Letter to the Editor – Eric Little of Ottawa Ontario on the Cost of Official Bilingualism – March 22, 2012

Letter to the Editor – Eric Little of Ottawa Ontario on the Cost of Official Bilingualism – March 22, 2012

During such a time of high debt and deficit in Ontario, has anyone questioned the expense versus need for French language government departments and services? At first glance, we see 25 people involved with Francophone Affairs and another 6 with the French Language Services Commissioners office. Salary alone would be in the 2 million per year range for these 31, however other positions like reception or shipping may be possible and not listed on the government website.

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There are broad references to other costs, the committee of 12 put in place to provide input in the planning and development of French language services for example.  Of course areas like the French TV channel, Intergovernmental Affairs responsible for Francophone affairs, administration for 25 designated zones, are constantly expanding and costing,  since the mission of the Francophone Affairs office is to, “strongly encourage government ministries and agencies to proactively design policies and programs that are adapted to their Francophone clientele”.

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As in any group, there will be people who push the envelope, want something different or extra even. All people with a French lineage are not to blame, the pattern of entitlement if you will, started with the Plains of Abraham and the Quebec Act of 1774.  Sir Guy Carleton, (1724-1808) the first Baron Dorchester, a quartermaster general in 1759 (with James Wolfe), governor-in-chief of British North America, had also performed roles of Lt. Governor and then Governor of Quebec. This co-operation that Sir Guy Carleton put in place could be considered appeasement but I wonder if this kind of co-operation was behind the Maurice Duplessis motto, co-operation always, assimilation never.

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Jean Lesage fought for change to the Canada Pension Plan, to provide special rights and privileges in Quebec.  Rene Levesque wanted to open offices in foreign nations to push Quebec towards nationhood status. Pierre E. Trudeau providing the Official Languages Act without consultation leads to many costs and issues we see today. I suggest the Official Languages Act needs to be updated to provide fairness now and in the decades to come. Compromise, tolerance and fairness for all yes, but should be discussed without so much cost, litigation and ill will. An Albertan fighting a unilingual traffic ticket, a Sprite instead of a 7up, unilingual Nurses in Cornwall among other jobs in other areas denied advancement or work over language. With hundreds of years of special treatment who can blame a few for asking for more? However the shut off valve has gone missing so the Act language needs updating, “where numbers warrant”, is expensive and has taken on a life of its own. This does not mean services will end, just don’t walk into an all English bar and “expect” to be served in another language.  Sure this may be your own country, but it is for thousands of others as well who do not speak either French or English.

Let’s define co-operation and true need, then provide services in a cost effective and reasonable manner for ourselves and future generations.

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27 Comments on "Letter to the Editor – Eric Little of Ottawa Ontario on the Cost of Official Bilingualism – March 22, 2012"

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Kim Khoo
Member
Such a pleasure to read a letter from a well-informed person. Eric knows his history and injects reason into his argument that we should be taking another look at the Official Languages Act. It may have been brought in to answer a need but it has now exceeded its “best-before” date. The historical wrongs have long been corrected and further blindly following the policy will do nothing but lead to injustice being done to the other side. The “other side” being the majority and in a democracy, this is clearly wrong. A minority language, spoken by 17% (self-assessed) and in… Read more »
Tom
Guest

Two provincial language commissars are on Ontario government current sunshine list.

Office of the French Language Services Commissioner:

BOILEAU FRANCOIS, French Language Services Commissioner – $157,394.89 ($233.25 with benefits);
SAMSON JOCELYNE, Executive Policy Advisor/Manager Investigation – $105,660.74 ($149.40 with benefits).

Tom
Guest

Dear editor, I forgot to add a link. Would you please add it to my previous post that is awaiting your moderation. Thank you.

http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/publications/salarydisclosure/2012/crown12b.html

I. Hall
Guest
” With hundreds of years of special treatment who can blame a few for asking for more?” I would point out that asking for greater equality between English and French is quite the opposite of asking for “special treatment.” People who oppose bilingualism are actually in favour of special treatment for just one language, English. They favour inequality, not equality. There’s no such thing as a system where no language groups are advantaged in some way. The real question is, should there be special treatment for just one language or equal treatment for the main two? If we want to… Read more »
I. Hall
Guest

Kim Lian Khoo,

I don’t know where you’re getting your statistics, but they’re clearly wrong.

According to the 2006 census, the population of Canada was 31,241,030. Of these, 18,232,200 (or 58.4%) were anglophone, and 6,970,405 (or 22.3%) were francophone. The third largest group listed was Italian, at 476,905, or 1.5%.

