The Manitoba French-language crisis, 1983-84 : origins and early legislative debates

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Hebert, Raymond
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In February, 1984, the government of Manitoba was virtually paralyzed, by an issue involving a proposed constitutional amendment to the Manitoba Act regarding the status of French as an official language in Manitoba. Using primary and secondary sources, particularly personal and public archives, the author identifies relevant historical elements and attempts a detailed reconstruction of the events which occurred during the first four months of the crisis (May to August, 1983). Chapters I and II describe in some detail the "prehistory" of the language crisis, from the circumstances of Manitoba's entry into Confederation in 1870 to the end of the Lyon regime in 1981. Chapters III to V describe the evolution of the new Pawley government's thinking on the language issue, in the context of an impending hearing of a major language case (Bilodeau) before the Supreme Court of Canada and the negotiations eventually undertaken by the government with the province's French-speaking community. Chapters VI and VII describe the first public reactions as details of the final tripartite agreement became public, including the first reactions of the opposition in the Legislature. Chapters VIII to X summarize the early debates on the issue in the Manitoba Legislature. A concluding chapter presents a number of explanatory hypotheses based upon writings by various sociologists and political theorists, particularty R. Hofstadter, R.A. Schermerhorn, and R. Breton.