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.

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”.


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.


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.

(Comments and opinions of Editorials, Letters to the Editor, and comments from readers are purely their own and don’t necessarily reflect those of the owners of this site, their staff, or sponsors.)

Cornwall Free News


  1. 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 reality only 12% (according to Jack Jedwab of the Asso. of Canadian Studies), cannot be used to be the main criteria of employment in the public and increasingly, also in the private sector. That way lies mediocrity as Merit is displaced by a minority language and this is disastrous for the country.

  2. 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).

  3. ” 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 have a country we can all feel at home in, the best answer is equality.

  4. 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.”

  5. 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 that census list, there are only a few hundred thousand, and the people in Canada who do not speak either French or English, is quickly gaining and also number a few hundred thousand.

    A discussion is needed! Soon!

  6. 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 only some areas of Ontario that are designated bilingual.

    I don’t think it’s logical to argue that if francophones become bilingual, they’ve lost the right to services in their language. That is an argument that is frequently put forward by opponents of bilingualism, but which makes absolutely no sense. You can’t lose your language rights just because you’ve made the effort to learn the other language. Instead of trying to make francophones pay a price for having learned English, perhaps you should be appreciative that so many of them have learned our language.

    As I’ve said, I believe mother tongue is the most appropriate criterion for determining language rights. But if you insist on discussing only those who do not speak English, here are some numbers. In Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, a quarter of the population, or 24,555, are francophone. There are 2265 francophones who do not speak English. The next largest group is 75 Urdu speakers who do not speak English, about 30 times smaller. There are also 45 speakers of Panjabi, Bisayan languages and creoles who speak French but do not speak English.

    Are you suggesting we make CCH trilingual English-French-Urdu? Considering that French is widely taught in the English Ontario school system and Urdu is not, you’ll have much more trouble finding anglophone nurses who speak Urdu well.

  7. 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 -its called assimilation -that should not happen in an democracy ?

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

  9. Author

    He also was one of the most respected and loved.

  10. 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:


    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 language. The single language – other than French – that has the largest number of speakers who don’t speak English is Urdu, at 75. This is 31 times smaller than the number for French. Here is a table with this information:


    Again, I don’t agree that if more francophones have become bilingual, you can use that to claim they’ve given up their language rights. We should be appreciative that they’ve learned our language, not try to hold it against them. The francophone minority in SD&G is 22.6%.

  11. 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.”

  12. 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, who have lived along side English for generations without such strong government intervention, think differently than Francophones from Quebec on these issues?

  13. 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 anglophones in Ontario are in that situation with French, so anglophones can feel secure for their future. The fact that some jobs require bilingualism is completely different from getting to the point where your life is in French.

    You say that there hasn’t been government intervention, but that is not true. The difference is that in the past this intervention was only in favour of English. I don’t even need to go as far back as Regulation 17, which banned French schools. For example, when you take everybody’s taxes – both anglophones’ and francophones’ – and then you provide services only in English, or even mostly in English, that is intervention in favour of English using taxpayers’ money. If the courts were to decide their only language was English, that would be intervention in favour of English. You may not count it as intervention because you take it for granted that services will be provided in English, but it is still using both communities’ tax dollars to create an environment that is hospitable for the English community and not so much for the French one.

    What is needed is equitable intervention in favour of English and French. This can take into account the relative sizes of the communties – based on mother tongue – but it must absolutely take into account the interests of the vulnerable minority group, because the government belongs to them too. When you speak of tax dollars, there are francophones’ tax dollars in the mix too.

    You speak of a “shut-off valve.” Bilingualism is a permanent feature of the country. So there is no more reason to speak of a shut-off valve for services in French than there is to have a shut-off valve for services in English.

    In SD&G, where about one quarter of the population is francophone, you keep going until you reach a situation that’s fair in a place where there’s a 75-25 divide, so that both communities are sustainable. That number is about what the situation is in Montreal, and we don’t have to put up with protesters in front of our English-language hospitals. I can get service in a number of hospitals where all the doctors and nurses speak my language.

    About kids learning French, the English community where you live has control of its own schools, so it’s up to you to make sure kids are getting the opportunity to learn French. French schools teach English and seem to do a good job of it.

    To answer your question, francophones in Quebec have varying views on the rights of the English minority here. A minority of them do have views that I find objectionable. But by and large, there is recognition of the legitimacy of services for the English community – education, health care, etc., and this hasn’t usually been questioned by governments. There are a couple of things I object to in Bill 101, but the worst parts have been repealed. When I compare how easily I can get by in English and how difficult it seems to be for francophones in Ontario, I feel fortunate, and I also feel a great deal of sympathy for francophones there.

