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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Competing visions of equality and identity : Quebec’s Bill 101 and federal language policy Patel, Nazeer


Language has become a central feature of the debate surrounding Canadian identity. The Canadian project is an example of a state struggling to find a means of accommodating linguistic difference. This struggle is epitomized by the language legislation in Quebec as well as by federal bilingualism. Language legislation is ultimately aimed at promoting and protecting identity. An examination of language legislation as promoted by Quebec and the federal government reveals a different orientation toward the concept of equality. Language policy thus presents both a vision of community and a political argument. Federal language policy promotes a vision of Canada in which English and French are juridically equal. Politically, this vision of community denies Quebec is distinct. Quebec's language policy, on the other hand, asserts the importance of protecting Quebecois culture against the majoritarian impulses of a larger Canadian identity. As a result, Quebec's language legislation incorporates Quebec's different position in Canada into a definition of equality. Recognition that Quebec has a right to protect its language is tantamount to an acknowledgement that Quebec is a distinct society in Canada. The language debate thus embodies competing visions of equality that relate to a specific identity. The national unity issue plaguing Canada cannot be resolved through a commitment to equality as similar treatment. The problem of language planning, in Canada, revolves around finding a way to acknowledge and promote the local aspirations of the Quebecois, without creating an inequitable language environment for the English linguistic minority in Quebec.

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