Macpherson: A 'carte carrée' photo ID for official anglos?


Sous la CAQ, les Anglais croient vivre une sorte de dictature fasciste

The governing Coalition Avenir Québec party would deny government services in English to everybody but the "historic" anglophone community.

I just hope my photo on my Quebec government-issued, officially certified-anglo identification card is better than the one on my driver’s licence.

Just kidding. As far as I know, the Coalition Avenir Québec government has no plans for an official anglo status, and a photo-ID card to go with it.


But it could come to that, if the forthcoming new language policy the government announced this week includes an idea that has worked its way into the political mainstream.

To give immigrants an incentive to speak French, Quebec government services in English would be available only to the province’s “historic” anglophone community. They would be denied to everybody else, including non-“historic” anglos.

The latest in Quebec language follies is in the CAQ party’s immigrant-“francization” plan (Page 18), on which the new rules are to be based. It’s been endorsed by the Coalition’s youth wing, with the editorial approval of Le Devoir. And it’s on the language-policy shopping list dictated by Premier François Legault’s new cultural-nationalism guru, Mathieu Bock-Côté.

The reasoning is that immigrants conclude they don’t need to learn French if, say, they can walk into a government tourism office and get information in English.

So, not even English-speaking tourists should be able to get tourist guidebooks in English — unless, that is, they’re anglos from Quebec. But not just any “Quebanglos” — only members of the exclusive “historic” anglo community.

It’s not clear what that means. And that’s only one of the questions about the practical application of the proposal that its supporters haven’t addressed.

Obviously, at government tourist information offices, those English guides couldn’t be on display where just anybody could take one. They’d have to be kept behind the counter, to be produced by an employee upon request, like cigarettes in a dépanneur.

Nobody has actually proposed a special photo-ID card for government-recognized anglos, because apparently, nobody who supports the proposed restriction on services in English has devoted much thought to its application.

But how else would that tourist-information employee know whether the person requesting the English guide is a member of the “historic” anglo community entitled to one?

Let’s call that card the “carte carrée,” after “tête carrée,” or “squarehead,” the affectionate, traditional Québécois nickname for us speakers of the language known in telephone response systems in this province as “press nine.”

It would be a certificate of eligibility for English services, like the one for schooling in English under the language law, Bill 101. Would “historic” Quebanglos have to prove that their ancestors had been schooled in English in this province?

And what about services that aren’t provided in person, but over the phone or the internet, for which the carte carrée would be useless? Would government-certified anglos be issued user IDs and passwords? But then what would prevent them from passing them around, like Netflix sign-on information?

So many questions without answers. But that shouldn’t deter Legault’s new identity super minister, Simon Jolin-Barrette, who, as he showed with his anti-hijab Bill 21, legislates first, and asks himself how to apply the legislation later. (Jolin-Barrette has lost the titles of minister of “diversity” and “inclusiveness,” which didn’t really suit him anyway.)

The carte carrée could at least prove useful in the campaign against the bilingual “bonjour-hi” greeting in businesses that so offends former Parti Québécois premier Pauline Marois, among others, but which two non-binding National Assembly motions have failed to eliminate.

As with other government-issued photo ID, the use of the card could be extended to the private sector. The bilingual greeting could be forbidden by law, with customers preferring service in English being carded.

Government-approved Quebanglos could hang their cartes carrées from lanyards around their necks, like licences to speak English in public (opposition to which is what’s really behind the campaign against bonjour-hi). Or like the lepers’ bells of old announcing the presence of bearers of a dreaded, infectious disease.

Twitter: DMacpGaz