When the most recent Statscan census declared that the Anglophone population in Quebec had increased by 57,325 during the last five years, Quebec politicians were apoplectic. There was talk about the need for a quick legislative response because this news somehow indicated that the French language would soon disappear from daily life. English-speakers were making a comeback, even outside Montreal. Mon dieu!
When experts checked the numbers, they found that the Anglophone population had not ballooned to 8.1 percent of the population. It was a more reasonable 7.5 percent, a drop of 0.2 percent over the five-year period. The number of Anglophones in Quebec City was not 6,400 as previously reported, is was 660 instead, hardly enough to fill the funicular from Lower Town. The relief that rolled across the province was as welcome as snow for Carnaval.
But all of this foofara over a few thousand poorly counted tongues masks a more important truth. While the Rest of Canada slept, Quebec has achieved the very kind of sovereignty-association it has long sought. Remember all the angst about the PQ, referenda, Charlottetown and Meech? In the Rest of Canada, we thought all that had been settled, and it was, but Quebec carried on with Plan B, quietly creating everything from language laws to special provincial exams for financial planners.
Now Quebec has the best of both worlds; hardly any Anglophones, and the Ottawa government at its beck and call. Quebec has long had control over immigration to the province, but when the walk-ins became too numerous, Ottawa sent in the army to build a migrant tent village. Whenever Bombardier needs help, it has been forthcoming. National political leaders must be bilingual. To my mind, all this is well and good. All I’m asking is that no one pretend Quebec’s clandestine strategy hasn’t worked.