Saturday, October 29, 2011

Are federal Conservatives and New Democrats partners in the erosion of Canadian Bilingualism?

In last year's federal election, Mr. Layton spoke openly during the campaign of applying elements of Bill 101 – the backbone of Quebec’s controversial language charter – to federally regulated industries. More recently, the NDP has re-affirmed its support for modifying federal laws to favour the use of French in Quebec in those industries--mostly in transportation, communications and the federal public sector--in Quebec.
This week, the Conservative government appointed a highly competent accountant from New Brunswick to succeed Sheila Fraser as Canada's next auditor-general--and ignored the fact that he wasn't bilingual.  (While nobody doubts his qualifications, there are many highly qualified accountants in Canada who are bilingual.  In addition, this appointment comes after two unilingual Supreme Court judges were appointed.)
To my knowledge, nobody has linked these two events. One person who would have was the late Rt. Hon. Pierre Elliot Trudeau, who always warned that pandering to unilingualism in one part of the country would weaken support for bilingualism in the rest of the country, with possibly grave long-term implications for national unity. At his worst, Trudeau was overly dogmatic in opposing any form of special status or recognition of "distinct society".  But surely he was right to warn of a possible slippery slope in the protection of minority language rights.  
Now that we have a Conservative government that can  get an electoral majority without winning Quebec, the conditions are right for a decline in the support for, and declining effectiveness of, official bilingualism in our national institutions.  Relaxing the enforcement of rights for anglophones working in federally-regulated workplaces in Quebec and overlooking the auditor-general's lack of competence in French are both evidence that this slide is already happening.



Ed Seedhouse said...

Finally you seem to have figured out that the main thing blocking your blog's use was it's terrible visual theme.

Now you have changed to a site I can at least read without a major struggle, so I will likely be back more often.

Previously, it wasn't that your what you had to say wasn't interesting, it was that it was such a terrible struggle to even read that I gave up trying except very occasionally, hoping you might have seen the light. Now you seem to have seen it at last.

Mark Crawford said...

Ed. You are right. I should have spent a few minutes perusing different formats in order to get the most readable one. Thanks for pointing that out.

Ed Seedhouse said...

It's still not perfect, but a big improvement. I suspect you will find your visit numbers going up as people catch on to the change.