In Canada, there were (and still are) fewer French speakers than English speakers. The British dominated high level government positions, executive positions, such as banks, public works & utilities, military, and the police (RCMP). The French received lower income than the British, and they also received a lower quality of education, in comparing to the British. This type of discrimination is known as systematic racism (further explained in the First Nations part of the blog).
Eventually, regardless of systematic racism, Quebec was starting to form a separatist/sovereignist government. The current prime minister, Lester B. Pearson, was a peace-keeping type of person, so he formed the 1968 Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism (generally referred to as the “B and B Commission”). This commission recommended the formal recognition of French-speaking Canadians as a distinct and equal society within Canada. Plus, the Commission rejected the creation of two uniligual regions in Canada, where French would be spoken mostly in Quebec, and in the rest of the nation, English would be spoken. Instead, this Commission recommends that both languages are spoken on equal terms throughout the whole nation.
In 1968, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau came into office. Trudeau is a federalist; lefty. He believes in unity of Canada, and utterly disapproves of having Quebec separated. He believes “unity through separation.” If he provides Quebec with their wants and needs, then they will continue being part of Canada. Thus, with that in mind, he issued the Official Languages Act in 1969. This legislation declared French and English to be the official languages of Canada while requiring all federal institutions (such as government departments, agencies, and Crown corporations) to provide their serves in French or English at the customer’s choice. Plus, this Act made the office of Commissioner of Official Languages to oversee its implementation. This Act was broadened in 1988. In addition to the Official Languages Act, the federal government adopted a strategy of increasing the number of French-speaking and bilingual personnel. There were two important reasons for this initiative:
- To ensure all Canadians had the ability to receive any government-related services in both English and French
- To increase the number of French-speaking Canadians working in the federal public service
Along with those initiatives, the government launched the Official Languages in Education Program. This program provides provinces and territories funding to teach students the second language or a minority language in both official languages. Plus, French immersion education was introduced where students receive most of their education in the French. Other initiatives were taken by the government, such as the Consumer Packaging and Labeling Act, to appease the French people and to prevent any separation from occurring in Canada.
In 1974, the Quebec Liberal Government launched the Official Languages Act, which made French the official language of the province. All these actions by the government to make the French happy and “welcomed” and how Quebec is slowly becoming a complete dominant French province demonstrates how Canada is gradually transforming itself from a melting pot to a mosaic. No longer does French people have to be controlled by the British; they can speak and have the culture they had for generations or adopt new ones if they wish to do so.
Trudeau’s intention with all these acts and legislations was to make the French a distinct society. However, the First Nations of Canada started to become upset; they questioned why the French get their own distinct society, and they do not. Canada responds by saying if the First Nations are given the ability to make their distinct society, there would be hundreds of distinct society, making Canada a very complex nation.
Trudeau wanted to make Canada a just society. In a just society, there are two components: equality and fairness. Because Trudeau is a lefty, he emphasizes equality, and thus suggests that the Indian Act be abolished so that everyone is on equal footing. What he failed to understand is that without this Act, more problems and conflicts would occur within Canada (explained why in the First Nations post).
However, Quebec still wanted to become independent and away from “Canada.”Canada didn’t want that, and in 1987, the Meech Lake Accord took place. In this accord, there was Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and ten provincial premiers, including Quebec’s premier, Robert Bourassa. During this conference, Quebec’s premier was required to sign, saying it will not separate from Canada and follow the Constitution of 1982, and in return receive many benefits, which include:
- A distinct society
- Increase in provincial government’s power
- Be able to select their own senators
Everyone signed, except for the Province of Manitoba. Now, you may ask why? When you make the British happy, and the French happy, there’s always the third group who becomes aggravated: the First Nations. The First Nations argued that these large decisions are not made without their consultation and won’t sign without being properly informed of what was going on. A man named Elijah Harper (a First Nations cree politician from Manitoba) delivered an elaborate speech during this conference. It was such a long speech that deadline for the accord was met. Thus, the Meech Lake Accord ended without any result.
Because of the failure of Meech Lake Accord, the government held another accord, known as the Charlottetown Accord. The purpose of this accord was to make Quebec follow the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Quebec disapproved of the Charter of Rights and refused to sign. Plus, when the votes were counted, it came to 49 YES and 51 NO. The numbers were unbelievably close, yet Quebec did not have to endorse the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.