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Vincent Geloso: Economic growth—not linguistic laws—key to French vitality in Quebec

Commentary

Every election cycle in Quebec tends to bring about debates about linguistic laws and their necessity. Given that francophones comprise less than two percent of North America, fear of cultural assimilation helps drive these debates. However, Quebec history suggests that the economic vitality of the francophone community—not legislation and regulation—is the key to cultural persistence. 

Advocates for language legislation often point to the strong linguistic laws (mandatory French schooling, for example) introduced in the late-1970sQuebec Language Policy https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/quebec-language-policy#:~:text=(courtesy%20CP)-,Official%20Language%20Act%20(1974),both%20remain%20the%20national%20languages. yet ignore the rising vitality of the French language in the mid-20th century when rates of French-English bilingualism among allophones (those who have neither French nor English as their first language) and anglophones substantially increased. Specifically, in 1951, among allophones and anglophones, 28 percent of women and 36 percent of men could speak French compared to 37 percent and 43 percent in 1971. There were even modest signs of a rising propensity among immigrants to send their children to French schools before the strict linguistic laws of the 1970s. 

This is not to say that the laws had no effect. But the improvements were not due solely to legislation in the ’70s but also to prior factors—including economic growth. 

Back in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, French-speaking Quebecers had wages well below those of English speakers.Québec Since Confederation https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/quebec-since-confederation This disparity started to dissipate in the 1940s as the linguistic wage gap began disappearing. In 1941, wages for French speakers were 27 percent below those for English speakers compared to 15 percent in 1971. And by 2001, no significant differences in wages existed. In fact, among younger workers (those born after 1940), the wage gap had nearly disappeared by the 1970s. In other words, during the latter half of the 20th century, economic growth was simply faster for francophones than for anglophones. 

Why?

One reason is that an increased proportion of francophones finished high school and went on to college and university. The gap in educational achievements between anglophones and francophones fell considerably, which helped close the wage gap. 

In the same vein, language is like an extra year of schooling. We expect schooling to increase income because of the skills and knowledge acquired. Language is also a skill and form of acquired knowledge, which is why economists find that the effect on the income of learning another language is roughly the same as an extra year of formal schooling.Speaking more than one language can boost economic growth https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/02/speaking-more-languages-boost-economic-growth/#:~:text=Several%20studies%20show%20that%20languages,than%20their%20English%2Donly%20peers. 

Immigrants who arrived in Quebec after the 1940s had to pick one of the official languages to speak and the choice of language to learn would have been in great part dictated by the extra income they expected to earn. As the incomes of francophones were increasing relative to anglophones, the profitability of learning and speaking French was increasing as well. This explains the rising proportion post-1940 (but pre-1970s) of immigrants who knew and spoke French.

The rising vitality of the French language was due in large part to the rising economic vitality of francophones. French-language advocates and policymakers should learn this lesson from the past, as it’s key to any future improvements in the vitality of French in Quebec. Policies that improve economic growth among francophones in Quebec will likely invite non-francophones to converse in Molière’s language.  

Richard Shimooka: Western support has enabled Ukraine’s critical counteroffensives

Commentary

In a war that has defied consistency, an almost constant presence has floated in the skies near Ukraine. An increasingly weather-beaten aerial giant, known by its code name FORTE, is a U.S. Air Force RQ-4 drone that is packed with sensors, including a powerful radar that can see several hundred kilometres into Russian-held territory. FORTE is a powerful symbol of a key enabler for Ukraine’s battlefield success over the past seven months, and how the broader clash between Western and Russian strategies, doctrine, and technology has affected the war. 

Even before the apparent success of the Ukrainian offensive in the past week, the signs of this shift have been increasingly apparent. After losing the key city of Severodontsk to Russia following weeks of brutal fighting, Ukraine’s armed forces have launched major attacks on key logistical centres in occupied territories for much of July and August, with devastating results. 

