Language is used as a wedge to instill fear, Clifford Lincoln tells Corner Booth

“Instead of saying we have the best of both worlds, instead you create a little cocoon, build walls around yourselves.”

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Clifford Lincoln, who served as Quebec’s environment minister and later as a member of Canada’s House of Commons, sat down Friday to speak on the Corner Booth podcast hosted by CJAD’s Aaron Rand, the Montreal Gazette’s Bill Brownstein and Leslie Chesterman. Former Gazette food critic.

In a wide-ranging conversation, Lincoln expressed his views on the government’s use of the notwithstanding clause, on increasing tuition at English universities, and on Brian Mulroney.

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Here are some of the highlights, edited for length.

On the recent appeal court decision on Bill 21 validating most of Quebec’s secularism law and revoking a previous exception granted to the Montreal English School Board:

“We all respect the court ruling. At the same time, I hope it reaches the Supreme Court. I see that the Minister of Justice made some noises to say that he might take a stand. It’s about time they did it. Personally, I found this ruling very sad for all of us because it now gives license to a government to use the notwithstanding clause whatever it wants.

One of Canada’s great constitutional lawyers once said that the moment the notwithstanding clause is accepted all fundamental freedoms are denied, and if that is done, what freedom do we have?

It is a sad day for minority rights. It happens now that this government uses it freely every day of the week, and it is a real shame because then, if the courts allow the clause to be used in any way, what other freedoms do we have?

On tuition increases at English universities in Quebec:

“It’s really very sad. If any country, whether Switzerland, France, Germany or the United States, had a university like Montreal, it would be very proud; You know, Americans always promote Harvard and Yale and the British Oxford and Cambridge. And what do we do? Instead of being proud, we try to destroy it. I mean, how stupid can you be?

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Instead of becoming the base, of having the best of English and French so that you can have all these home offices here, we say, ‘Oh, no, if you’re American and you come here, we tell you to make sure that your children don’t do it. go to English schools. So what do they do? They go to Toronto.

Everything is political. … They use it as a wedge to instill fear in people. It is a brainwashing that eventually makes people fear losing their culture and language.

McGill is an English language institution. That is your vocation. So if there is English at McGill, that’s not very surprising. I mean, you have to be very petty and stupid.”

On hearing too much English in Quebec:

“It all has to do with this lack of self-confidence that they feel that if you learn English tomorrow you will lose your French. That’s crazy. My mother couldn’t have been more French than her, so the first language I spoke with her was French. I read French in school, I wrote it, I still do, and I went to (high school) and college in English and never lost my French. I can still write it, I can still speak it. …

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I’ve worked a lot politically with Scandinavians for 10 years, I’ve been to Finland and Switzerland, Sweden and Denmark, and those places, countries that are comparable in size to Quebec. They are all very proud of their origins and at the same time they speak English, they learn English at school, but you know that they have not forgotten Finnish, Swedish or Danish.

This complex we have here is so sad that if you learn one language you are going to kill the other. Instead of saying we can build a solid foundation here, we are much more powerful and influential within the federal system if we know both languages, as we have shown. We have produced more prime ministers than any other place, we have produced more foreign ministers and senior ministers in Canada.

Instead of saying we have the best of both worlds, instead you create a little cocoon, build walls around yourself and say, “Oh, well, don’t learn English because you’re going to lose your French.” .’ “

About Brian Mulroney:

“Although I was on the liberal side, I found him to be a very approachable, genuine person. When my first wife died in a car accident, he was one of the first people to call me. He was spontaneous, he was not political. And although we did not share the same parties, I found him to be a very friendly person, very close, very decent. A true Quebecer.”

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