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Quebec is not and never has been une province comme les autres. On one hand, Quebec wants to preserve its own culture and identity; on the other hand, immigration is the main source of population growth in Quebec and is thus necessary for its survival. Since immigration is necessary, this does not entail it would otherwise be desired. Immigration contradicts the notion of French Quebecois nationalism since immigration has birthed diversity and reshaped race and ethnic relations. In this essay I intend to explore Quebec's attempts at self-preservation and the tremendous implications this has had for immigration, education and attitudes in the province of Quebec. I will do this by critically analyzing Quebec's different approach than the rest of Canada of which it has opted for; to practice integration (assimilation) over inclusion. Quebec has not accepted multiculturalism in education but rather an intercultural education perspective. Quebec's immigrant students have been subsequently affected. Results have indicated that this more assimilationist educational approach in Quebec has perpetuated feelings of intolerance amongst French Quebecers and feelings of inferiority amongst immigrants to Quebec. Combined with persistent discrimination towards immigrants in Quebec, Canada's value of equality is consequently undermined. Integration and language-learning in Quebec implies a cultural deficiency among minority groups. Thus, there is a discrepancy between the values of immigration, multiculturalism and equality that Canada is espousing in contrast to Quebec's values of its language, culture and identity. Education plays a central role to social order and equality can be best achieved through the vehicle of multiculturalism. As social norms and values in the rest of Canada have begun to adapt to the rapidly changing and diverse society, the policy of multiculturalism recognizes the new social reality that Quebec has futilely attempted to ignore. Debate has spawn as to whether or not there should be a two way street and Quebec's educational system should `reasonably accommodate', become more multicultural, and better reflect these changes as well, or otherwise separate and preserve its own culture and identity.
The Quebec problem and need for protectionism dates back to the beginning of European colonization in North America. The French founded Quebec in 1608. People are often very surprised that Quebecers say they are still affected by an event that took place over two hundred years ago while other peoples have already overcome more recent, more devastating defeats. The fundamental difference between defeat and conquest, however, remains that conquest is a permanent, institutionalized defeat.
Quebec is a distinct society. That distinctiveness is related to the fact that Quebec's official language is French and 84% of French speaking Canadians live in Quebec. Quebec is thus the heartland of the French-speaking community with a strong sense of a unique identity and a history of struggling against assimilation. Many protectionist measures have transpired in hopes of Quebec's preservation, dating back to the Quebec Act of 1774. This act recognized Quebec's individuality by stating that the formerly French territory would be governed by special arrangements that did not apply to other British colonies in North America. Then, at the time of confederation, the French-Canadian negotiators ensured [an] agreement on language rights. Years later, in 1962, the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism began to examine how to further protect French language and culture. And again, Quebec's distinctive culture was examined with the 1978 White paper on cultural development, which, once more, ensured French as Quebec's common language.
As a minority, both continentally and in Canada alone, the theme of survival for Quebec consequently runs rampant. Clinging to their way of life is no simple challenge considering this language group constitutes a mere percentage of Canada's population and the North American continent. Thus, “there is no embarrassment in saying that Quebec wants to be French, that the francophone majority [in Quebec] does not have to apologize for breathing its own air, and that different cultures can mingle with the French speaking one”. The French culture is meant to serve as a focal point for the various communities which will continue to make their presence felt and to express their own cultural values. Quebec has a cultural center. The rest of Canada does not. This helps elucidate why Quebec has had different and particular needs when compared with the rest of Canada.
The notion of preservation and isolation are tied with population expansion and so accepting diverse immigrants into Quebec have had tremendous implications for Quebec culture and identity. Quebecers “have expressed the fear that cultural diversity might undermine [their] social cohesion”. This is because the federal policy of multiculturalism is ideologically opposed to the vision of French- Québécois nationalism. Immigration into Quebec has reshaped race and ethnic relations and helps to account for why Quebec, in an effort to safeguard its culture and identity, has shown a history of and continued reluctance towards it.