Who Does Official Bilingualism Hurt?

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The Voter takes on the issue of official bilingualism for Ottawa.

To read The Bulldog’s take on the controversial topic, click here.

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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39 thoughts on “Who Does Official Bilingualism Hurt?

  1. I once told my first wife that she “had what she needed”. That might be one reason she is my first wife.

    Some people might be concerned that their personal private life will be adversely affected. I am sure that accommodation can be made for, say, not making it mandatory for businesses to have a bilingual employee.

    Just make it official that government services are available in both languages; that doesn’t even have to mean that every employee at town hall has to be bilingual. It just means that I can request to deal with town hall via a person that speaks French. Is that invasive, divisive? I think not.

    How many automated telephone systems do you call where they ask press 1 for French or stay on the line for English? It is an everyday thing. The capital city of Canada needs to be officially bilingual now and forever more. And, I am a guy that can parle francais un petit peu and I mean petit peu.

    skoal,
    Chaz

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    1. Chaz:

      My French is horrible too having grown up in London, Ont. where you will never get a French conversation.

      But bilingualism isn’t about private jobs and quotas and language police. It’s about what’s in your heart.

      And if you love Canada, part of that love must be reserved for all of Canada.

      cheers

      kgray

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      1. Ken,
        I grew up in Windsor across the river from Uncle Sam.
        It took me years ,after leaving Windsor, to stop saying warsh and zee. I watched the new Queen parade through town. I don’t think I heard a French word anywhere and French certainly wasn’t taught in school.

        I’ve grown up since then. Vive le difference, of all people.
        skoal,
        Chaz

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      2. You can’t legislate morality. And can’t legislate language. Vancouver is moving away from French and English to Chinese variants.

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        1. Robert roberts,
          I can’t stop people from using binary logic but- – I sure wish I could.

          Morality, right and wrong – what could you possibly mean by you can’t legislate morality?

          Christ, until bill C 150 the government could charge a man criminally and put him in prison for performing a homosexual act. We grew up on that one, let’s grow up on other things too. I can’t make you end your life, but we used to charge people that attempted it and/or assisted.

          While I can put official bilingualism no where near being a moral issue I can’t see why we can’t make it so that the government provides services “officially”.

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        2. What is the price of tea in China and who is talking about Vancouver?
          I thought we were talking about the capital city of a bilingual Canada.

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          1. Is the current system of offering city services in both languages working or not. To me it seems to be working. Why should we open a language debate when the system is working? The Voter asked who would be hurt. I would turn it around and ask who would benefit from official bilingualism in Ottawa.

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            1. Robert:

              If it is working so well, why were all those people shouting at Watson?

              It works for you, Robert, because you are English. But francophones appear to be saying otherwise. Do they matter to you, Robert?

              They didn’t sound happy.

              cheers

              kgray

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              1. As I’ve written so many times, the French activists are very well funded (the Fraser Institute did a study and it has cost Canada billions since the OLA was instituted) and the French do not lack well-paid professionals willing to spend time promoting French supremacy. Yes, they are noisy because they see a way of getting more of Canada under their control. Do you realize that there are only 22% Mother-tongue French speakers in Canada (most of them in Quebec, NB & Eastern ON) & they are over-represented in the Federal offices (Privy Council reports that 30.5% of the EX position are occupied by French-speakers). The most glaring example is in the NRC where over 60% of the positions are bilingual (occupied mostly by French-speakers). I know you don’t want Canadians to know this so you won’t post this. That’s too bad because these are facts that your readers should know, if were you not so clearly biased for the French.

                1+

  2. A person only hurts themselves when they don’t take the time to appreciate and understand and relish in other peoples.

    I have had a very fortunate life. From my first pierogi to my first taste of raw herring. From the first time I noticed my buddy crossed himself right to left instead of how my cousins went left to right. From the first time I learned that Pennsylvania Dutch weren’t Dutch to my first dinner at a friend’s parent’s home that had been in their family since their family came to Canada via the underground railway. I have been fortunate enough to speak to Rene Levesque and have a girlfriend who I drove to Montreal to visit in the 1960s. I could go on and on from flying a plane to piloting a fishing boat in the Tasman Sea, appreciation of this planet and its diverse population is paramount. While not everyone can experience things hands on – – we can all learn through reading.

    We all do not have had the experiences that I have had. I’ve learned from the joy and sometimes sorrow of having lived but we can all get out of the little boxes we put ourselves in and expand our minds and appreciate fully our fellow man.

