Quebec Studies

Book Reviews: Social Science

Quebec Studies (1988), 6, (1), 137–142.


Québec Studies, No. 6,1988 BOOK REVIEWS: SOCIAL SCIENCE TADDEO, DONAT J. and RAYMOND C. TARAS. Le Débat linguistique au Québec: La communauté italienne et la langue d'enseignement, traduit de l'anglais par Brigitte Morel-Nish. Montréal: Les Presses de l'Université de Montréal, 1987. Pp. 243. $22.00 Canadian. Of the growing number of volumes touching on education and language policy in Québec, this is one of the best. The book's focus is on the political dynamique between the Commission des Ecoles Catholiques de Montréal (the CECM), Montreal's Italian community, and the government of Québec from the early 1900s to the mid-1980s. The focus on Quebec's largest school board and allophone group should not obscure the contributions this volume makes to the broader literature of language policy in Québec. Taddeo and Taras are Montréal natives of "neo-Canadian" backgrounds. Since the 1970s, Taddeo has been actively involved in the affairs of both the CECM and the Italian-Canadian community. While the authors are sympathetic to the Italian position in their analysis, their narrative is an objective one. In the absence of provincial direction, in the years prior to World War II the CECM was free to adopt its own policy concerning immigrant children. The authors conclude that its failure to do so does not reflect French-Canadian generosity to neoCanadians, as some have claimed, but simply indecision on the part of the CECM. Indeed, they demonstrate that during this period, the CECM was more concerned with preserving la foi of Roman Catholic allophones than with preserving la langue of French Canadians, a concern that led to the establishment of new Englishlanguage (but Roman Catholic) schools and to the approval of limited programs for the teaching of third languages. As a result, by 1935 over half of Quebec's allophone children were enrolled in English schools. By the 1950s, even most Italian children no longer attended French schools, a development the authors trace to economic motives, the poor quality of secondlanguage instruction in French schools, and the poor welcome often given allophone children in the French sector. Despite this preference, the authors dismiss the later view of French nationalist intellectuals and journalists that the Italian community favored anglicizarion. Rather, most of the new generation were trilingual. Between 1945 and 1969, the CECM adopted a series of policies to promote the linguistic assimilation of allophones to French. The authors trace these developments in detail. While this period saw the creation of cours de français and programmes d'accueil, in the 1960s the CECM gave in to Anglophone pressure not to further expand its bilingual program and schools, while French nationalists succeeded in blocking the teaching of English in the lower grades of French schools.

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