Source: http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2006/dp-pd/tbt/Rp-eng.cfm?LANG=E&APATH=3&DETAIL=0&DIM=0&FL=A&FREE=0&GC=0&GID=0&GK=0&GRP=1&PID=89186&PRID=0&PTYPE=88971,97154&S=0&SHOWALL=0&SUB=0&Temporal=2006&THEME=70&VID=0&VNAMEE=&VNAMEF=

For a health care professional, being able to serve the population in the main languages they want service in is clearly part of “merit.”

Eric
Guest
How can you have equality of 2 languages? After 40 years of the Official Language Act the numbers for bilingual (French / English) has barely changed, how cost effective is that? Without a ready supply of bilingual workers, this sets up a class system and how does that fit into equality? Those census number highlight the issue that we are now serving bilingual people ( the new minority language?) in the language of their choice, instead of providing services to just the French only and a few “bilingual” who need it. If you take out the Quebec Francophone numbers from… Read more »
I. Hall
Guest
Eric, Equality of the language groups would mean that in Canada, you could live your life in French as easily as you can live your life in English. That includes work, government services, media, and daily activities. This is an ideal that has not been achieved, but which should be our eventual goal. It also implies mutual respect, which is unfortunately lacking in some quarters. Obviously, in areas where there are only a tiny minority who speak one language, there may be practical issues that arise and we may need to lower our ambitions. This is the reason there are… Read more »
Debbie Cameron
Guest
I don’t appreciate the treasonous person in the picture but Mr Hall I do appreciate numbers -cornwall stats -as of march 29th this year -english only 54.75 %-french only 1.74%-bilingual was the 24,750-not francophonie -get your facts right -other languages6.65% -therefore 5-6 times that of francophonie -but hey throw all the money at the 1.74% -995 people fracophonie -but hiring at hospital well over 45% -theres what you call way over represented -you must remember that people feel they don’t have a choice but send their kids to school involving french a various levels to get opportunities in this country… Read more »
Debbie Cameron
Guest

treasonous may be a strong word but as quoted by The Beaver -Trudeau was the most hated politician ever in Canada

I. Hall
Guest
Debbie, What you’re saying in your statistics is hard to understand exactly. However, I understand that you’re questioning the statistics I included in my post. Here are the sources for those, from the 2006 census. For Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, the official language (French) minority is 22.6% of the population, or 24,555 people. Here it is in black and white: http://www12.statcan.ca/census-recensement/2006/dp-pd/tbt/Rp-eng.cfm?TABID=1&LANG=E&APATH=3&DETAIL=0&DIM=0&FL=A&FREE=0&GC=0&GID=773552&GK=0&GRP=1&PID=89274&PRID=0&PTYPE=88971,97154&S=0&SHOWALL=0&SUB=0&Temporal=2006&THEME=70&VID=0&VNAMEE=&VNAMEF=&D1=0&D2=0&D3=0&D4=0&D5=0&D6=0 In SD&G, there are 2,325 people who speak French but not English. There are also 205 people who speak neither French nor English, but thrown together in this number there are speakers of many different languages, not a single… Read more »
I. Hall
Guest

Debbie, assimilation to French is not occurring in significant numbers in the English-speaking community in Ontario. Assimilation is defined as “the loss of one’s mother tongue as one’s usual language of communication.” Learning French as a second language in school is not “assimilation.”

Eric
Guest
French is “available” to be taught in Ontario.One French class a week up to grade 8, and passing the required one French class in high school is not helping anyone to appreciate or learn another language. Why does the government strongly promote French with our tax dollars then reduce the work available for our kids, and why do we let them? If this was only about money, we would have English immersion schools for those very small numbers! I also ask if this ideal has been achieved I Hall, where is the shut off valve? Are Francophones in Eastern Ontario,… Read more »
I. Hall
Guest
Eric, the ideal of equality is unfortunately far from having been achieved. The present situation is that it is much, much easier to live your life in English than in French in Ontario. This is true to such an extent that approximately 40% of francophones in Ontario mostly use English in their daily lives. This is sometimes by choice, but more often by necessity, and the percentage has been growing in recent decades. Obviously, these people are usually unable to pass French on to their children, and the result is an erosion of the French-speaking community. Less than 1% of… Read more »
Eric
Guest

Well written I Hall.

Before we can move on, there needs to be some understanding and definitions. What do we, the taxpayers want, who are we trying to assist, how do we direct our politicians?
Basically, who how much help is needed and how to get there?

I can see how Francophones want to push this, they are threatened. In 2006, Ontario listed 3,134,000 with a non official language mother tongue while French had just 488,000. English should take notice too!

