Letter: Get your hands off our language

Letter: Get your hands off our language

Dear Mrs. Pascale Déry as well as the provincial government,

I thought I would make you aware of a complicated event I have just lived through. I received my university diploma in the mail last week and oddly enough, instead of being proud and happy, I felt guilty. Guilty because that diploma, that I worked so hard for, comes from the University of Sherbrooke, a French university. You might think that that seems silly so allow me to explain. As I’m sure you can tell by my name, I was born into a bilingual family. My mother’s side being English and my father’s being primarily French. I was raised believing that both sides of my family were equal and were treated as such. I attended French elementary school, English high school and college, and French university. I have always thought that being able to switch languages with ease was a privilege and one that I do not take lightly. I work as a nurse clinician for the ambulance dispatch, this means that whichever call I receive I am able to quickly evaluate and redirect the victim regardless of the language they speak, an asset my colleagues appreciate immensely given their essential level of English, especially during tense situations. If I received a dollar for every time I’ve been told how lucky I am to be able to switch languages with ease, I’d be able to pay those duplicate tuition prices you plan on instating solely in English universities as of this coming school year.

English is the most spoken language in the world, and yet you chose to prioritize French. You can say that your intention is to even out university quotas or to ‘promote and enhance’ the French language, but let’s eliminate the bureaucratic jargon and call it what it is: favoritism. Please realize you are doing your French students a disservice by monetarily forcing them to continue being monolingual in a multilingual world. Why not promote and enhance the value of choice or bilingualism?

As the minister of higher education, I would think you’d be impartial to where the university degree comes from and more concentrated on how you can aid in obtaining said documents. For myself, the complex feeling of letting part of your community down was enough to stop me from admitting to anyone that I had even received my bachelor’s and much less that it came from an organization who will benefit from the downfall of my community.

On my mother’s side, I am the third generation to have a bachelor’s degree and on my father’s side, I am the first. I should be jumping for joy, but instead I feel culpable, as if I am somehow responsible for your segregation. I am no more to blame for this than my monolingual counterparts are for not being able to pay double the tuition to attain the same degree, a degree that we all will benefit from. Yet somehow, I have ‘promoted’ your discriminatory ideations simply by attending a French institution. For the time being, that diploma has no place on my parent’s wall, it will not be put beside my high school and college certificates nor by those of my siblings. For now, it will be left under a pile of papers until the day comes where it’s valued the same as a diploma from any other institution.

I am not here asking you to eliminate tuition fees completely, as that would be unreasonable, but I ask you to be equitable to all students regardless of where they wish to attain higher education.

From all of us who can write you this letter in both English and French without using a translator: please get your hands off our choice of language!

Kaylee Robidas


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