I lived in Sherbrook, Quebec for nine years when I was young, my wife's mother and many of my friends and acquaintances over the years were French Canadian and I can proudly say that I am a big fan of Quebec and a true believer in the greatness of la belle province and it's people. Even so, I believe Quebec's leaders should have been able to have avoided or at least mitigated the economic problems Quebec underwent over that lengthy time period in respect to what might have or should have been. That does not mean Quebec leaders were not highly skilled, intelligent or capable. On the contrary, Quebec has clearly had a host of brilliant leaders over the past half century and has never lacked in astute leadership. But the unique circumstances confronting Quebec during those times frequently called for difficult and innovative solutions, many of which were undoubtedly appropriate and in some cases brilliant adaptations to the then current status quo. It is easy for an outsider, especially in hindsight to suggest perhaps other courses of action would have been more beneficial or advantageous. No one can know these things for certain. But it is a real puzzle to me why Quebec has not attained a much higher level of prosperity during that time or since and it's unjust Quebecers have been inadequately rewarded for their many remarkable achievements in business innovation, entrepreneurship, corporate leadership, entertainment and the arts and much more.
Despite Quebec's vast natural resources, talented entrepreneurs and reliable, efficient work force, it has sustained decades of disappointing economic performance well below it's rightful potential. In my view, the primary impediment preventing Quebec from achieving it's destined prosperity is the language discrimination of Bill 101. Innocent minorities are subjected to the discrimination of Bill 101 every day, which is not only psychologically damaging but is an unacceptable infringement of their civil liberties not seen in any other true democracy. And there is a price to pay for thus labelling minorities as second class citizens. Every Quebecer has suffered a loss of thousands of dollars annually due to the departure of hundreds of thousands of formerly content Quebecers who left the province for more welcoming jurisdictions since the imposition of Bill 101. Polls show this regressive law is no longer needed because French is thriving throughout the province and is not at risk. It is understandable that minorities singled out by Bill 101 have not be inclined to willingly contribute their best efforts for the economic good of Quebec and that they have also been more likely to join the underground economy, compounding the losses Quebec has suffered due to Bill 101. Prosperity in Quebec will only be fully realized when Bill 101 is revoked, restoring equality to minorities which will motivate them to contribute wholeheartedly to Quebec's resurgence. The repeal of Bill 101 would propel Quebec toward a long overdue era of prosperity commensurate with its bountiful natural and human resources.
The experience of Sugar Sammy (Samir Khullar), the Montreal born son of Indian immigrants whose comedy show combines both French and English routines and are immensely popular in Quebec validates recent polls which show the French language is very strong and no longer at risk. His popular comedy shows are a big hit and have sold an astounding 360,000 tickets in Quebec to date. He was told his bi-lingual comedy would not be accepted in Quebec but had a gut feeling his critics were wrong and believed Quebecers would be tolerant and accepting. Attendance has shown that his assessment was correct. Audiences made up of both French and English fans thoroughly appreciate his bilingual comedy without exception. Sugar Sammy has also taken his bi-lingual comedy to Toronto recently, promoting the French language there in a very positive way through the universally popular appeal of comedy. He will also be taking his show on the road to Paris this fall. His TV show Ces gars-la even has some Anglophones and allophones watching French television for the first time in Quebec. Sugar Sammy's positive experience with bilingual comedy in Quebec reinforces the view that French is not at risk in the province and will remain strong because it is the bedrock of French Canadian culture and as such is effectively immune to diminishment.
