The Voter takes on the issue of official bilingualism for Ottawa.
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The mystery I encounter in Watson’s stance is that he repeatedly says Ottawa is effectively as bilingual as it needs to be and so, since it is good enough for his standard, we don’t need it to be “official”.
So it wouldn’t add anything or do any good. I would like to turn that around and hear from him and those who agree with his position what the harm is that would be caused, what the city would lose, by official bilingualism. The main argument that I’ve heard is that the francophone community has what it needs – if that’s the case, why does the francophone community not see it that way?
We rarely hear what the actual difference is that the supporters of the status quo see between the city’s offering and “official bilingualism”. If, as Watson claims, one can receive service in French across the city already, then there’s no added staffing cost to continue that. If all necessary documents are already translated and available in both languages, there would be no added costs there either.
Just as one example of the different levels of service in the city’s “bilingual” service, you only need to take a look at the recreation program offerings in each language. French programming is only offered in certain communities and the choice of classes, etc is very limited. In spite of francophones paying the same taxes as their neighbours, they then have to take their children to other areas of the city to get French programs. It’s hard to raise children in French when you can’t find rec programs that don’t require them to speak English – which contributes to their assimilation. The same, of course, applies to adult and senior programs.
We know that children fall back academically over the summer break while they’re out of school. Imagine what happens to a francophone child who spends the summer in English summer programs? Is that “bilingual enough”?
It would be very useful to have a full explanation of the pros and cons of official bilingualism. It’s a bit difficult to discuss “It’s enough” or “It’s working.” Enough for whom? Working for whom? Without even the level that we have now being instated as official, there’s no guarantee that even that will be maintained.
It exists at the whim of council.
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