Canada: Alberta francophones hope judge's decision could lead to shift in attitudes

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sun Jul 6 20:05:17 UTC 2008

Alberta francophones hope judge's decision could lead to shift in attitudes
Manitoba's French-speaking community thriving after recognition 20 years ago

Karen Kleiss, The Edmonton Journal
Published: Saturday, July 05

"Now, 20 years later, it is much more part of the culture," Jourdain
said. "It is much more of a reflex for governments to hire bilingual
staff, to publish in both languages -- it has become part of the
organizational culture." He said the transition worked in part because
it was gradual. Implementing a language "policy" instead of passing a
language law was "an act of political caution," he said. The
francophone community was involved and the government slowly changed
the culture within the civil service -- and the province.

Ultimately, the language rights reinstated in the 1980s addressed most
of the issues facing francophones in Manitoba, said Renald Remillard,
executive director of the Association of Francophone Lawyers in
Manitoba. Only a handful of battles remain to be fought.
Remillard said the policy does not carry the same weight as a law
would. "Courts don't have the power to enforce a policy," he said. "A
law certainly has more legitimacy; it has legal weight." He said
francophones in Manitoba last year passed a resolution saying they
will eventually try to get the policy made into a law.

Remillard also said francophones are still fighting for
French-language recognition in quasi-judicial organizations such as
the Human Rights Commission and the Workers' Compensation Board.
Nevertheless, day-to-day life has gotten easier for French-speaking
Manitobans. Vania Gagnon is a young mother of four and the director of
the grassroots Franco-Manitoban Cultural Association. She says the
policies of the provincial and municipal government have made it much
easier to live, work and play in her mother tongue.
Swimming lessons for her kids are offered in French, schooling is easy
to access and even local businesses voluntarily stock French books and
toys for children.

"The French community has been very vocal, colourful and very present.
It's really starting to have an effect," she said. "But you still have
to pick and choose and make sacrifices ... and you have to make the
effort to be plugged into your community," she said. Parents in her
community can enrol in swimming lessons only on Wednesday nights,
because that's when the French classes are on.
"We really are in a minority setting, and there is still a high
assimilation rate," she said.

kkleiss at
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