    Why wouldn’t you want the capital of Canada to be bilingual?

    sincerely,
    Chaz

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  3. The language policy instated by ex-Mayor Bob Chiarelli, under Bylaw 2001-170 was called a “Practical Bilingualism” policy for good reason.

    The 14 to 15 per cent mother-tongue French-speakers are adequately served at the city-level by the 30 per cent French-speakers in the city’s administration. We also know that several French-language recreational facilities have been discontinued because of inadequate participation by French-speakers. To expect French-language recreational facilities to be funded “on demand”, regardless of affordability and adequate participation is NOT reasonable.

    As to why the city is hesitant on accepting “Official Bilingual” status, it would remove the decision-making process on where council’s financial responsibility lie and give the power to the courts and we have seen how our courts are biased towards the French language. The city council was elected to look after the taxpayers of the city and to discharge their responsibility to the tax-payers who are 85 per cent non-French. In the province of Quebec, municipalities only provide service in English where the population is more than 50 per cent English.

    1+

    1. Kim:

      I lived in Quebec twice and never had any problem getting service in English. And the French-only signs helped me with my horrible French (though the law on signs is a bit draconian).

      I think the city is pretty much there on bilingualism already though it probably doesn’t give the same quality of service to French-speakers as most government services in Quebec provide to English residents.

      cheers

      kgray

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      1. In response to your comment that you had no trouble receiving service in English in Quebec, the English-language is given as a “courtesy” by the French-speaker who is not obliged to give you that service. There have been instances of English-speakers denied medical services in English because the person simply didn’t feel like providing that service. I can send you actual examples, video-taped, of such abuses, if you’re fair-minded to watch them. When anything is made “official” it becomes an action that can be enforced by law. This is what is known as The Rule of Law, elementary, my dear Mr. Gray.

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        1. Kim:

          You send those abuses along to kengray20@gmail.com in a MP3 format and if it is practical and worthwhile and I don’t think I’ll get sued for running them, why The Bulldog is yours.

          Failing that my good friend Kim, start a blog on WordPress.org (it’s free) and post them there if I’m not fair-minded enough. That way you can take responsibility for being sued and the subsequent damages. My insurance company would thank you for that.

          Can’t wait to see them.

          cheers

          kgray

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  4. It could be divisive.

    Small businesses would now have to prove that they are effectively bilingual. Would have to hire bilingual staff. Probably add to their costs. Might lead to letting go unilingual Anglophones to hire bilingual staff.

    Let’s face it: most francophones in Ontario speak both languages. Most anglophones in Ontario do not speak both languages. Would likely lead to anglophones taking French language classes at great expense with the dim results seen in federal civil service. Would add to city’s budget. Do we really need all stores and services to be bilingual throughout Ottawa, even in the far west end. Going officially bilingual might be OK for political correctness, but would yield little benefit to Ottawa citizens.

    Some of the francophones might see this as a “victory”, but at what cost to all?

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    1. Robert:

      Hard to say what the consequences of official bilingualism might be but I doubt there will be much practical change.

      Maybe there will be a proclamation from the mayor saying Ottawa is bilingual. I understand he is quite good at proclamations.

      cheers

      kgray

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    2. I do not know why you think that small businesses would need to prove that they are effectively bilingual, and need to let go staff. Who is talking about all stores being bilingual? Who is talking about ” a victory”?

      Sorry, but that kind of scare tactic talk belongs with Mr. Trump in the U.S. I do not need to hear it in Canada.

      Make anglophones great again. Yea — right.

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      1. Official bilingualism for a city means just that. That all services public and private should be available in both official languages. Otherwise, what does it mean? Perhaps a pyrric victory?

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        1. Robert:

          It will mean what the people of this community want it to mean.

          I see no reason why official bilingualism would be extended to the private sector. It’s probably not within the mandate of the municipal government to legislate language outside of city hall.

          cheers

          kgray

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        2. As far as I know official bilingualism as a National Policy has not forced stores in Ontario to be bilingual ; so why would a city policy force a store to be so? I know many people that work in Ontario for the Federal government and they are as close to bilingual as I am and that isn’t a whole lot more than – “Ou est la bibliotheque”

          Maybe this 150 year anniversary is a good time to at least make the Capital city officially bilingual. That may be a lasting legacy preferable to sod and robots.

          Bonne journee,
          Chaz ( I have no idea how to put accents in on the keypad so assume they’re there 🙂 )

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      2. Chaz, I guess you don’t know that they are sending language inspectors to NCC tenants who are private entrepreneurs renting public property in the NCC. They have to advertise in both languages and; menus in restaurants have to be in both languages. This could cost unilingual employees their jobs as these small businesses cannot afford the ones who are bilingual as they can usually demand higher wages as there is a shortage of bilingual employees. You don’t sound very knowledgeable about the language situation in Ottawa. To know more, visit our web-site: http://www.languagefairness.ca

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    3. Official bilingualism would only affect municipal government services, not the private sector.