The responsibility for the financial damage the language discrimination of Bill 101 inflicted on Quebec falls squarely on the shoulders of past and present political leaders. They initially conceived, devised and implemented Bill 101 as a means of protecting the French language and culture in Quebec which at the time they believed was under threat. Their motives were no doubt well intentioned, but they were blind to the crushing ongoing damage the law would inflict on the economy of Quebec. Much of the present and past financial malaise in Quebec was evoked by the loss of hundreds of thousands of formerly content Quebecers who fled to more welcoming communities in the months and years following the introduction of Bill 101. Hundreds of millions of dollars of lost revenue resulting from their mass exodus is indisputable proof that Bill 101 was not just a heavy social burden for minorities to bear, but also exposed the fiscal incompetence of some of Quebec's political elite. Their ill thought out edict has cost individual Quebecers thousands of dollars of annual income since its inception. Political leaders must have become aware of the devastating financial impact of the law soon after it was imposed but likely either decided to continue to take political advantage of the divisive nature of Bill 101 or were unable to muster the courage and resolve to rescind it so soon after it was enacted, leaving it in place to cut away at the income and prosperity of all Quebecers year after year.
The vast majority of all Canadians are fair minded and openly receptive to minorities regardless of their faith or ethnicity. Quebecers are no exception, their recent sponsorships of many refugees fleeing terrorist torn Europe testifies to their humanitarianism. Quebecers' rejection of the Parti Quebecois' so called Charter of Values dress code restrictions in the last provincial election confirms their good will towards minorities. In my opinion, Bill 101 was supported by Quebecers only because of their strong devotion to the French language and culture and is not in any way an expression of discriminatory attitudes. In the early days of the quiet revolution safeguarding the French language was undoubtedly a serious concern, but times and attitudes have changed, the French language is no longer in peril. What is baffling to me is why Quebec's political leaders seem to believe the French language and culture still requires the oppression of Bill 101 to survive. Do they really believe that it would be swept away but for Bill 101? If so, Quebec needs a new breed of leaders who believe in the inviolability of French and have the unshakable trust that the Quebec majority would never abandon the foundation of their heritage. I am of English and Danish decent but I not only believe the French language will continue to flourish in Quebec but that it's use would expand in all areas of Canada if Bill 101 were repealed. It seems an outsider like myself has more faith in the permanence and endurability of the French language and culture than Quebec's political elite. Are they not true believers? Or do they question the Francophone majority's proven devotion to their heritage?
It never works, because the resentment and hostility generated by such draconian laws far exceeds the benefits. We all know this to be true and yet politicians never seem to learn from their past forced infringements on our fundamental freedoms. And the financial burden can be extremely high, as seen in Quebec following the imposition of Bill 101. After that breach of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, accomplished only by invoking the notwithstanding clause, hundreds of thousands of formerly content Quebecers left the province despite the high cost and personal disruption to their lives. They obviously were acutely dissatisfied with their life experience in Quebec after Bill 101 was enacted to abandon everything. The damage to Quebec's economy and individual loss of equity following Bill 101 is incalculable but is surely in the trillions of dollars to date. But all this could have been avoided simply by launching a strong, ongoing, positive advertising campaign to persuade Quebec minorities to increase their use of French, by repeatedly pointing out the financial and social benefits such use would provide. People are stubborn and have never taken kindly to bully tactics. No other jurisdiction in North American has imposed laws similar to Bill 101 and for good reason, their political leaders are sufficiently astute to know it would backfire and are rightfully fearful of the repercussions from an angry electorate, especially in the United States. The American Bill of Rights provides inviolable guarantees against discriminatory laws such as Bill 101. As long as The Canadian Bill of Rights and Freedoms can be nullified by simply invoking the trickery of the not withstanding clause it offers no genuine protection to any of us.
Rather than going on indefinitely with sub-par economic performance, it could be very beneficial if Quebec suspended Bill 101 for a trial period of 1 year. Only then would all Quebecers know for certain the economic impact Bill 101 has had on their lives and if any deleterious effect its temporary suspension had on the use of French in the province during the trial suspension. This is a proposition all ambitious Quebec politicians are likely to reject but one that the electorate should insist upon rather than continuing to be deprived of thousands of dollars of potential annual income indefinitely. As always, politician incomes remain secure, they are likely among those few Quebecers who have not had to pay the price for Bill 101. Of course they will reject any effort to assess and apportion blame for damages inflicted by Bill 101. But isn't it time all Quebecers were given the chance to bolster the economy, improve social relations, restore positivity and actively promote equality for all minorities which a temporary suspension of Bill 101 could provide, and to determine if it's continuation serves any useful purpose other than as a divisive political tool beneficial only to further political careers?
