Quebec Studies

Le Québec et la Francophonie

Quebec Studies (1988), 7, (1), 1–27.


Controversies over language are not limited to Canada and Québec, as is demonstrated by the discussions taking place in the United States about bilingual education. The French language occupies a unique place in the world; it is the only language to have given birth, over the last thirty years, to a series of associations, an international organization and even a Conference of Heads of State and Heads of Government, which gathered forty delegations in Quebec City in September 1987.

This constitutes a significant event in an era that is witnessing at the same time growing criticism of international organizations and an increase in the apparently homogenizing influence of the media. What can be the point of this meeting of peoples having in common the use of French?

Long assimilated to the crusade for the defense of French language and culture, Francophonie—thanks notably to the role of Québec, a federated state that occupies a now-recognized place on the international scene—has come to the point of wanting to make the shared use of French the instrument of a new solidarity. Unlike the Commonwealth, Francophonie is not the result of a simple evolution of a colonial situation. What can peoples united on this basis do together? This, of course, is the central question facing francophones. The future of Francophonie perhaps depends on the number of speakers of French: they have never before been as numerous. This future is particularly dependent upon the role and the usefulness that the French language may have, both in expressing the richness of diverse cultures and as a language of science and technology or a language with a significant presence in the world of media.

No francophone country—not even France—can hope to meet alone this shared challenge, which requires the responsible and active participation of every member of the francophone community.

It is in this perspective that is situated and must be understood the effort of Québec to occupy its place and play its role in international affairs and, in particular, in francophone institutions. Far from being a rear-guard holding action, the desire of Québec to assume all dimensions of modernity in French—while maintaining a respect for others that many majority populations could well envy—testifies to a vitality whose signs are multiple. Francophonie is not a concept rooted in nostalgia, but is rather an enterprise oriented toward the future.

No one could guarantee that this very special attempt to organize relationships of interdependence among such diverse countries will succeed. It might represent, however, a model for the new, multilateral arrangements, founded on certain vital shared interests, that will define the new international order: Francophonie may represent a new type of community, reaffirming the identity of each of its members by contributing to their development in essential areas. Is there anyone who fails to see the stakes for our civilization?

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Author details

Tardif, Jean