Official languages commissioner nominee Madeleine Meilleur has brought Ottawa civic bilingualism to the fore.
Well Meilleur did because recently Mayor Jim Watson was thoroughly booed by a predominately French crowd for his stand against giving French the official nod with English as the two languages of the city and capital.
The level of animosity in the French community was shocking to English ears for few in the other solitude realized how strongly the francophone segment of Ottawa felt about the issue.
Of course Watson, in his Mackenzie King-esque do-nothing-by-halves-that-can-be-done-by-quarters attitude, chooses votes over leadership. His Worship knows that the bilingualism issue handled poorly could cost him this job in 2018. The prime directive for Watson is to do what is best for Watson. That’s not official bilingualism for Ottawa.
However had Macdonald and Cartier felt that way in 1867, Canada would not exist.
La foule a chahuté le maire Jim Watson en scandant « Ottawa, bilingue » lors du spectacle pour les 20 ans de S.O.S. Montfort. pic.twitter.com/JbhYF45wAp
Watson booed by French Ottawa crowd.
Ottawa is already bilingual in practice as is Quebec so making the city officially bilingual won’t amount to much of a change to French or English. But bilingualism is a symbol … a symbol of this country whose capital is not officially bilingual. That’s unfortunate.
Staying away from language and the Constitution have been political mantras across the country. A politician takes a big chance of carving up the country if things don’t work out well.
But the English community needs to realize that official bilingualism in the capital is extremely important to our French neighbours. Meanwhile the English community barely gives it a thought. But the booing of Watson should show how vital this is to our French sisters and brothers.
So now is the time for leadership. We won’t get it from Watson but our English and French leaders need to join together to make official bilingualism become reality in the capital.
An Ottawa without official bilingualism is a great tool for separatists in Quebec … rather a perpetual stomping of that province’s flag. The language situation in Ottawa could flare out of control given how important this issue is to French residents.
Official bilingualism is a symbol but symbols are important in keeping the country together.
It is time for English Ottawa to be generous and support something that means a great deal to French Ottawa. We want everyone to feel appreciated in our city.
It is time for an officially bilingual Ottawa. It might not mean much in practice but as a symbol it is very powerful.
Official bilingualism says the two founding nations have one home in our capital.
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