    You talk about francophones and anglophones having lived side by side for generations. That’s undoubtedly true, but it also calls to mind the following observation of Graham Fraser: “There aren’t any ‘good old days’ when it comes to the relationship between language communities.” In other words, going back to the way things were isn’t going to make things better.

  14. 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!

  15. 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 work, in institutions and stores, and in consuming media.


    What we see is that the situation is far more favourable for anglophones in Quebec than for francophones in Ontario. Our purpose should be to create conditions in which these indicators improve for the Franco-Ontarian population, particularly in areas where it is concentrated.

    In your 3 million figure, you’re conveniently grouping together speakers of many different languages. Nobody is suggesting that Ontario put a hundred different languages on equal footing. In Ontario, French has 488,815 native speakers, and the next largest is Italian at 282,750.

    In any case, since Canada is bilingual, French is the only second language that it’s reasonable to expect a significant percentage of English Canadians to learn. If you imposed English-French-Italian trilingualism, any problems that might now exist in at places like the CCH would be far worse.

    So this third language issue really seems to me to be a red herring. Canada is bilingual, not trilingual and not unilingual.

    Also, French services are provided mainly in areas where francophones are concentrated. In Ontario, no other language is really comparable to French, except in the GTA. Outside the Toronto CMA, French is at 430,000, and the next largest is German, at 118,000.

    Within the GTA, French service is easy to provide because it only needs to be done at a limited number of locations, so the bilingualism requirements are relatively low. In the GTA, there is also significant funding for community groups providing service in Chinese, Spanish, etc., although it’s true that they do not have access to the full array of provincial services that English- and French-speakers do. Also note that about one third of the francophone community in Toronto consists of visible minorities, including many immigrants. I’m uncertain how far the city of Toronto goes to provide service in French, but my impression is it doesn’t do much.

    Here in Quebec, the English community, by mother tongue, is 575,555. The next largest language is Italian, at 124,820. Speakers of non-official languages total 886,280. This is not very different from Ontario outside the GTA.

    Since there are now more speakers of non-official languages in Quebec than English, would you say that English government services, schools, universities, hospitals and other institutions should start being shut down? Or would you argue as I do that since Canada is a bilingual country, the English community has a special status in Quebec that other language groups, like Italian, don’t necessarily, and that we should keep our institutions?

  16. 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 issues sorted out and have our local and Ontario provincial leaders affect what is needed. Hopefully without so much expense and deflection.

  17. 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.


    It looks like you’re counting the huge northwestern districts in their entirety instead of the tiny designated townships within them.

    The six dark blue districts in the Northeast that make up almost the entire land mass of the designated areas are 25% francophone. So if you’re making the argument that francophones aren’t concentrated there, it can only be because *humans* aren’t concentrated there. In that case, there’s not much demand for services in English either!

  18. 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 at all, it is just to increase numbers.

    My bad, 85% of Francophones live in a designated area. However, the wording and map colours are fuzzy and can be easily be used to support which ever side you are on, kind of like stats. LOL Clicking on one of the green dots gives a deifferent picture.

  19. 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?

  20. 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 it, but I think that’s a minimum if you want clarity as you claim.

  21. 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 do some use the term now? Some would say to appease the French, or to show our multicultural side or to describe collectively our polices and laws even. The B&B royal commission in the 60’s lists something about a bilingual country is one that MUST provide services in two languages to the citizens. That is way to open of a concept that can lead to expensive misunderstandings.
    I have no issue with citizens being able to communicate with the government we all pay for. I have an issue with forcing language services into areas that are not really needed or with who can already speak one or the other already. 40 plus years of the Official Languages Act has been expensive and has not changed the numbers.
    I have some difficulty nailing what term our present landscape should be called, it is kind of like marriage. I feel it is a term involving a man and a woman. I have little trouble with 2 of the same sex cohabitating under some legal doctrine, just don’t call it marriage.
    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 have a cross country involvement process that reduces the 620 million dollars we see currently in Ontario.

  22. 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 for a definition of “bilingual country” can’t be that it has to be a country in which most people are bilingual.

    I’ll repeat that in my view, the defining feature of a bilingual country is the presence of two major language communities.

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

  24. 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 English have long aquiest to now believe 50/50 with all written materials yet only where numbers warrant on linguistic and on job matters. This of course means if 95% regional population are English vs. 5% are French….well, you get the picture.

    P.M. Stephen Harper and crew, please take note and re-legislate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms reflect an appropriate law that will guide all of us so all of us can sleep at night.

    Also, the courts were NOT elected, you were. Therefore the courts should not be determining the interpretations of this 30 year old mockery.

    Where is the fairness gone? Now we know where and why.

    Dave Windsor

Leave a Reply