ARCHIVED - 9. Anglophone Priorities and Concerns

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While health and social services are ranked highest among Anglophones in terms of importance to the community, the most frequently cited single problem is equality of rights. The representation of Quebec Anglophones in the provincial public service contributes to an important sense of disempowerment among the community. A majority of Anglophones do not believe that they have equal chances of securing employment with government. Both federal and provincial governments recognize this situation and add that efforts are being made to recruit and retain more Anglophones.

Relations between Quebec Anglophones and Francophones have improved over the course of the 1990s. Friendship and marriages between members of the two principal language communities have been on the rise. Yet there remain important differences in the extent to which Anglophones and Francophones respectively believe that the future of their communities is threatened.

Questions on whether leadership is effective in addressing community needs are connected to what the group regards as its main interests and priorities. The issues that communities deem important will evolve based on changing social, economic and political circumstances. During a referendum campaign, national unity may be regarded as the priority for the vast majority of Quebec Anglophones. So the timing in which the concerns of the population are assessed is an important consideration. Various government and non-governmental actors can play a crucial role in shaping the needs of the population and determining priorities. Effective leadership must demonstrate an ability to adapt to changing concerns of its constituents. Further related to this is the question of how organizational leadership defines its constituency.

It has been amply demonstrated that demographic changes have had a significant impact on the structures and institutions of the Anglophone population. In the absence of research on the historic priorities and concerns of Anglophones, it is more difficult to ascertain whether the trends described here have influenced such matters. On what basis are the differences of opinion among Anglophones most pronounced? These are issues that have been much debated over the years both within and outside Quebec’s Anglophone community.

In attempting to provide insight into how Quebec Anglophones prioritize their concerns, the CROP-Missisquoi Institute survey asked respondents to rate the degree of importance of issues to the Anglophone community and then to identify the most important issue. There is an obvious relationship between the two as reflected in the themes repeatedly evoked by Quebec Anglophones. However, the distinction permits an understanding of how strongly felt the concerns are, and the extent to which certain issues are a catalyst for mobilization. Overall, health and social services issues were ranked as extremely or very important by the highest percentage of Anglophone respondents. Yet health and social services were not considered the most important issue facing the Anglophone community. Generally, it is the social issues or what might be described as more immediate needs that rank highest when Anglophones are asked to rate importance. When it comes to asking about the single most important issue, however, the political/identity questions appear to come to mind more frequently.

Table 22 – “Extremely” or “Very Important” Responses Regarding the Importance of Selected Language Issues, by Selected Demographic Groups within the Quebec Anglophone Population
  Health and social services (%) Access to government services (%) Language of signs (%) Decrease in Anglophone community (%)
Total 80 70 54 51
Age 18-24 81 73 49 46
Age 65+ 79 66 59 57
French conversation – yes 85
76 57 61
No French 81 67 57 57
No high school 77 61 62 54
University degree 89 77 53 62
Male 82 71 53 56
Female 86 76 60 62
Source: CROP-Missisquoi Institute, Survey of the English-Speaking Community of Quebec, 2000.

With 54 percent of Anglophones believing that the language of signs is an important issue, it ranks well behind health and social services. There appears no single issue that a majority of Quebec Anglophone consider the most important. However, the largest plurality contend that equal rights is the single most important issue facing the community. There does not appear to be much difference of opinion based on age, gender, education and bilingualism.

A. Inclusion and Disempowerment

Seeing members of one’s group reflected in government institutions and decision-making bodies is a critical issue for minority groups. Both the federal and Quebec provincial governments have acknowledged the need to address issues of representation of Quebec Anglophones in their respective public services. For its part, the Quebec government has produced a series of reports over the course of the 1990s lamenting its failure to increase the underrepresentation of Anglophones in the province’s public service. Despite provisions in the Quebec Charter of Rights that make it obligatory for there to be employment equity programs for minority groups in the public service and in spite of hiring quotas, the share of mother-tongue Anglophones in the Quebec public service has dropped from 485 employees (or 0.83 percent) to 394 employees (or 0.7 percent) out of 57,468 in 2002 (Government of Quebec, Conseil du Trésor, March 2002).

According to the Treasury Board Secretariat of the Government of Canada, as of March 2003, Anglophones made up 72 percent of public service employees and Francophones made up 27 percent. Their corresponding share of the Canadian population is 75 percent and 24 percent, respectively. Outside the National Capital Region, 14.5 percent of all federal employees in Quebec were Anglophones, whereas Anglophones constitute 12.9 percent of the population in Quebec. Anglophone federal public servants in federal departments represent 7.6 percent (excluding the National Capital Region). The Treasury Board recognizes this situation and adds that efforts are being made to recruit and retain more Anglophones.

While there has been no systematic study of federal and provincial government appointments of Quebec, any examination of the list of such Quebec government appointments over the past two decades will illustrate the relative rarity of nominations of Anglophones. Limited input into government decision making on the part of Anglophones is a significant contributing factor to feelings of disempowerment.

