[lg policy] H ébert: Standing on guard for linguistic duality

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Tue Feb 23 15:21:39 UTC 2010

Hébert: Standing on guard for linguistic duality

To the dismay of a vocal section of his party base, Stephen Harper has
upheld the federal commitment to official bilingualism since he came
to power four years ago. To this day, the Prime Minister opens every
speech and every news conference in French.  After the last election,
Harper placed the Heritage portfolio, the department that oversees the
federal language policy as well as cultural institutions such as
Radio-Canada, in the hands of James Moore, a minister who probably is
the cabinet's top francophile. Graham Fraser, the outspoken language
czar, was hand-picked for the post of Official Languages Commissioner
by Harper.

Moore and Fraser were frontline protagonists in the debate over the
place of French at the Winter Games' opening ceremony this month and
their common finding that it was inadequate set the English-language
blogosphere on fire. Many of those who weighed in opposed official
bilingualism and a lot of them blamed Quebec and Harper's ambitions
for more seats in that province for what they saw as a betrayal of his
Reform roots. There is no doubt that a federal party that wanted to
wipe French off the face of Canada's federal institutions would not
get the time of day in Quebec. But that would also be true in other
regions of Canada, in particular significant parts of Ontario and the
Atlantic provinces.

Indeed, many of the most vigilant defenders of the regime on
Parliament Hill are not always members of the Quebec caucus. To this
day, it has been minority-language MPs – anglophones elected in Quebec
and francophones elected outside that province – who have tended to be
the most vigorous champions of official bilingualism. Some of the
reasons for that devotion are contained in a recent report on the
pursuit of higher education sponsored by l'Institut de la statistique
du Québec.  It found that while Quebec francophones have yet to close
an historical education gap with Anglo-Quebecers, the situation is
reversed in Ontario where the proportion of francophones aged 24 to 35
who have acquired post-secondary degrees is marginally higher than
that of their anglophone counterparts. That is a massive turnaround
from the late 1960s when the Tory government of John Robarts first
opened the entire Ontario public school system to French-language

At the time, the school dropout rate among Franco-Ontarians was second
only to that of aboriginal youth. While successive Ontario governments
since the 1960s have put their shoulder to the wheel of a full-fledged
French-language school system, Pierre Trudeau's language policies
played a key part in turning it into an education success story. The
1969 Official Languages Act changed the optics on mastering French in
a significant way. With middle-class English-language children
flocking to immersion schools to get a head-start up the bilingualism
ladder, command of French acquired the status of a value-added
commodity for anglophones and francophones alike.

A decade later, the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms gave
francophone communities outside Quebec full control over their schools
for the first time ever. Until then, French-language schools were
almost always run by English-language trustees who were often more
sensitive to the demands of the mainstream who elected them than to
the basic education needs of a minority of francophone ratepayers.
Today it is politicians like Moore, who was educated in the immersion
school system of Western Canada, and the MPs whose minority-language
communities have been expanding their educational frontiers since the
advent of the Official Languages Act who really stand on guard for
Canada's linguistic duality.

Chantal Hébert is a national affairs writer. Her column appears
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.


N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to
its members
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner
or sponsor of the list as to the veracity of a message's contents.
Members who disagree with a message are encouraged to post a rebuttal.
(H. Schiffman, Moderator)

For more information about the lgpolicy-list, go to

This message came to you by way of the lgpolicy-list mailing list
lgpolicy-list at groups.sas.upenn.edu
To manage your subscription unsubscribe, or arrange digest format: https://groups.sas.upenn.edu/mailman/listinfo/lgpolicy-list

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list