Canadians for Language Fairness has been working so hard to get people to pay attention to the determined effort by the French activists to force the City of Ottawa to accept "Official Bilingual" status - something that they say will make NO changes to By-law 2001-170 except that it will be entrenched into provincial law so that the rights of French-speakers cannot be taken away at the whim of the City Council. In addition, they insist that it will not cost any additional money - the changes will be only "cosmetic".
There are two articles, one from John Trent of the U. of Ottawa and the other from the French media, written by Benjamin Vachet to which we wanted a rebuttal. I appealed to Prof. John Robson of the National Post (also an Invited Professor at the U. of Ottawa) who has made several documentaries, two of which CLF financially supported - the Magna Carta and Fix the 1982 Constitution. It is in that spirit of celebrating our legacy of Freedom that I appealed to Prof. Robson to help us. Too many Canadians are unaware of how much of our freedoms have been eroded by a series of governments, all working to impose upon us their idea of "social engineering" & ignoring totally the voice of the people. We have been abandoned by our politicians and the voice of Academia is muted - except for Prof. Robson.
In Prof. Robson and his lovely wife, Brigitte Pellerin, we have found two people who are not afraid to speak up. Here is Prof. Robson's views on what have been written by John Trent & Benjamin Vachet, both of whom are firmly on the side of "Official Bilingualism" for the City of Ottawa.
Here we go again. With Canada approaching its sesquicentennial, and the centennial of Vimy Ridge, we’re being told Ottawa needs to be officially bilingual. What for exactly?
As Kim McConnell notes, John Trent, a senior fellow of the Centre on Governance at the University of Ottawa and former Political Science professor, just published an article in the Ottawa Citizen saying that bilingualism should happen because people have been asking for it for a long time. (“This is in the stars. It is intended to be.”) Also because it isn’t yet. (“Many do not know it, but English is still the only legal language in Ottawa.”) Moreover, “It is also the best way to promote the reality of the French language in the National Capital Region.”
Here we get closer to the heart of the matter. It’s not about reflecting the reality but promoting it. In short, social engineering. But again, what for?
Trent says it will foster economic growth and attract the best and brightest to our national capital. Which obviously won’t happen just because the federal government is here along with two outstanding universities, dynamic businesses and a few other things that normal people like. And it’s what they all say. But where has such a thing worked?
He also assures us that “we know it should not cost too much” which is not something you should ever believe about government initiatives, especially those touted as promoting economic growth. He then promptly retracts the assurance by asking “can rights ever cost too much?” before making the whole thing unnecessary by stressing that “Ottawa already has many services in French and many functionaries are bilingual.” So it’s OK?
Interestingly, the other piece Kim referenced, by Benfamin Vachet in TFO’s #ONfr, which touts the confidence of #OttawaBilingue about getting the capital made officially bilingual by the 150th anniversary of Confederation, also notes that “Reconnaissant que la politique de bilinguisme et le Règlement municipal sur le bilinguisme «fonctionne généralement bien depuis 2001», le groupe dit vouloir construire sur ce qui existe déjà.”
Yes, I do speak French quite well enough to read such material. I’m not anti-French. I actually love it and speak it at every opportunity though not nearly as well as I would like or as often. But I’m anti-social engineering no matter how it’s pronounced. So I ask, if there’s no real problem, what’s the fuss?
Trent goes on to say “We would finally have a capital of Canada of which we can be proud as an international city.” Well, no. Ottawa would be just the same as it was the day before, including as Trent notes having a whole lot of bilingual people but also, as I have repeatedly lamented, being a very nice place with lots of ready access to nature but with a dismal, even gruesome downtown core. Nobody who’s been to London, Paris, Tokyo or Washington, for example, will come to Ottawa, just as it is, and go “Wow. Officially bilingual.” Which none of London, Paris, Tokyo or Washington are, interestingly.
He also claims “If the City of Ottawa were to be bilingual, the federal government would most assuredly feel pressured to make its services in the capital more bilingual.” Phooey. I haven’t spent a lot of my life in the federal government but I’ve spent quite a bit observing it with bemused distaste as a journalist. And one of the few ways I can’t fault it is for inhospitability to francophones. If anything, the reverse.
At this point he’s reached the end of the runway with sufficient speed to achieve takeoff from reality: “if Ottawa were to persist in its obstinate, official unilingualism, it is hard to see how it would have any legitimacy to be the host of the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of Confederation.” (Except as, um, the national capital.) On the other hand, it would offer we benighted non-French speakers “pride in their bilingual and multicultural country; the opportunity to demonstrate in a practical setting the diversity of our national culture; a way of expressing our mutual respect. If this were not enough, it would also be a way to demonstrate that Canadian federalism is not stagnant.”
