Canada: Toews accuses Liberals of insulting unilingual anglophones

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Wed May 6 18:48:25 UTC 2009

Toews accuses Liberals of insulting unilingual anglophones

The Canadian Press

May 5, 2009 at 7:56 PM EDT

OTTAWA — Tory cabinet minister Vic Toews accused Liberals of insulting
all unilingual anglophones Tuesday after two MPs questioned his
ability to implement official languages policy without being able to
speak French. The flap erupted as the Treasury Board president was
being questioned at a Commons committee about his responsibility for
language policy in the federal public service. “Do you speak French?”
inquired Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez. “Don't you think someone who has
responsibility such as yours should be bilingual?”

Mr. Toews — who speaks English and Spanish as well as his first
language, German — was incensed. “I should feel free to be able to
speak the official language of my choice and for you to even ask that
question is an insult,” he raged. But Jean-Claude D'Amours, another
Liberal MP, pursued the matter. “It seems to me that when we talk
about official languages and bilingualism in Canada, you should be a
bilingual person to better be able to serve the people,” Mr. D'Amours
said. “For you that's an insult. I think it's an insult to me that you
should be so bold as to make such a comment.”

Mr. Toews then accused the Liberals of suggesting unilingual Canadians
are second-class citizens. “For some reason, I'm less of a Canadian,
I'm less entitled to hold public office because I only speak one of
the official languages,” he fumed. “For you to come here and insult me
in that way is quite a disgrace. I thought we had gotten beyond that
kind of a situation.”

Mr. Toews later told reporters the Liberals' line of questioning was
“an insult to millions of Canadians,” especially immigrants who
struggle to learn English or French as a second language. He said his
Manitoba riding includes one of the largest francophone populations in
Western Canada and maintained he's always been supportive of minority
language issues as a result.

Moreover, he pointed out that the last Liberal Treasury Board
president, Reg Alcock, hailed from Manitoba and was unilingual.

Mr. Rodriguez later said he “fully respects” Canadians — including
some of his Liberal colleagues — who are unilingual. He said he wasn't
questioning Mr. Toews' right to sit in cabinet, only his ability to
implement official languages policy.
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