Friday, 27 November 2009

Conceptions of bilingualism in Canada

I just finished watching the documentary 'Incident at Restigouche' about tensions between the Canadian native Micmac Indians and the Quebec government over fishing rights in 1981. The Quebec authorities raided the local reserve because, in their eyes, they were over-fishing the river. The Micmac deny this, pointing out that sport fishing alone took a greater number of fish each year. I was linked by The AQ's blog on the Micmac language and identity, here.

Several things made me upset. First was the labelling of the Micmac as 'not bilingual' because of speaking English and Micmac, not English and French.

Secondly, I was particularly struck by what Quebec Minister of Fisheries, Lucien Lessard, was heard to say:
"You cannot ask for sovereignty, because to have sovereignty, one must have one's own culture, language and land."
First of all, the Micmac have all of these, so it's not clear what on earth Lessard was thinking. It's clear, though, that people's conceptions of other languages and how they relate to culture and sovereignty can be radically different.

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