02 April 2008

La manipulation de l'information par Radio-Canada

On 25 and 27 March, Radio-Canada (the French-language division of the CBC) reported, in outraged tones, that "more and more" [they never actually quantify this notion] students from France are coming over here to study at Quebec's English-language universities, thanks to a 1978 agreement between the governments of France and Quebec that allows French and Québécois students to attend university on the opposite side of the Atlantic as if they were locals. The facts indignantly enumerated in the article include:

  • French students come over here and pay almost as little tuition as would a Québécois student, which is apparently a "great savings" for these foreigners, representing a veritable "gold mine" for them.
  • The number of French students currently studying in English in Quebec is greater than the total number of Québécois students currently studying in France [whose fault is that?].
It wasn't long before one of our usual suspects weighed in on the affair. Jean Dorion, head of the ultra-nationalist Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste, declared the situation to be "scandalous", especially while "our" university students continue to see their tuition fees increase [oy, boyo! Petit un, they're still the cheapest in North America and, petit deux, that has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with this debate!].

Thankfully, in the 2 April 2008 edition of Le Devoir, François Alabrune, the Consul general of France in Quebec City, was given the opportunity to respond to the polémique. Il a relativisé as follows:
  • 6,400 French nationals are currently attending Quebec universities, representing 3 out of every one thousand French university students.
  • Approximately 1,000 Québécois are currently studying in French universities, representing 4 out of every one thousand Québécois university students.
  • Québécois students in France have enjoyed the same low tuition fees as the locals going back to well before the establishment of the 1978 agreement, that is to say long before the French enjoyed the same privileges over here.
  • University tuition in France is only $400, versus $1800 over here, so maybe it isn't such a great deal for those freeloading French students after all [désolé Monsieur Dorion].
  • According to Quebec Ministry of Education, 85% of the 6,400 French nationals studying in Quebec are doing so in French-language universities.
  • Of all the countries in the world, France has the third-highest number of foreign nationals studying in its universities, and Québécois students are more than welcome [we complain that more French students come over to study in English than the total number of Québécois that go over there, but that's because only 1,000 Québécois have chosen to go over there! How can you blame that on France?].
The only useful point made in the Radio-Canada articles is that the 1978 co-operation agreement was meant to "strengthen the French fact in Quebec", and that French students coming over to study in English-language universities in Quebec goes against the spirit of that agreement. Michelle Courchesne, the provincial Minister of Education, has said that she'll look into "renegotiating the terms of the co-operation agreement", and that's fine by me.

All the rest of it, getting worked up into a tizzy and the like, was just another opportunity for the Québécois to go after what appear to me, after having lived here for 20 months, to be their two favourite scapegoats: the local anglophone population (and its institutions), and France and the French.