The Military-Quebecois Complex

Jonathan McLeod

February 22, 2013 | 3 Comments

There’s a bit of a kerfuffle with the Parti Quebecois’s attempt to reform Bill 101, Quebec’s language laws. One of the most odious aspects of Bill 101 relates to education. The bill dictates who may or may not attend English language schools. If you attended an English language school in Canada as a child, you are permitted to send your child to an English language school. If not, you’re out of luck. Your government considers you a second class citizen and you do not enjoy the same privileges as your fellow citizens.

One loophole to this law pertains to members of the Canadian Armed Forces, who have been granted the choice of sending their children to English language schools even if they didn’t attend one themselves. The PQ wants to change that:

The Central Quebec School Board says it’s time to fight for the people who fight for Canada. The CQSB is hoping to mobilize opposition to the Parti Québécois government’s plan to strip francophone military families of the right to send their children to English schools, a right that was guaranteed by René Lévesque’s PQ government in the original Bill 101. If the section of Bill 14 in question goes through, the board says it means the loss of some 700 students and the inevitable closure of schools. Stephen Burke, Chairman of the CQSB, joined Jacquie with the details.

Bill 101 is one of the most wretched laws currently enforced in any liberal democracy. The education component is especially odious as it grants different legal rights to different citizens, and to different citizens’ children. Disgustingly, it ends up particularly targeting immigrant families, making them lesser Quebecers – and by extension, lesser Canadians – than their friends and neighbours. This is old news. It is the pushback that the government is receiving that is the major story.

The story is not that the Central Quebec School Board is fighting for equality for all citizens; it is that it is fighting to maintain the status quo caste system, demonstrating a belief that soldiers are deserve rights that the rest of us do not. It is a glamourization of the military, and it is quite distasteful in a free, democratic society.

Military personnel deserve no extra rights or privileges from the government, any government. They deserve just reward for their service, but nothing more. A soldier’s life is not inherently more noble, more just, more valuable than your life or mine. Their children do not deserve better treatment than other children. Considering Canada’s recent track record – our wars of folly, our complicity with torture – the nobility of our military is in steep decline. Treating its members as somehow better than the rest of us is absurd, bordering on offensive. The Canadian Forces should reject this special treatment and request that such basic choices be afforded to all Quebec families.

It would be nice if the national lie that our military is fighting for our rights and freedoms held at least a little truth.

Comments

3 Responses to “The Military-Quebecois Complex”

  1. R. Mowat
    February 25th, 2013 @ 10:16 am

    A good reason why military families would be exempt from this regulation is that they will, more than likely, be posted to a part of Canada which has limited access to French-education. Even in places where French education would be available and of sufficient calibre, it is still located in an entirely Anglo community. It is much more difficult to get along with only French as a language.

    [Reply]

    Jonathan McLeod Reply:

    As logical as that sounds (without addressing the underlying double standard), I doubt that’s why Rene Levesque approved of the exemption. I assume it was 100% politically-motivated.

    [Reply]

  2. R. Mowat
    February 27th, 2013 @ 11:28 am

    Almost any policy will have exceptions. Even Alberta’s “Flat Tax” isn’t as flat as it might appear.

    Canadian Forces personnel are a unique category of citizens. They are forced to move, sometimes with very little notice, across the country or across the world. They surrender numerous personal freedoms other Canadians routinely enjoy, and accept increased limits on speech, political activity, and mobility. The big one, of course, is the acceptance of unlimited liability (ie: being lawfully ordered to surrender your own life). Members of the Canadian military, and (in many cases) their families, are subject to the Code of Service discipline, which is an entire legal system most Canadians will never encounter.

    In sum, CF members and their families are demonstrably in a different category from other citizens. And as a result of these additions restrictions and responsibilities, they often need to be treated in a different way than other citizens in certain aspects of law.

    I have no idea why QC chose to exempt CF members from their language policy, or why they now think it time to remove that exemption. But the exemption makes sense.

    [Reply]

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