Here we soar to the heart of the matter. The argument is about symbols. It’s not about anything good that would actually happen. It’s all about appearances. (Vachet’s piece also quotes lawyer François Baril that “Concrètement, nous ne voulons qu’ajouter quelques paragraphes qui permettront de reconnaître le caractère bilingue d’Ottawa, ce qui est important symboliquement, et que la Politique de bilinguisme soit mieux protégée afin que si un conseil municipal moins favorable à la communauté francophone est élu, il ne puisse pas l’abolir trop facilement.”)
Now grounded people understand that if something is an important symbol, it’s because it reflects an important reality. And those who speak of symbolic achievements or acts in contrast to substantive ones normally mean to draw attention to the greater importance of the latter. It is only those who, in Calvin Coolidge’s pointed phrase, “substitute words for things” who separate symbols from reality and treat the former as more important.
Of course to some extent those who advocate “bilingualism” do so with the deliberate intention of favouring those who speak French. Or to favour those who speak both our official languages knowing full well the vast majority of genuinely bilingual Canadians are native francophones.
As I see it, there’s a considerable advantage in speaking one language while immersed in another in achieving genuine fluency in both, and as a human being I think it is good to speak several languages. In fact I regret that, being an Anglophone living in North America, I have virtually no opportunity to turn my book-learned French into a genuine command of the tongue. But precisely because immersion is what works, the vast majority of francophones in Ottawa are not inconvenienced by the lack of official bilingualism, especially given the social pressure to accommodate French in governments and at work, indeed the cachet that still attaches to bilingualism despite decades of politics poisoning the well.
The only real reason for such favouritism, especially in government, is the conviction, mistaken or otherwise, that francophone politicians favour a certain kind of policy more than anglos, generally a more interventionist one that believes in government trying to shape culture and society in all sorts of areas including language. And that’s bad.
Whether it is driven by a genuine belief in symbol over substance, or has a surreptitious agenda attached to beliefs like those once articulated by a young Justin Trudeau about the natural superiority of Quebecers, it is not an argument that can be advanced on the grounds that it would do any good. As for it being “in the stars,” the actual quotation from Cassius in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”
- John Robson August 19 2016
The Mayor of Ottawa, Jim Watson, is having trouble thinking like a Canadian. Instead of recognizing that he is the mayor of the Capital of Canada, his thinking remains stuck in his little municipal backyard — even when there are numerous reasons why Ottawa must be declared officially bilingual.
John E. Trent is a senior fellow of the Centre on Governance at the University of Ottawa, where he was formerly a professor and chair of the University’s Department of Political Science.
The original article is in French, the English text is by courtesy of Google Translate.
OTTAWA - The 2017 is fast approaching, but the reunification at #OttawaBilingue remains confident of achieving bilingualism to formalize the national capital in time for the 150 th anniversary of Confederation.
The #OttawaBilingue initiative is "simple, but innovative," says grouping 12 French organizations, including the Association of Francophone communities in Ottawa (ACFO), the Federation of Canadian seniors and francophone seniors (FAAFC), the Federation of Francophone youth (FESFO) or Movement for a capital of Canada officially bilingual (MOCOB).
The group can count on the support of the alderman for Ottawa-Vanier, Mathieu Fleury. Sympathetic to the idea of making Ottawa officially bilingual capital, the French councilor, however, had repeatedly asked for clarification of the nature of the desired bilingualism for Canada's Capital.
"We worked very hard for a year to specifically and concretely define what was meant by" officially bilingual ". We met many leaders of the francophone community, lawyers, people from the business community and the anglophone community in order to achieve an acceptable definition for the vast majority.Today we have a concrete proposal, reasonable and pragmatic to propose to the City Council, "said the lawyer François Baril, who works on the project.
Build on what exists
Recognizing that the bilingualism policy and by-law on bilingualism "usually works well since 2001," said the group want to build on what already exists.
The idea would be to protect the Bilingualism Policy by incorporating in-law on bilingualism. #OttawaBilingue Also provides that either changed the Ottawa city on 1999 provincial Act to "explicitly recognize the equal status of English and French languages within the City of Ottawa" and clarification that the City Ottawa needs to develop a Regulation on bilingualism, instead of a policy.
"Official bilingualism that we propose is a clean bilingualism in Ottawa, not a copy of the federal bilingualism," insists Mr. Baril. "In concrete terms, we want to add a few paragraphs that will recognize the bilingual nature of Ottawa, which is important symbolically, and that the Bilingualism Policy be better protected so that if a council less favorable to the Francophone community elected, he can not abolish it too easily. "
Bernadette Sarazin, another group member, it is to think of the future generations.
"Today, bilingualism Ottawa based solely on the good will of the city council in power. We want the French services currently offered by the city are protected for future generations, while providing the ability to elect, if they wish to raise. "
Thus formulated, the proposal meets the elected Ottawa-Vanier.
"I think it's important to have a concrete definition of what we want and that we speak with one voice. The proposed approach, which implies neither designation of positions or additional spending, seems best placed to rally support. "
The group also stresses the economic benefits and business opportunities that official bilingualism could represent for Ottawa, particularly in tourism.
