Response: Canada: Could a Liberal-NDP- Bloc alliance affect language policy?

Stacy Churchill schurchill at
Tue Dec 9 03:21:05 UTC 2008


Let me answer the question in the subject line of the original posting:
No, a Liberal-NDP-Bloc alliance could not change language policy in a
material fashion.

The article quoted in the list is typical of a set of erroneous messages
that were sent around the internet, coinciding with a campaign by the
current Conservative Government to arouse fear about a coalition formed
between opposition parties in Parliament, including the Bloc Quebecois.
The question raised in the article - whether the coalition would make
federal offices in Quebec monolingual English - was then converted in
right-wing radio talk shows, aired in western Canada, into a "fact".
[Citizens have the right to use English or French in dealing with federal
offices and, where the numbers of citizens justify it, to be served by
employees who speak the official language of the citizen's choice.]

The reality of the situation is that no government can change federal
language obligations in Quebec without trampling on the Canadian
constitution and abolishing key provisions of the Official Languages Act.
Changing the Canadian constitution requires the agreement of all the
provinces and, on an issue like abolishing language rights (of
English-speaking residents of Quebec), is entirely impossible for any
government of any stripe. for the foreseeable future. 

What we have here is a typical weapon in the internet war chest. Step one
is to ask misleading and menacing questions in a series of online forums
in order to arouse fear. Step 2 is to start a letter-writing campaign to
urge frightened and angry people to protest and warn their friends. Step 3
- from spokespersons and real politicians -  consists in making public
statements to deny the invented "fact" but say that it reveals the type of
worries that "real voters" have about the menace created by the actions of
the opposition parties. 

I heard the content of this message transformed into a "truth" on a
call-in show of the CBC the other day. The listener announced as a fact
that the coalition had agreed to abolish English-language use in federal
offices as a condition of creating a coalition that hoped to take power
from the Conservatives. The allegation was a total, utter lie, a complete
farce for the well-informed. But the listener - an elderly, serious man
from Alberta - had been told it was the truth and was determined not to
allow the opposition parties to  do away with a precious right.

For the record. 

Stacy Churchill, Ph.D.
Distinguished Research Fellow/ Chercheur émérite
Language Policy and Planning
Institut des langues officielles et du bilinguisme/
Bilingualism and Official Languages Institute
Université d'Ottawa/University of Ottawa
600 Université/ University
Ottawa ON K1N 6N5 Canada

schurchi at

lgpolicy-list at writes:
>With all the talk of a Liberal-NDP- Bloc alliance, I was thinking of
>how this could affect language policy.
>Of course neither the Liberals nor the NDP would really want to work
>with the Bloc, but seeing that even together they still form a
>minority, they'd essentially have no choice but to have the Bloc on
>their side.
>One thing the Bloc has been asking for is that the federal governemnt
>in the province of Quebec would be officially monolingually
>Could this not be a good thing in that it would likewise precipitate
>support for all federal institutions outside Quebec to be officially
>monolingually English-speaking, thus saving money on both sides with
>respect to official bilingualism? Considering that the Bloc cares only
>for Quebec, it couldn't care less what happens outside of Quebec. In
>fact, it's likely the Bloc would even support this since it would
>reinfoce French monolingualism in Quebec and possibly pressure French
>speakers from outside of Quebec to move back to Quebec.
>Should this idea (i.e. official French monolingualism in Quebec and
>official English monolingualism in English Canada) be something worth
>In fact, could the Conservative party itself not save itself from
>takeover by creating an alliance with the Bloc and offering French
>only in Quebec and English only elsewhere?
>I'm sure Trudeau would roll in his grave at this, but Duplesis, the
>Bloc, and the Conservatives would be ecstatic I'm sure. Strange times
>make for strange bedfellows I suppose.
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