Global Politics

Quebec's Separatists on Charm Offensive with Bilingual Song

Canadian singer David Hodges started performing his song Notre Home last year. It was around the time that the Quebec's separatist Parti Québécois won provincial elections, partly on the promise that it would further protect the French language.

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Hodges wasn't crazy about the separatists' message, at least as perceived by English speakers like him: that Anglophones weren't welcome in Quebec.

So he wrote the bilingual Notre Home ("Our Home").

"A lot of people are getting discouraged," Hodges told the CBC in September 2012. "They feel like the language laws are going to be enforced a lot more and it's going to push the English[-speaking] people outside and not consider Quebec our home."

The message of Notre Home, said Hodges, is: "We are here, this is our home, we have an identity, we are people."

Since then, Quebec's separatist government has pushed ahead on the language front. It has introduced a bill that would, among other things, strip as many as 90 towns of their bilingual status–meaning they would only be permitted to communicate with residents in French.

Tensions are rising, just as they did last time Quebecers battled over language. It's not a surprise that Notre Home has become popular.

The idea of Notre Home was to make English-speakers feel at home in Quebec. So it has come as a shock to many Quebecers that the separatist government has deciding to bankroll performances of the song. The government is underwriting a tour of Hodges and his band.

"We want to give the signal [that] you're here to stay," said Jean-François Lisée, Quebec's minister responsible for the province's English speaking community, at last week's official announcement. "We want you to be here to stay."

Lisée later told the CBC he was impressed by the song's video, which shows young Montrealers of all colors playing together in a park.

"When they showed it to me," said Lisée, "I thought that was a great way to anyone who would doubt it that Anglo-Quebecers are here at home for ever."

But as far as many Anglophones are concerned, Lisée is just the good cop, the rest of the Parti Québécois being the not so pleasant cops. Lisée himself admits that after he wins the trust of English speakers, it'll time to talk language reform.

"Once we are secure in the fact that we're all Quebecers, we're going to have a number of issues that we should deal with," says Lisée. He says it's important that Anglophones "not believe that every issue is an attack on … identity."

In other words, there'll be a new language law reinforcing French coming down the pike. And many English speakers aren't going to like it.

One mayor of small town that currently sends out a bilingual newsletter to its residents isn't impressed.

"Instead of composing a song," he told TV channel CTV, "maybe they could let us communicate with our Anglophone community in our newsletter."

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