Russia’s vulnerability to such attacks is well evident and can be traced back to the Second World War. The Soviet Union typically mounted huge offensives, often involving over a million soldiers and thousands of artillery pieces, to smash Nazi Germany formations. This required a huge logistical enterprise—the massing of large stockpiles of materiel that could sustain heavy operations. Echoes of this approach are visible today. Russian forces have resorted to using overwhelming firepower from artillery to dislodge Ukrainian defenders in the east of the country. 

During the Second World War, the Allies employed a different strategy to attack Nazi Germany. Possessing large and technically capable air forces, they were able to strike the weak points deep behind enemy lines. They were supported by a multi-faceted intelligence system, including code breakers and aerial photo-reconnaissance, that allowed them to quickly identify and track opposing units on the battlefield. Allied forces were able to pinpoint firepower on concentrations of numerically superior German troops, interdicting them by attacking their weaknesses. This extremely effective strategy often paralysed Nazi units and allowed the Allied advance to identify and exploit weak points in their defensive lines. 

For much of the Cold War, NATO militaries clung to this doctrine against the Soviet Union. To stem the much larger Warsaw Pact armies, a massive effort to strike at key logistical points and infrastructure would be launched to slow down their assault. In the 1980s, it was supported by emerging developments in microprocessing and networking, allowing for persistent reconnaissance coverage of the battlefield. While the Soviet Union developed responses to these battle plans, its ability to adapt was debatable. Moreover, the Warsaw Pact’s advantage in numbers was expected to overcome the qualitative advantage possessed by the West. 

The Ukrainian war has been a rude awakening for Putin’s Russia, which is now encountering this type of warfare for the first time. Even before the war started, Western Intelligence systems have provided a crystal clear window into Russia’s efforts. It cannot be understated how essential it was to effectively organize Ukrainian defence in the first desperate days of the invasion. 

The Ukrainians attempted to undertake similar interdiction strikes at the start of the war. Yet their technical limitations and insufficient numbers limited their ability to fight this battle. This changed several months ago when the U.S. government provided the advanced, long-range High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), which have allowed Ukrainian forces to strike at targets deep within the Russian-held territory.

Russia’s vulnerability to such attacks was well understood within NATO; it is highlighted in numerous doctrinal documents. Ukrainians also enjoy significant vast information superiority over Russia. With access to U.S., Canadian, and European intelligence, Ukraine can quickly identify, track and coordinate attacks and pinpoint Russian vulnerabilities—a key part of the Ukrainian battlefield successes against a much larger foe. FORTE, as well as other assets, including satellite reconnaissance, aircraft, and signals intelligence, provide Ukraine with the ability to identify the location of key supply dumps, weaknesses in the Russian lines, as well as formations that could potentially attack their own forces. It can react nimbly to opportunities and threats with extreme effectiveness. 

These systems have given some breathing room to the Ukrainians, allowing them to build new formations that are being employed in this offensive. While the apparent progress has been surprising, it bears warning that these offensives are in their early stages and their outcomes are not at all clear. While Russia has suffered devastating losses, its manpower and materiel reserves remain extremely large. It has resorted to paying bonuses several times higher than normal and its troops come from areas far away from Moscow, limiting the political fallout from casualties and preserving regime stability. 

Moreover, Ukrainian forces have also suffered grievous losses over seven months of war, forcing them to deploy newly raised units to fill in gaps. It will constantly struggle with its manpower and equipment constraints for the foreseeable future.

Thus far, the provision of Western arms and doctrinal concepts have undoubtedly been decisive in assisting the Ukrainian government to defend its territory. But the West still needs to prepare for the long, drawn-out conflict, one that will require the continual provision of economic and military support to Ukraine, while dealing with domestic consequences, such as limited access to Russian energy supplies in Europe. 

Still, the situation likely favours the Ukrainian government in the long-term—it is fighting an existential war of existence against an especially depraved opponent. The West has started to provide the foundation to an eventual victory, but it must see it through to the end.