30 April 2018
Published April 5, 2008 Updated
March 27, 2017
Every country has its fixations. Where else but in Canada could a straightforward debate about the who and when of French immersion in the third-smallest province send the whole country's official languages intelligentsia into a fit of doomsdayism? Watching the very real passion with which parents have reacted to New Brunswick's decision to end early immersion, it is hard not to think of what U.S. s-x columnist Dan Savage said recently about his own nation's debilitating obsession. Not, race. The other one: religion. "Australia got the convicts. Canada got the French. We got the Puritans."
Mr. Savage evidently meant it as a compliment - to Canada and Australia. And though we should definitely take it as one, the "French fact" has - from Durham to Dumont - warped our national psyche, fed our collective neuroses and nearly torn us asunder. Four centuries after Champlain's arrival, we are no nearer, inside or outside Quebec, to reconciling ourselves to his linguistic legacy.
For English Canadians, the question is this: Do they really care enough about the other official language to learn it, not just for the purposes of properly pronouncing foie gras and salade niçoise on a holiday in Paris, but to understand, appreciate and grow closer to French-Canadian reality? The evidence is fairly conclusive that they don't. Despite the billions spent since the adoption of the Official Languages Act in 1969, the already derisory rates of bilingualism are falling in English Canada. Parents may pine for French immersion classes, but mostly for reasons that have nothing to do with bridging the solitudes.
To read the rest, please link to: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/bilingualism-a-failed-policy/article18447844/
An on-line consultation by the OL office. Comments are accepted until the end of May. We need to try and have our side heard. Many English-speaking Canadians have given up on the battle to be heard – this is a mistake because it will be interpreted as “Silence is Approval”. Please make your opinion heard.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Gatineau, April 19, 2018 – As the 50th anniversary of Canada’s Official Languages Act draws near, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages is inviting Canadians to share their opinions on very specific aspects of the Act through on‑line public consultations....
I requested that those who did submit comments to the OCOL Survey send us a copy of their comments. These comments have been submitted to date:
Responses to 2018 OCOL Survey
From P. M.
Kim, your answers were excellent, as were the answers of D.P. and C.M. My own answers were pretty rough, as I don't have much time, but you're welcome to share them (with my initials) if you think it might inspire more participation. My answers are below.
If you had to select from the list below, which themes are the most important to you in the context of the modernization of the Official Languages Act?
The OLA was a mistake. If Quebec had separated decades ago, we wouldn't have our present language problems now. We would be able to speak our own languages, whether French or English. People would have time to learn more useful second languages such as Chinese and Spanish.
Access to justice:
Yes, Anglophones and Francophones should have access to justice, but we do have translators for that. Requiring the Supreme Court judges to be bilingual inevitably means that some of the best judges will be excluded from the Supreme Court. This is an example of how enforcing bilingualism tends to foster mediocrity.
Vitality of English minorities:
Anglophones are treated poorly in Quebec. Quebec disregards official bilingualism. So bilingualism should not be forced on the rest of Canada.
Any other comments?
It's harder to pass the French proficiency tests than the English proficiency tests. This is not fair. We need an open and public inquiry into these tests.
Also, it's not fair that Quebec is officially unilingual, while official bilingualism is forced on the rest of Canada. Official bilingualism is a colossal waste of money. And it's divisive. Everyone would be happier if Quebec separated. Francophones deserve their own country. Likewise, Anglophones deserve their own Anglophone country. Charles de Gaulle was right after all. So vive le Quebec libre!
From P. A.
I wish I had done the cut and paste thing. I made the points that outside PQ, NB and some places in Eastern Ontario the use of French had likely diminished in significance and in fact that in some significant communities in the country it was spoken by a very small percentage of the population and Mandarin or Arabic were likely far more prevalent: that it was hard to take official bilingualism seriously when PQ opts out and severely restricts the use of English, an official language; that it was oppression of the majority when so many positions in the federal public service are designated bilingual, giving French speakers a huge advantage overvaluing the significance of French in most of the country and ignoring “where numbers warrant”; and, that to think of requiring supreme court justices to be bilingual English/French in a time when so many expert translation facilities are available and the Mandarin and Arabic speakers and our indigenous people are ignored is absolutely ludicrous. Anyway, I got up quite a head of steam and quite pissed off by the time I finished. I think this captures most of it.
