Canada must do more to boost bilingualism

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed May 10 13:05:56 UTC 2006

Canada must do more to boost bilingualism: report
Tue May 9, 2006 3:05 PM EDT

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada is still not doing enough to ensure the
government works properly in both English and French, despite 40 years of
striving to be bilingual, an official report said on Tuesday. Dyane Adam,
Canada's official languages commissioner, lamented in her annual report
what she called "a leveling off over the last decade in the quality of the
service to the public in the official language of choice." And she said
she was concerned that the new Conservative government -- with a power
base in the English-speaking province of Alberta -- might lose interest in
the file.

Ottawa has tried hard over the last decades to make its Francophone
minority feel more comfortable in a predominantly English-speaking
country, and it brought in legislation in 1969 that made Canada bilingual.
All government services are supposed to be provided in both languages and
Anglophone officials are encouraged to learn French and speak it in the
workplace. Many ministers take pains to speak both in English and in
French at news conferences and other public events. But Adam referred to
"the stagnation in the use of both languages in the workplace and the
mediocre performance of most federal institutions regarding compliance."

She said she was anxious about the attitude of the new Conservative
government, which was elected in January. Prime Minister Stephen Harper
says he favors the official policy on languages, but as recently as 2001,
he referred to bilingualism as "the god that failed." Adam said she felt
the new government regarded the official language policy as an asset for
Canada. Previous Liberal administrations had viewed bilingualism as part
of Canada's core identity. "This is not as strong and certainly is cause
for concern ... (They're)  not really saying publicly and openly where
they stand," she said.

A spokesman for government minister Josee Verner, who is responsible for
the languages issue, was not immediately available.

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