The only good aspect of Bill 101 is that as long as it remains in force the separation of Quebec from Canada will not happen. I cannot conceive of a Canada without Quebec. That would cripple us both and is an unthinkable alternative to our generally amiable present relationship. But if Quebec's leaders leave Bill 101 in place because they believe the French language cannot survive without its protective shield, that would be a stunning admission to Canadians and indeed the entire world that they do not possess the necessary resolve to embark on the perilous journey to Nationhood. With such little faith in their fellows to support the basic foundation of their culture within the congenial, accommodating brotherhood of Canada they clearly must believe the more difficult, complex and hostile act of separation is either beyond their competency or their political acumen. As long as Quebec's leaders continue to be beguiled by and take advantage of the political divisiveness of Bill 101 separation is a non starter. The notion that Quebec is surrounded by English speaking communities does not put the French language at risk within Quebec. None of these outside communities suppress French use. The only languages in danger in Quebec at present are those of the millions of minorities who are subjected to the discrimination of Bill 101.
Although I stated above that Quebec would not separate from Canada as long as Bill 101 was in force, I believe Quebecers will choose to remain part of Canada even if a 1 year trial suspension of Bill 101 affirms that the use of French remained strong and the language does not need to be propped up by Bill 101, that it can stand on it's own just as countless other languages thrive in countries all around the world. To think less of Francophones dedication to support French, the bedrock of their heritage is just insulting. And after minorities are freed of the restrictions of Bill 101, Quebec will likely enjoy a surge in economic activity spurred on by the increasingly positive atmosphere and enhanced social harmony, creating a strong incentive for minorities to study and use French, to enable them to profit and fully benefit from the newly robust economy while also expanding the use of French. When Quebec's political leaders finally realize the key to economic growth is the removal of all negative societal restraints along with a compelling, comprehensive plan for the economy, the province could surge to the forefront of all Canadian provinces. Quebec has been proven to possess the vast natural resources and the highly skilled, dedicated work force required to become the leading economic force in Canada. All that remains is the will and the opportunity. Quebecers have the will, temporarily revoking Bill 101 will provide the opportunity. And if that transpires, I believe Quebec will still choose to remain part of Canada. It is much better to be the leading force in the prosperous, long established, proudly bilingual democracy that is Canada, than to risk the perils of nationhood and it's dubious advantages.
The Canadian News Media has been inundated with numerous articles by so called financial experts denouncing both Quebec's $1 billion dollar (U.S.) bailout of Bombardier and a similar amount requested and under consideration by Ottawa to Bombardier. These negative opinions are typical of the short sightedness of Canadian financial 'experts' who collectively appear to have an underlying bias against Quebec's remarkable achievements in aviation excellence exemplified by the ground breaking design and innovation of the most fuel efficient and ecologically beneficial C-Series passenger jetliner produced by Bombardier. Quebec is the only province in Canada with any credible aircraft manufacturing capabilities. One would think we would have learned from the crippling consequences to our aviation industry resulting from the cancellation of the Avro Arrow, the most advanced supersonic interceptor at that time, by the Diefenbaker government in 1959. The present ongoing short sighted criticisms of Bombardier's financial condition ignores the tremendous contribution to the Quebec and Canadian economy this most advanced aircraft will generate in the near future. Those 'experts' predicting Bombardier's demise will soon be exposed for the purveyors of doom and gloom they are when the C-Series is successful. Ottawa should, on behalf of all Canadians, provide Bombardier with whatever financial support they may require to achieve their goal of aircraft excellence. Ottawa bailed out our auto industry without a second thought when they were in imminent danger of collapse in spite of it's position in one of the most profitable sectors of our economy. To not support Bombardier is unthinkable.