Dear Ms. Byrne,
I would be inclined to support this initiative if I saw the Harper government taking action on another portfolio - Official Bilingualism - as well.
A number of years ago, Mr. Harper stated that Official Bilingualism was the god the failed. But, even with a majority government which was done without any significant Quebec base, the Harper government continues to ignore the past and ongoing costly and disastrous effects of this legislation.
Recently, in an opinion piece in the Ottawa Citizen, Professor Paul Robinson stated "Putting any social group on a pedestal is risky. It may lead to a culture of entitlement, and even with our democratic system it may become difficult to challenge the group in question. Canada does have a great obligation to its veterans, but not a "sacred" or unconditional one." I could not agree more with Professor Robinson. All one has to do is to look at the effects of Official Bilingualism which was sold to Canadians on the basis of providing service to all Canadians in the language of their choice where numbers warrant. We were told that this was only fair and that it would help unite the country. After 40 years of this ill developed legislation and by some accounts over $800 billion spent on implementing it, what do we have?
We have legislation that says "where numbers warrant" which is totally ignored and costly programs put in place in locations with less than 1 or 2% of the population needing services in French. We now have a civil service in which employees can demand to be supervised in the language of their choice. We have a federal civil service where jobs and promotions are based on language rather than merit and for which over 85% of Canadians cannot apply for a job because they are not bilingual. We have instances of people served with traffic violations getting off because both languages are not on the ticket. We have a national debt in excess of $600 billion which could have been fully eliminated if the billions had not been spent on official bilingualism, and still have money left over for health care, infrastructure or education or simply reducing taxes.
To make matters even worse, this attitude has trickled down to the provincial, county and city level. In Ontario, we now have hospitals that do not employ the most technically proficient candidates because their language skills are perceived to be not good enough, we have French only clinics, we have towns enacting sign bylaws forcing businesses to advertize in both languages against their Charter rights.
We have more disunity than unity because this legislation has placed one group on a pedestal and has led to a culture of entitlement on their part.
I agree with Professor Robinson that no group within Canada should be put at an advantage over any other group. It is time to have a second look at official bilingualism as it is currently practiced. It certainly should not be the "sacred" cow into which it has now morphed at great expense to all Canadians.
Furthermore, we have a Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages which is biased in favour of complaints from Francophones and against complaints by Anglophones. Also in the Ottawa Citizen recently was a lengthy article on the fact That Minister Baird has English only business cards and he was severely chastised about this by official languages commissioner, Graham Fraser, because of 4 complaints from Francophones. However, I know that there have been numerous complaints about the positioning of French and English on Mr. Harper's new air plane from Anglophones. In response to one complaint about the positioning of the official languages on Prime Minister Harper’s new air plane which has French first and English second instead of English first and French second, an analyst in the Compliance Assurance Branch of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages stated "We recognize that the order of the visual presentation of both official languages in bilingual communications can have an impact on the public's perception on the equality of both official languages. However, our interpretation of the Official Languages Act (the Act) makes us conclude that federal institutions do not have the obligation to present the official languages in a certain order." and then summarily dismissed the complaint. This analyst completely ignored the fact that there is a Federal Identity Program (FIP) which are a set of regulations developed to comply with the Act and that these regulations do establish the order of the official languages for all federal institutions. That Mr. Fraser allows his office to selectively ignore well established regulations when applying the Act while at the same time complaining about Mr. Baird’s business cards is simply wrong and shows his contempt for any complaints favouring English. Mr. Fraser needs to clean up practices in your own office before criticizing others.
So, when I see the Harper government doing something about severely cutting back on the costs of Official Bilingualism, I will start getting excited about some of your other initiatives.
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