who belongs to the Quebec nation. The oneupmanship of the CAQ and PQ about the so-called ‟decline of French” in Quebec explains this at least in part.

However, this division of the Quebec population and especially the selection of segments being encouraged to feel included is highly unusual: not Francophones, Anglophones and allophones, as one might expect, but rather francophones, francophiles and… polyglots. In other words, those whose language is French, those who love French, and those who speak several languages, one of which is presumably French. 

Where are the anglophones, who make up the largest minority in Quebec, and a linguistic one at that? And what about allophones?

Some have tried to trivialize the issue and suggested that all anglophones are francophiles. Others have argued that anglophones are included among the polyglots. Problem solved? No, because it cannot be assumed that all anglophones or allophones are francophiles or polyglots (even if, statistically speaking, the vast majority of both groups speak French too). In any case, if the objective was to include anglophones and allophones, why not simply mention them explicitly?

Whatever the intention behind the ‟francophone/francophile/polyglot” categorisation, this curious division automatically excludes anglophones, or more specifically, some anglophones, because of their numbers in Quebec and the attractiveness of English for certain immigrants. 

How can such a conclusion be reached? The wording is quite clear: anyone who is not a francophone, francophile or polyglot is not a ‟full-fledged Quebecer,” and implicitly not part of the Quebec nation. 

This includes Quebecers who allegedly don’t like French – which is difficult to measure – and those who don’t speak French, whether they are part of the minority of unilingual anglophones, or allophones who have made English their second language in Quebec.     

In short, the anglophone and allophone population is divided into two groups. Those who ‟love French” and speak it are ‟full-fledged Quebecers.” But anglophones and allophones who don’t like French (whatever that means), and some who don’t speak it, are something else. Or at least, not quite entirely Québécois. 

The adoption of such a divisive stance by a would-be premier is most surprising. What really offends, however, is the timing: was it really necessary to take advantage of what should be an occasion to include everyone to exclude so many? 

As the leader of the PQ himself said in his message: ‟At a time when attempts are being made to divide and categorise us, it’s important to celebrate what we have in common.”

Paul St-Pierre Plamondon could not have said it better. It would have been so much simpler and more unifying to wish a happy Fête nationale to all Quebecers, of all languages and origins.

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Denis Hurtubise
Denis Hurtubise is vice-president  academic at the University of Sudbury.

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