Life is very simple for kids. You're either a good guy or you're a bad guy. Good guys have the white hats, and bad guys wear the black ones. Good triumphs over evil, generally.
So politics is like speaking Greek to them, so I usually try to avoid the topic with my wife at home, knowing full well I'll have to stop my train of thought to answer questions from my kids about the discourse at hand. I find it's easier to just avoid the topic altogether rather than stop myself every five seconds to answer another question.
On Tuesday, though, my daughter came home with many, many questions about living in Quebec – and more specifically, living as bilingual Quebec residents – the idea being anathema to many nationalists, and especially to those who support Bill 14, which attempts to create a whole different – and lower, make no mistake – class of citizens that don't live the way cultural nationalists believe we should.
So, despite our family members being fluent in French, being enthusiastic participants in many aspects of Quebec society and strong believers that having the French language in our toolkit and our Quebec joie de vivre benefits us hugely, we will always be outsiders. After getting a glimpse of language hawk Mario Beaulieu on TV the other night, she had even more questions.
'I speak French, Daddy. So do my friends. How is it that we're not real Quebecers, like that man said on television?'
'Because, baby. Partly because we speak primarily English at home and partly because we don't watch French television or films very often.'
'But you watch hockey in French, Daddy. All the time.'
'I know, sweetheart. But we don't listen to Marie-Mai, either.'
'Who's that? Is she like Pink?'
'Sort of, but she only sings in French, so that's the sort of thing we have to do in order to be considered true Quebecers by the government, apparently. We also have to eat poutine more often.'
'That's great! I like poutine, so I can live in Quebec, right? But you don't like it. Do we have to move?'
'Anyone can live in Quebec, sweetheart. Also, poutine isn't very good for you, so you shouldn't eat it that much. You can't keep people from moving into Quebec. That's not legal. But Bill 14 is going to make it very hard for people to want to come here to live.'
'Oh. What's Bill 14?'
'It's a new law the government would like to pass that will make it even more difficult to live here if you don't speak French fluently. For instance, the bill wants to make cities communicate with people in French only – even those that have an official bilingual designation right now, like Pointe Claire – and wants to start getting rid of that right. It also wants to stop some people from attending English schools that right now, are allowed, such as soldiers from other parts of Canada whose kids don't speak any French and would be lost going to French school.'
'That doesn't seem right.'
'No, sweetheart. No, it doesn't.'