I. Hall
Guest
Eric, What we want is a government that takes into account the interests of all its citizens, both anglophone and francophone. For francophones, one of the primary interests is that their communities retain their vitality. If this is going to happen, you can’t have a situation in which the moment you enter the public sphere, you need to use English rather than French. Here are links to two charts from Statistics Canada. They show the extent to which francophones in Ontario and anglophones in Quebec are able to use their own languages at home, with friends, with “immediate contacts,” at… Read more »
Eric
Guest
I do not accept your premise that Canada is a bilingual country, there are 2 official languages at the federal level and in New Brunswick. Words are dangerous because of Interpretation. That is a good reason to insist on some updated definitions and direct meaning of certain phrases towards what is really needed and by who. Concentrated areas of Ontario Francophones are not the only areas seeing change, our designated Francophone areas (25) cover 85% of our geography. I am happy that this issue is being discussed, but the main thrust right now is to get the Cornwall hospital hiring… Read more »
I. Hall
Guest
Eric, You say Canada is not a bilingual country. Can you please define for me what a bilingual country is? You say: “Our designated Francophone areas (25) cover 85% of our geography.” All this really says is that a high proportion of the population in the North is francophone. Well, if a lot of it is francophone, then that’s all the more reason they should have services. Incidentally, your claim seems incorrect. The light blue areas in the following map represent administrative areas in which *only a portion* of the territory is designated. http://www.ofa.gov.on.ca/en/flsa-mapdesig.html It looks like you’re counting the… Read more »
Eric
Guest
I Hall, you said Canada is a bilingual country, and with Ontario listing 4.8% of the population as Francophone, how can we be? One unilingual French province and one bilingual province does not a country make, even though Quebec has been trying. LOL We went from 4.4% Francophone overnight in 2009 to 4.8% because a definition change was made by our provincial government. Now someone who was born in Vietnam, moved to Brussels for a couple of years and learned French, moves to Ontario and is included as a Francophone. I do not feel that respects our local Francophone heritage… Read more »
I. Hall
Guest

Eric,

You haven’t said what a bilingual country is.

You say that Ontario is about 4 or 5% francophone, and therefore Canada can’t be bilingual. Presumably, that means Canada is unilingually English. There are areas of Quebec where the percentage of anglophones is minuscule. Does that mean Canada is unilingually French?

What would it take for a country to be bilingual?

Eric
Guest

I have said we are not a bilingual country, you said we are, anyone getting dizzy yet?
Maybe you can explain this article to me….http://languagefairness.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=167:question-is-canada-a-bilingual-country&catid=57:historical-facts&Itemid=49

As stated before, we really need to nail down some definitions and what we want. Using logic such as joe is a lawyer and tall, so all lawyers are named tall joe is crazy.

I. Hall
Guest
Eric, I think a bilingual country is one in which there are two major language groups. That is very simple and straightforward. Whether you think 22% of Canadians is a “major” group can be argued, but I think most Canadians would say that it is. That text you linked to by an anti-bilingualism advocate contains a number of arguments (of varying accuracy), but does not contain a definition of what a bilingual country is. You say we need to “nail down some definitions,” so I’m asking you what your definition of a bilingual country is. I may not agree with… Read more »
Eric
Guest
I don’t think we could just combine the meaning of both words, bilingual and country and come with an acceptable understanding. Being able to speak 2 languages with the facility of a native speaker then self identified on a census form, can lead to one’s misjudgment or at least, lists unproven results. Of course both sides use the census now to quote numbers, but even if it was 5% either way, English only is still predominate. Country being a land mass, territory or sum of districts governed under our head of state, does not give much help either. So, why… Read more »
I. Hall
Guest
Eric, You write: “My basic understanding of a bilingual country then is where somewhere near half of it’s citizens can speak, read and write 2 languages.” Let’s say a country is split 50-50 into two groups, speaking language A and language B, few of whom speak the other’s language. According to your definition, this is not a bilingual country. I guess it must be a unilingual country then. Is it unilingually A or unilingually B? Of course, I’m not saying this is a correct description of the situation in Canada. But I think it goes to show that the basis… Read more »
Reg Coffey
Guest

I believe that Stats Canada states that the two most spoken languages in Canada are English and Chinese, but I could be wrong.

Canada is NOT a bilingual country
Guest
Canada is NOT a bilingual country

We have a great authority (Stephen Harper) who said that Canada is NOT a bilingual country:

http://www.torontosun.com/2011/07/15/canadas-not-a-bilingual-country

Dave Windsor
Guest
French vs. English Enough already. Here is how I aee it and the french have gone too far at too great an expense. Time to back off. Here in lies the problem between the French and the English……the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The first part references our conscience will guide us, but here it is folks, the french believe that equal rights means 50% of everything, all jobs, 50/50, all printed material, 50/50, all linguistic services 50/50…all this and more except of course within the province of Quebec where it is 100% of everything. On the other hand the… Read more »
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