My answer to the survey was none of the above are important to me.
From K. K.
Hi Kim, I just filled it in. I said none of the topics interested or were important to me. I said in comments entirely too much taxpayer money has been spent on French since 1969. We are a nation of many languages and the constant, common go-to-language is English. We aren’t and never will be a bilingual English French country.
I also put my age as 25-54 as these were brought up in the thick of French immersion and hopefully are learning the truth by now.
I think we will always be a multi-lingual country of English and whatever other language. How do they get away with saying the French helped develop this country? They didn’t do a damn thing. They first came over to obtain goods to send back to the King of France. They lost the final battle of 1759 and came under British rule. Did they help build the railway, settle the west, develop commerce???? No they just hung out in Quebec and made pea soup. I would like someone to tell me what they did to build this country, I am serious.
From M. G.
"Far too much weight is placed on increasing French language use in the rest of Canada (outside of Quebec) and far too little protection of the English language within Quebec. The artificial inflation of the importance of the French language in day-to-day life in modern Canada is ridiculous and is hurting the country and the economy. The fact that all of these mandates, laws, and efforts are in place do nothing more than demonstrate the reality that the French language is not an integral part of life for the majority of Canadians. If it were, we would not require all these measures to ensure its inclusion. While it is an important part of Canada's heritage, that doesn't mean we should hurt the country to try and preserve it. Slavery was also part of Canada's heritage in New France and Acadia. Stealing land from Native Americans was part of our heritage. British rule was part of our heritage. There is such a thing as progression and change and it is better embraced than defended against. Please stop working against Canada and progression as it will only ever hold us back.
That being said, any area that is populated by more than 50% French-speaking people (mother tongue) should have equal representation in local government offices. No laws are needed for this as elected officials in such areas should be responsible for making those decisions. As we live in a democracy, the majority can elect who they feel best represents each populated area and will ensure that their needs are met.
If you visit someone's home and they prefer you don't wear your shoes in their house, you take them off. If you don't agree with the rules of their house, you leave. What you don't do is tell them that you are going to wear your shoes in their house and they must learn to deal with it.
Similarly, if someone that only speaks English decides to move to an entirely French town, they should not expect everyone to adopt English for their sake. Why is this different with French? If a French person chooses to move to Red Deer, they should either learn English or deal with it. Making the entire city adapt for the benefit of a small minority would be ludricous. What makes us think that this is any more appropriate on a country-wide scale?
So many people should be fired for their roles in this scandal. It is absolutely absurd!!"
Kim, I’ve posted this notice of the survey on every group site I belong to as well as my own timeline. I’ve prefaced the posting with my own comments which read:
“Well, well, after 50 years the office of the Official language commissioner has decided to ask for our opinion. Please-please-please give it to them. It seems they feel it's time to "modernize" the official languages act and we all know what that means! Speak up and voice your opinion, it may be the last chance you'll ever have. The link is at the end of the article, saying "the floor is yours".”
The response has been exceptionally good with many shares and many responding with the word, “Done!” on each site. I’m sure there are many others who have responded to the survey who have done so without saying anything on FB, preferring to remain anonymous. I’m hoping for the ‘snowball effect’, that others will continue. I’ll do the same again in a few weeks as the deadline approaches.
For what it’s worth, maybe as a suggestion, a lot of the groups are closed….not available to the general public. I’ve suggested to each and every one of them that it’s no good posting vital information to a closed group. I’ve encouraged people to stop only ‘preaching to the choir’ and share those important posts on their own timeline, thus making the information available to hundreds more outside the group.
P.S. I’ve been getting ‘shared’ notifications all evening from people I’ve never heard of. It’s working, I hope and pray it will be enough!
Kim, you wouldn’t believe the response from this! People are writing back by the hundreds, and are passing it along. Writing the MPs is good and hopefully everyone will do that too, but honestly, most MPs don’t care and will only follow the party line. Believe me, the language commissioner is getting an earful!!
