Canada: Journalist Fraser nominated for official languages commissioner

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Thu Sep 14 12:43:14 UTC 2006

 Thursday  September 14  2006

Journalist Fraser nominated for official languages commissioner

John Ward Canadian Press

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

OTTAWA (CP) - Veteran journalist Graham Fraser will be nominated next week
as the new commissioner of official languages.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in announcing his intention to formally
nominate Fraser when Parliament returns Monday, called him "an active and
ardent voice for Canada's language policy." "He will bring to the position
a deep understanding of, and sensitivity to, Canada's linguistic duality,
a profound knowledge of Canada's language policy and its impact on
minority language communities as well as the independence of mind of a
journalist." If he's accepted by Parliament, Fraser will replace Dyane
Adam, a Quebec-born educator who was appointed in 1999.

He would become the sixth commissioner of official languages since the
post was created in 1970 under the Official Languages Act to protect and
promote linguistic duality. Fraser spent 38 years as a reporter and
columnist, most recently working as a national affairs writer for the
Toronto Star. The affable, soft-spoken 60-year-old is also an author and
commentator who has spoken across the country on official language issues
and lectured on language policy as an adjunct professor at the Carleton
University School of Journalism, in Ottawa. He says the writing of his
book, "Sorry, I Don't Speak French", published last spring, gave him a
deeper understanding of the challenges of making two languages work.

The book may also have helped propel him toward the nomination, he said.
"A number of people, particularly in the francophone minority communities,
speculated about me and a number of people suggested I would be a good
candidate," he said in an interview. When the process was opened up to
applications, he took the plunge. "It's a subject I am passionately
interested in," he said. "Rather than exhausting that interest, writing
the book simply stimulated it." His research for the book involved reading
reports from every previous commissioner, which gave him a feel for the
significance of the job.

"I saw this as an opportunity to really get engaged with an issue that I
really care about." The formal nomination begins a process that requires
approval of both the House of Commons and the Senate, because the language
commissioner is an officer of Parliament. The appointment is for a
seven-year term. Fraser wouldn't discuss his plans for the office, saying
he is not even a formal nominee until the documents are tabled in
Parliament. "I don't want to get ahead of the discussions I may be having
with parliamentarians and parliamentary committees." Because the approval
process still lies ahead, Fraser hasn't even quit his day job, asking
instead for a leave of absence from the Star pending Parliament's

He started his journalist career with the Star in 1968, but also worked as
Montreal bureau chief for Maclean's, Quebec bureau chief for the Montreal
Gazette and later the Globe and Mail and Washington bureau chief for the
Globe. He was a weekly columnist with Le Devoir from 1995 to 2000 and
wrote a column for the Star from 2000 to 2005. He says his latest move
will be a challenge. "It's quite intimidating, actually."


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