Quebec Studies

Language Policy, Education, and Cultural Survival: Bill 101 and the Transformation of Anglophone Montreal, 1977-1985

Quebec Studies (1986), 4, (1), 3–27.


LANGUAGE POLICY, EDUCATION, AND CULTURAL SURVIVAL: BILL 101 AND THE TRANSFOPXMATION OF ANGLOPHONE MONTREAL, 1977-1985 Marc V. Lcvinc During the past two dccadcs, thc English-spcaking population of Montrcal has cxpcricnced a profound and oftcn traumatic transformation of its place in Qubbcc society. Before the 1960s, Montrcal's anglophoncs comfortably existed as a rninorifimajoritaire: a numerical minority in the city and provincc, but with the economic powcr and cultural privilcgcs of a dominant group.' With a favorablc position in the city's "cultural division of labor," and supportcd by a dense nchvork of autonomous comunity institutions such as schools, hospitals, and social agencies, Montrcal's anglophoncs were able to live their lives separate from and virtually oblivious to thc Frcnchspeaking majority around thcm.2 Today, howcvcr, the situation is radically diffcrcnt. Montrcal anglophoncs arc a bclcaguercd, dcfcnsivc group, fully awarc of thcir status as a linguistic minorify and troubled by uncertain community survival prospccts. As Gary Caldwcll puts it: "Anglo-Qucbcc is now poiscd . . . on the tightrope of history." Its continued cxistcncc "has bccome a matter of conjccture . . . and the risk of oblivion is not ncgligiblc."3 Scvcral intcrrclatcd factors havc contributed to this dramatic changc. Chicf among thcm arc the gcncral mobilization of francophone nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s, the shift away from Montrcal in thc locus of Canadian economic powcr, and the lcgislativc efforts of the Qu6bcc provincial government in the 1970s to francise thc Qu6bcc economy. Clcarly, howcvcr, a ccntral clcmcnt in the transformation of Montrcal anglophoncs from a minorite' majoritaire to a dcfcnsivc minority has bccn Qu6bcc govcrnmcn t policy r e p l a ting access to English-language schooling. I t has bccn rcstrictivc languagc policy in education, combincd with an exodus of anglophoncs and a low birthrate, that has rcndcrcd precarious the survival prospccts of Montrcal's anglophone community.

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Author details

Levine, Marc