Okay Kim, I answered the survey. I love, but do not share your optimism that English speakers answering can make a difference. Here is my 2 cents worth.
On the themes, I only checked the "Other" box and then entered:
"When government tries to legislate altruistic goals such as equality, the result is inevitably tyranny. This has indeed been the result of the OLA. It sought to give the French majority greater voice. Not only did it achieve this, it subjugated the English majority. The Act should be abolished and replaced with Federal regulations to assure any unilingual English or French citizens access to justice and essential services in their language."
In the next box:
"All of the themes are bureaucratic, "big brother" rhetoric. It's time for Canadians to become respectful of one another. This will never happen as long as all-knowing autocratic politicians dictate behaviour."
In "other comments":
"Wake up and smell the coffee. Canada is a predominantly English country with one province that is French. While Quebec is downright oppressive on the English minority, the RoC is more than accommodating with their French minorities. Moreover, it is the British Parliamentary traditions and system and our common law that has protected the rights of the French, and ironically, empowered them at the expense of the English through the OLA. The ultimate act of oppression is to have a bureaucrat known as the Official Languages Commissioner. This is a travesty and a manifestation of tyranny."
The only satisfaction I can take from completing this survey, is not letting down CLF, and knowing it will thoroughly piss off the bureaucrats reading the results. It's a "pissin' in the wind" exercise and even if 100,000 Canadians responded similarly, it would only serve to cause 100,000 Canadians to be labeled as bigots by the survey evaluators. Nothing is going to change until Canadians learn that better government is LESS government.
Basically I said that while there is a huge push on bilingualism so that Francophones can work in the language of their choice Anglophones are being denied that very right. Why should we speak French when English is the language WE want to work in. I also asked what happens when French is no longer the second most spoken language in Canada ( which may already be the case seeing as other languages are immigrating in droves )...will the bilingual designation be changed to reflect the changing population.
That pretty well sums up what I said.
There is no justification or requirement for Supreme Court Justices to be bilingual. There is no justification for Supreme Court Justices to be Francophone Quebecois as will most likely be the case. The superb translation services available do not contravene anyone's Charter or official languages or Human Rights. There are also very good translation software on the market that work very well.
Duality of services in economically depressed economic jurisdictions is wrong as it amounts to segregation and discrimination, specifically policies regarding bussing and school districts operating side by side, one in English and one in French. There should be an equality between per student spending in these jurisdictions and it should remain economically viable without incurring deficit budgetary spending. There is nothing wrong with shared bussing or office space - especially considering the ecological impact of two half filled offices or busses driving the same route.
Outside of Quebec should no longer be considered an area to improve bilingualism or French as a first spoken language as the efforts so far have only incurred more debt and higher taxes in an uncertain economical era. Especially since Quebec has gone unilingual French. It has been proven that there has been an overall decrease in the use of French, statistically speaking. The importation of French as first or second language immigrants and refugees should be terminated. We are importing largely unskilled, uneducated people who are very nice but we have not put any onus on them to get skills training, equivalent of our basic high school. So we end up with a higher on-job injury rate as they value a polite “Yes” rather than realizing they should have said “No, please show me how to do this safely”.
Languages used should be reflective of demand for service. So many times print media is produced in both languages but entire pallets of francophone version booklets sit unused until they're discarded. This is a horrible waste of money.
New technologies is fairly self explanatory. All individuals don't have to be bilingual as long as there's technology available to support services to minority language members of the public.
Repealing language requirements for work and supervision follows. The public service is already disproportionately over-representative of the francophone community. The executive positions even more so. Amendments to the act risk exacerbating the situation and aggravating the members of the public effectively being discriminated against. The requirement is not necessary if managers were to control hiring so that new hires matched the language of use of the office. Only the public should have the right to demand service in a particular language.
While people claim Canada is officially bilingual, the reality is that Quebec is French, New Brunswick is bilingual, and the rest of Canada is defacto English. Just as this dispersion is called bilingual, so too should the supreme court be recognised as bilingual so long as it contains members who can service both English and French. Not all members have to individually be bilingual.