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      1. This is where you are wrong. The Official Languages Act was supposed to affect federal services only but it has affected the private sector too. The bilingual labelling requirement has forced companies to spend millions of dollars making all their labels in English/French and; any foreign companies wishing to sell their products in Canada have to comply as well. As Canada’s market is so small, some companies have stopped selling in Canada.

        Servers in fast-food joints in Ottawa have to be bilingual to serve the French-language activists who are perfectly bilingual but just demand to be served in French or they complain. Don’t deny this if you want to have any credibility. As you don’t have the courage to post under your own name, your credibility is questionable anyway.

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        1. Kim:

          I think the Voter’s credibility is very much intact.

          She’s a respected commenter on The Bulldog.

          The readers will decide on her credibility … not you.

          cheers

          kgray

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    4. Robert Roberts, thank you for getting into this debate. As an ex-Federal employee, you know whereof you speak. You understand things about this policy like Ken Gray is totally ignorant of – shame on him for his ignorance. He applauds the active noisiness of the French special interest groups without mentioning that they are very well-funded by every level of goverment; well-paid activists are easily available. The “Silent Majority” is kept silent for fear of speaking up – many are public servants with French superiors, many who are in those positions, not because of “Merit” but proficiency in a minority language. The quality of our public service has deteriorated to a great degree, unfortunately.

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  5. Official bilingualism enables activists and renders the majority to second class status. Just look at the federal government. And there is no earthly reason that all programs should be provided throughout the city in French. You’re in an English province. Bilingual services should be limited to essential services. If you want everything in French, move to Quebec.

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    1. Gord:

      Thank you for your comment.

      I was born and raised in Ontario and have live here most of my life. I have lived in Quebec twice and Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

      In all those provinces and in Canada in general, I believe we’re are allowed free speech without expulsion.

      This is the capital of Canada. It should be bilingual in a bilingual country. Everyone should feel welcome here.

      cheers

      kgray

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      1. Ken it is not a bilingual country in practice. It is officially. I was born in Montreal and lived in the U.S. for many years. I assumed that most of Canada was like Montreal. On my first trip to Toronto I asked the cab driver, where are all the French language signs. He looked at me like I was crazy. As I travelled more and more on government business, I saw that French ceases to be an issue (except for pockets) once you get west of Ottawa.

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  6. No government should be legislating language.

    If decisions were made by numbers, Chinese (Mandarin) and other Asian countries would be chosen. Being of aboriginal descent, should they also be represented. Languages evolve, due to the desire of people to keep their language, and if one wants to communicate with someone of that language, they will learn it. Quebec offers English to its population if there are 50 per cent requiring it, maybe the same should apply here.

    Immersion classes haven’t worked, and now people from Quebec are coming to Ottawa to take bilingual jobs, but the reciprocation is not there.

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  7. You folks have a Pollyanish view of bilingualism. My daughter went to French language schools in Montreal. Even went to the same Lycée as Justin. When she moved away from Montreal to pursue a career, I asked why she was moving, her answer? My last name will forever hold me back in Quebec. (Her last name was not mine as my ex remarried). This too is our Canada.
    I am a pragmatist. Official bilingualism is for ideologues. Like Pierre Elliot Trudeau.

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    1. Robert:

      There is a whole generation of young people graduating from schools who are bilingual. I envy them.

      The battle over bilingualism is yesterday’s battle. Pierre Trudeau was a long time ago.

      cheers

      kgray

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      1. Ken,
        It should be yesterday’s issue but it would seem that too many anglophones are stuck in some kind of place where fear of others is rampant and a let’s build a wall mind set prevails.

        Even in Canada old ideas hang on past their time.

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  8. I have the advantage of having worked in Washington D.C. briefly (on a presidential commission) and for many years as a civil servant in Ottawa. It struck me that anybody from anywhere in the U.S. could go to Washington and work for the national government. Not so in Canada where a young person from the west would have to learn French before being able to work in Ottawa.

    So Ken in practice official bilingualism in the federal government does not unite Canada, but restricts many from working for the federal government in Ottawa. Official Ottawa exists in a bubble.

    The costs of official bilingualism are not always apparent.

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    1. Robert:

      I don’t see where it is a disadvantage to learn French.

      Might broaden the mind.

      cheers

      kgray

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