This proposal could, however, seem less ambitious than expected during the States General of la Francophonie meetings in Ottawa in 2012, who made the official recognition of Ottawa's Bilingualism its main objective.
"There are several ways to see official bilingualism, but I think this is the right approach because it is more acceptable politically. It solidifies our assets and allows to recognize the contribution of Francophones "said another group member and activist Franco-Ottawan long, Lucien Bradet.
Having already met fifteen municipal officials, the group continues to seek the remaining councilors and is confident to be able to meet the deadline of 2017.
"Over the past months, we have achieved an important educational work to defeat the misperceptions that some elected may have and answer their questions.These meetings were very positive and none of the contacted advisers has refused to meet us at the moment. They were quite happy that we explain to them our proposal, "says Ms. Sarazin.
Far from the Gap
Despite this optimism displayed, the task is arduous. Mayor Jim Watson, himself, could be a major obstacle to this initiative, who has always advocated a "practical bilingualism", and therefore the status quo.
In an email exchange with #ONfr , his team reiterated its position.
"Mayor Watson holds his position as the City of Ottawa is indeed a bilingual city, as specified in our regulations with respect to bilingualism. You will also notice that all city services and programs are offered in English and French, to all of our residents. "
Mr. Bradet recognizes that the mayor will not necessarily be the first ally of the group but relies on councilors to change his mind.
"We are confident that if the majority of councilors in favor of our proposal, the mayor will line up behind them."
An opinion shared by the Councillor Fleury, who has participated in several group meetings with elected officials.
"It is certain that the mayor will not play a leading role in this matter, but if a large majority of councilors supported the proposal, he did not object. There are many advisors who are likely to support this project. "
For the vast majority, it will still satisfy. And again, the game is not won. Despite a meeting she considers positive, Kanata North Councillor Marianne Wilkinson, for example, remains camped on the position of mayor.
"I am not in favor of official bilingualism but for practical bilingualism as currently in place at the City of Ottawa and that benefits the entire Francophone community," she says.
In Alta-Vista, the French consultant Jean Cloutier said he met with the group, but do not wish to comment at this time.
"Do not judge the situation on the few comments in an audible minority that represents only 10 to 15% of the population. I think the silent majority of the people of Ottawa is in favor of what we offer and that 2017 offers an excellent opportunity to adopt this proposal to be an important legacy for Ottawa and across Canada, "cautions Ms. Sarazin.
The film documentary on the 1982 Constitution by John & Brigitte will be our feature attraction at our Christmas event this year, to be held at the Kars Community Centre on November 13th. We will show the documentary and John will be there to make the necessary comments. Earlier this year, John & Brigitte, addressed the Economic Education Association of Alberta at Lloydminster, Alberta & the following links shows you their presentation:
It lasts about an hour - an hour well spent.
Here is what Orlin from Manitoba wrote after he watched it:
I must say I found John Robson’s talk very educating and something to seriously think about. I can say I pretty much totally agree with him. “A small government and a great people” based on the Magna Carta, the tried and true way of governance in the English speaking world. Yes we need to bring it back, the way it once was. We have allowed big government and tyranny to creep in through the back door. How do we restore what we once had? That will be the big question and how do we awake a sleeping population? It will be a difficult task considering the nation’s present mindset and current government.
Magna Carta Series Initiated by John Robson should be in School Curriculums
Saturday August 20, 2016
You have an excellent project in putting forward John Robson's and Brigitte Pellerin's work in outlining that the Magna Carta is essential in the governing of Canada, and in fact any country that is going to be governed by Rule of Law.
Their initial presentation of "Taking Canada Back with a Smile and a Slide Show" overwhelmed me.
The detail is so great conceptually that my mind raced to the next topic, all of which were familiar to me.
Not every Canadian has had such a thorough schooling in Canada's history as John Robson and certainly my knowledge is only a fraction that he possesses.
However, I think that most topics on Magna Carta should be presented as a series to give people a chance to breathe and think of today.
A gentle relationship to present long-term Canadian problems might be brought in for parallel discussion.
It was Stephen Harper that initiated Canada's project for Truth and Reconciliation with Canada's Aboriginal Citizens.
Stephen Harper's time was too short, but new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau agreed fully with the necessity to follow through with concrete agreements with the First Nations' growing self leadership.
It is my belief that only through Magna Carta, which teaches respectful relationships between Canadian citizens, can we solve the long term geopolitical problems that have traditionally prevented Canada's economic prosperity.
Our history and the discoveries of our great explorers and adventurers have not been part of our schools' curriculums.
Nor have the special histories and problems of different provinces and territories been presented for even elected politicians to be conversant!
It seems that lack of common knowledge is the greatest block to cooperation between Canadians with different needs from coast to coast.
Each Canadian is equal to any other Canadian is what I think the Magna Carta teaches.
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