With today’s technology of instant translation for many languages, enforced bilingualism in Canada is no longer needed. The only way to get Canadians onside is to show them the cost of maintaining two official languages in Canada. The cost adds up to several billion dollars a year and I think most Canadians, given the choice, would rather see their tax dollars spent on things everyone can benefit from and not something only a small group benefits from. Remind people that Trudeau has pledged $ 2.7 billion to enforce more bilingualism from Ottawa west on a population that is busy trying to survive and get ahead with little to no time or interest in studying a language they will seldom use. Time is better spent learning a trade or profession. Canadian governments and national political parties refuse to recognize that one cannot export and impose a minority language and culture on the broader population when they see no real need or benefit for it. If Canadians were made aware of the cost and then given the democratic right to choose, I think the policy of bilingualism would be a thing of the past, especially since Quebec legislated themselves unilingual French. All we are doing is spending a lot of tax dollars with no real benefit. This policy has outlived its time.
The French position of converting all Canada to French language is absurd. PM Pierre Trudeau used to say why separate when you can have the whole country thru language control. Amazing.
Apart from costing $2 billion/yr. it really is Canadian-style apartheid. None of my children could run for PM. Discrimination in the most obvious way.
While you might not like the comparison, our situation is like “Hilary- get over it, you lost”. Likewise the French angle – “ you lost the war, get over it”..
Leave it in Quebec and let the rest of us live in the 21 century. He, little Pierre (Justin) said after all it’s 2018- enough.
I don’t think the language Commissioner will be happy with me or what I had to say. I told him the English-speaking Canadians are fed up of being treated like second or third class citizen. I also told him that his ALL FOR FRENCH OR FRANCOPHONE AGENDA IS EXTREMELY DISCRIMINITORY. Maybe if enough people fill it out the survey, he might start to get the message that we are fed up and that it’s time for “ Real Change” where all Canadians are fairly treated.
I can understand the animosity of the French speaking New Brunswicker as they were 50 years ago; they were poor, uneducated and could not speak English and found it very difficult to find work because of this. There was no work in NB except Forestry, Fishery, Mining and Shipbuilding and most of these companies were owned by English speaking people. I also know that there were some who did well and still do.
What I have seen since is an attempt by Quebec to, not just correct a problem, but to violently attempt to take over Canadian politics e.g. the FLQ in the sixties. A problem taken from a criminal act to a political coup by Pierre Trudeau and the Liberal Party.
As far as NB being a “bilingual” province. It has a 27% French population but, unlike the English speaking 70%, there is big money from Quebec pressing this decision. A decision that was decided by a corrupt government with NO say by the people of NB.
It seems impossible to believe that with the massive debt this province has accumulated (as well as our country), we see a language (French) being promoted at an enormous cost.
I started to become interested in politics in 2006 and went to a meeting of the ****** Party in my riding. I gave a considerable donation to that party. It did not take long to find out I was not in the clique and although they had my name & address etc. I was never informed of another meeting BUT they keep calling me for money. And they want $50 for a membership. That gave me the feeling I was one of the forgotten Canadians, unless of course at election time.
Now, I will always vote. Only this time I don’t know yet which party to vote for.
There are ways to cut spending and costs. Including not funding French language promotion, gold plated parliamentary pensions and the CBC. I have nothing against the French - it’s the politicians ruining this nation.
I have as much right to only speak English as the Quebec French to only speak French but everything has changed. Now Quebec is trying to assimilate the rest of Canada into the French language. And they’re doing it, and they’ve done it, because of our pious weak kneed English politicians.
No Honourable member of the Federal or Provincial Government has the right to complain about the cost of healthcare as they do because they put language before any and all matters affecting our country.
People are sick and disgusted with our elected members. Their objectives are selfish and they are arrogant. We have a much larger swamp to drain in Canada than the Americans have.
I don’t believe the OLC gives a hoot about Canadians. It’s about Quebec, it’s about corruption, it’s about oppression, it’s about money and it’s unconstitutional.
This never should have happened. Get rid of the OLC!
