Over the weekend Montreal area residents were upset and protested in the streets over a unilingual hockey coach, the media and fans have been at this constantly since mid December. We have Canada’s Language Commissioner sending out secret shoppers to assess language skills in Ottawa and other news makers asking for a 7up in French from Air Canada. A push for Supreme Court Justices to be bilingual, and with the Ottawa City Police Chief leaving, there will be a push for a bilingual chief I imagine.
Rarely do we see the same compassion from English Canada, yes we do have Mr. Brisson and Mr. Galganov going to the Ontario Court of Appeal over the Russell Township bilingual sign bylaw on February 1st , there also is a Canadian Language Fairness group, but why does English Canada not push for language fairness on a sustained basis with similar enthusiasm? People are busy working or with families and elect people to look after things for us, right? How is that working for you?
A quick look through jobs ads in the Ottawa Citizen and federal job boards would leave a visitor to assume Ottawa residents must all be bilingual; of course the Stats Can numbers do not reflect that. Almost 500,000 of the 801,275 residents list English only as their official language, about 13,000 are French only and 10,300 do not speak either English or French. In 2006, Cornwall is listed having 46,000 residents, of which 935 are French only and 23,100 are English only. Of course, we do not how well the remaining people actually speak either language, as census takers do not assess the accuracy.
There has been some government skewing, perhaps not on purpose to get justifiable numbers, listing numbers as Ottawa-Gatineau, even though they different cities in different provinces for example, or provincially in 2009 making a definition change. This wording alteration added 50,000 to the Francophone definition in Ontario. The Ontario government’s own website states this change will go from 4.4% to 4.8%, or 580,000 people. Using these numbers, Ontario was able to add Designated Zones to total 25 now.
With government getting involved, departments and goals are created; money will be spent then for staff, buildings, pensions and other associated costs. Money that comes from you and me to pay for each level of government plus to service deficits and debt, Ontario alone has an annual interest payment of 10.3 billion just to service that debt.
In no way do I suggest we should not provide safety nets or services to English or French taxpayers, we need to be smarter about it though. Stopping government employees from working and being supervised in the language of their choice would be a start, returning then to providing service to the taxpayer, using technology if needed. How many languages do some ATM’s provide, or Internet websites? Doubling of building, staffing and associated costs to provide a French only clinic takes money from all patient services and increasing wait times and effectiveness of our overall tax dollar. It is time for a discussion on all issues / costs for each; let’s start with stopping the constant push for these language services and leave the people decide. Is anyone really not being taken care of with the present rules and laws? Are we getting the best person for the job or the best bilingual person?
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