Language policy and ethnic tensions in Quebec and Latvia

  • Schmid C
  • Zepa B
  • Snipe A
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Abstract

This article traces the factors that led to the adoption of the Charter of the French Language in Quebec in 1977 and the Latvian Language Law in 1999. Concerns for the French language in Quebec in the 1960s and 1970s, the Latvian language in the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, and in the Latvian state in the 1990s were ignited by some of the same demographic and assimilative forces in the two societies. Demographic factors included a decline in the birth rate, lower socioeconomic status, and a fear of minoritization in their own respective territories. Schools in English in Quebec and schools in Russian in Latvia attracted most immigrants. To counter these trends, language policies were drafted restricting access to English and Russian languages in schools, on commercial signs, in legislative bodies, and in municipal, public, and para-public administration. Looking for a model to change these conditions, Latvia based a significant part of its language law on the Quebec Charter of the French Language. Significant controversies erupted in both societies with the passage of restrictive language legislation. While the laws have helped to reverse the position of the French and Latvian languages, they have not solved the delicate balance between linguistic communal rights and individual rights. Copyright © 2004 SAGE Publications.

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Authors

  • Carol Schmid

  • Brigita Zepa

  • Arta Snipe

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