Comment from A.S
It simply staggers the mind the extent to which the French "cancer" has metastasized in Ontario! How was this been allowed to happen? And where will be the end of this? Even on a more practical level, it is simply financially unsustainable having two parallel sets of services.
This is so much different from how America accommodates the language issue! The Americans will offer assistance in Spanish, even in print, to newcomers unable to communicate in English. In short, the language issue stays at the "informal" level and is provided as a courtesy and as a service to help people get on their feet and become integrated. In Ontario (as well as the rest of Canada) the language issue is treated much differently, not as a courtesy but as full-blown programs and enshrined in various Statutes and Regulations. The American system encourages integration while the Canadian system encourages segregation.
Of course, segregation is what the French activists want in Canada to help them "combat assimilation." No such language programs ever existed for any other immigrant group new to Canada. Yet the Italians, fully integrated in Canadian society, still have their own community "hubs" such as homes for seniors and other services in Italian, including TV programs and legal services. Do you even hear the Italian community in Ontario (Toronto is the largest Italian city outside Italy) scream for more and more services in Italian? No. Only the hapless and "helpless" francophone so-called community, always dependent on government assistance and a free cheque. But then, unlike the Italian community, the French are operating from an agenda - an agenda that drives toward the eventual "frenchification" and takeover of all of Canada.
French zealotry will not end until it has ascended to the level of complete control over all aspects of Canadian society and having thus created a new and aloof aristocracy that will then take its rightful place - a process that is underway - as the true and only ruler-ship of Canada with the rest of the citizen body relegated to second class status, i.e., barred from access to that privileged aristocracy. (We see this happening already with that racist selection process of Official Bilingualism.) And all of this is being actively propelled and with the consent of a delusional officer class in our weak and feeble democratic institutions - all of which are (still) English speaking.
Do you get the picture?
A politician needs help to create a “win-win” situations to get elected so they need to know what is already out there. ( I am not naive, I know it is usually a “lose-win” situation, once elected)
Ontario is not officially bilingual, although we do have a Francophone Affairs ministry, a French Language Services Commissioner and office, 37 French language coordinators and other administration assisting our ministries and agencies, and of course, 26 designated areas (Markham July 2018) to provide French language service. Some 217 designated agencies to provide services in French under regulation. We have French language coordinators for each of the 14 Local Healthcare Integration Networks (LHIN). Two school boards directly for Francophones for just under 100,000 students compared to the 2 English boards (much immersion included) with closer to 1 million.
Canada is becoming a multilingual country, so be pragmatic and serve need, not currently entitlement, with regard to only making positions require more than one language if they are serving need, where the vast majority of requiring more than one language now are serving wasteful entitlement.
No need to require Supervisors and fellow employees to speak English in "bilingual" Montreal when any Anglophone employed and living there has to speak French, same with requiring working in French in bilingual designated areas where English is the majority.
90% of Supreme Court business is in English, where if it was 90% French, you would not foolishly have functional, much less Official bilingualism there
Most translation tools like Google Translate, while not exact, can provide what bilingualism is needed in most jobs, thus not requiring bilingualism from staff.
Serve the people, not the special interest/privilege language activists or politicians and parties trying to get the vote because they idiotically think these people who put language ahead of ability or are bigots who don't want to speak to anyone who can't speak their mother tongue, represent a typical person from that group
The Act has become a tool to serve not, the people, but special interest groups many of whom contain bigoted Language Supremacists, who think anyone who cannot speak both French and English is inferior to an Officially Bilingual Person, who sadly current/last Commissioner Graham Fraser and his predecessor clearly is and was given actions and comments while employed in this job.
There is another month to submit your opinions so that we can at least say that we tried!! The politicians should also get a copy of these opinions – most of them think that Canadians are in agreement with this policy because their voters don’t bother making an issue of it. They also realize that the French have taken full advantage of the chance given by P.E. Trudeau in the 1982 Constitution for the French to take revenge on the English for the loss of what the Quebecois consider their territory. This is the only way they can take it back – by making the French language the tool to transfer power & control from English-speakers to French-speakers. The transfer of power is well on – most of Eastern Canada is already under their control. The West may have a chance but only if they understand the issue & fight back.
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