Efforts to increase Anglophone representation in the provincial public service need to consider the important number of Anglophones who believe they do not have equal access to such jobs. Across all demographic groups, an important share of Anglophones believe that federal and provincial governments do not provide equal opportunities for employment. Overall, some 54 percent of Anglophones surveyed in 2000 (CROP-Missisquoi Institute, 2000) do not believe that the Government of Canada in Quebec provides equal access to jobs for Anglophones, and approximately 70 percent believe that similar inequity exists in the Quebec provincial government. Perceptions of such discrimination are somewhat higher among those Anglophones with university degrees and those employed full time.

Quebec Anglophones are not uninterested in being employed by government. The survey reveals that while interest in such opportunities is greater federally than provincially, it nonetheless remains reasonably high at both levels of government. Nearly half of respondents said they either have or would be interested in seeking a job with the Government of Canada, and 40 percent expressed similar interest with respect to employment with the Government of Quebec. Further, bilingual Anglophones and those between the ages of 18 and 24, expressed particularly high levels of interest in employment in either the federal or provincial public service.

B. Social Distance

Increased marriage between Quebec Anglophones and Francophones is a function of rising social contacts between language groups. Therefore, it is increasingly difficult to talk about two solitudes when describing the relationship between Anglophone and Francophone Quebecers. In 2000, more than half of Quebec Francophones reported having frequent and/or occasional contact with Anglophones. The region in which one resides is by far the most important factor contributing to the degree of interaction between members of the two groups. On the Island of Montréal, nearly one-half of the Francophone population reported having frequent contact with Anglophones, and the same percentage indicated that they had close friends who were Anglophone. On a regional basis, there was some variation on this question with as many as 60 percent of respondents on the Island of Montréal reporting close friendships with Anglophones.

Other survey-based evidence supports the notion that relations between Quebec Anglophones and Francophones have improved over the course of the 1990s. When asked about the state of relations with Anglophones, 83 percent of Francophone respondents described them as either good or very good (6 percent described them as bad or very bad). In the western part of Montréal, 95 percent viewed the relationship positively. When asked whether the relationship has improved over the past ten years, 44 percent said it had (67 percent in the western part of Montréal, 52 percent in the centre and 37 percent in the east). Overall, some 43 percent felt that the relationship remained unchanged, while 6 percent said it had deteriorated.

According to a SOM/La Presse/Radio-Canada survey (2001), 80 percent of Anglophones say that they have made efforts to reach out to the Francophone population. When asked whether the relationship between Francophones and Anglophones was more positive now than ten years earlier, some seven out of ten Anglophones agreed. When asked to make the comparison between now and five years ago, some 40 percent described the attitude of the Francophone community towards the Anglophone community as more positive and another 40 percent as neutral. In urban areas, Anglophones were more inclined to say the change was more positive (42 percent) than were their regional counterparts (27 percent).

When exploring issues of social distance and the extent to which communities believe the relationship is improving, it is critical to consider the context in which the question is asked. It is widely acknowledged that the past 40 years in Quebec have been characterized by intense debates over language and identity. Undoubtedly, the 1995 Quebec referendum put more focus on the relationship between Quebec’s language communities. In short, the state of the relationship can fluctuate according to the political climate of the day.

Clearly, more than ever, Anglophones are able to speak French, and uses that language more frequently in the workplace and in a variety of economic activities. To date, little research has been done on the extent to which the increased knowledge of French and increased contact with Francophones has a bearing on the attitudes of Anglophones around the main social and political questions confronting the society. The reduction in social distance described here has not given rise to increasing consumption of French-language media and cultural products by Quebec Anglophones, despite the increased interaction with Francophones and growing bilingualism.

While intergroup relations have improved, there persists important divergence in perceptions of linguistic and cultural concerns between Quebec Anglophones and Francophones. Among them are differences in the extent to which members of the two communities view the threat to their respective language communities. In effect, 61 percent of Francophone respondents believe that the future of the French language in Quebec is threatened. Such perceptions are held to a somewhat greater degree by those who speak French only than by Francophones who are able to conduct a conversation in English. For their part, about 78 percent of Quebec Anglophone respondents disagreed with the statement that the future of the French language in Quebec is threatened (nearly two-thirds strongly disagreed). Neither the age of the Anglophone respondents nor their ability to speak French much affected the extent to which they thought the French language is threatened.

When asked whether they thought the future of the English-speaking community in their region was threatened, 66 percent of the Anglophone respondents agreed (36 percent agreed totally and 30 percent agreed somewhat). Only 14 percent of Francophones agreed with the statement that the English-speaking community is threatened in their region, and there is little variation in such attitudes in the regions of the province.

Even though the majority of Anglophones did not believe that the French language is threatened, 51 percent agreed with the statement that it is important for the government of Quebec to maintain laws to protect French, while some 48 percent disagreed with this view. For their part, Quebec Francophones supported a number of concerns expressed by Quebec Anglophones, such as the right to health and social services in the English language. Also, twice as many Francophone Quebecers agreed than disagreed that the Government of Canada should support the development of the Anglophone community in their province (18 percent disagreed, 46 percent were neutral and 36 percent agreed).

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