I was out having coffee with a dear friend a few days ago and he asked how incensed I was over Premier Ford’s thing with French-language services.
“Do. Not. Care.”
“But!” the slightest hesitation, “you’re francophone!”
“Most francophones I hear from these days are upset.”
“Not me. In fact, I couldn’t even tell you what people are upset about. Services cut? Or handled by a different office? Unless not? We’re not even sure? A university that didn’t exist will keep not existing? Meh. I mean, I'm not against having another French university, and quite possibly it’s a mistake not to build it, and obviously a change in services will annoy people who might in theory have benefited from said services if only they knew there were some services to be had, but it takes a lot more than that to upset me.”
I’m still not sure he believed me.
Here’s what I care about though: French, the language and culture as spoken and lived by people who love it - whether they were born with it or came to it on their own from other cultures.
And, you know, the quality thereof.
My friend, who is Jewish, understood my position better when I pointed out to him that Jewish culture, including Yiddish and Hebrew, survived persecution much worse than whatever Doug Ford could come up with on his worst day and managed to thrive not only without official government support but despite active neglect or worse on the part of public authorities in just about every country you care to name.
Why did Jewish culture survive? Why is it still going strong? Because Jews care about it enough to pass it on to their children properly. Because they know that if they didn’t do that, it would disappear. And they’re probably right. I say good for them and well done.
On the other hand, you have a French culture and language in this country that’s very much coddled, subsidized and protected by law yet a great many French speakers can’t be bother to write it straight. I’m not against funny accents and quaint regionalism; not everyone has to speak like a snooty Parisian. But between that and writing phonetically with nothing remotely resembling correct grammar, seems to me there’s a happy medium somewhere.
I’d bet you a lot of piastres that most francophones in this province had no idea what services the Ontario government was offering them. I sure didn’t. But threaten to make changes and suddenly we’re told to resist like this was a pogrom or something.
Fine, complain and bitch about service reduction. That’s democracy. But we don’t need undue drama, do we.
And anyway I have a better idea. Instead of spending so much energy paying attention to what Doug Ford says, which can’t be good for your health, why not worry about keeping that beautiful French language alive and well by looking after it ourselves? Start by spelling it more or less properly and go from there. If we all did that we wouldn’t care one bit which government office delivers services we wouldn’t need anyway.