Are bronchophones discriminated against in Canada? Recent official appointments and statements by top officials have rekindled controversy, leading the government to react, accusing English of not doing enough to protect the country’s official language, French.
A recent example illustrating this phenomenon: No member of the board of directors of the Canadian National (CN) Railways, now headquartered in the French-speaking city of Montreal, practices French.
The fact that business leaders have mastered both official languages has already caused a stir after Air Canada President Michael Rousseau said last fall that he did not have time to learn French. A few days later he had to apologize.
Both of these companies, Canadian airports, federal departments, Crown corporations and federal agencies are subject to the Official Languages Act so they can provide services to their customers in French and English.
Since 1982, the Canadian Constitution has made French one of the two official languages of the country.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who speaks both languages, said he was “frustrated” that “French-speaking Canadians should see themselves reflected in major national institutions.”
The President asked the ministers responsible for the issue to ensure that CNN acts expeditiously to rectify the current situation.
But for French defenders, concerned about the erosion of the Moliere language, the Canadian government is far from being a role model in this regard in a country where 8 million of its 37 million people are Francophones.
– Less than 20% of Canadians are bilingual –
“There is a clear hypocritical attitude on Trudeau’s side,” said Stephen Poulock, professor of law at the University of Montreal and co-director of the National Laboratory for Languages.
He specifically cites the appointment of Inuit Prime Minister Mary Simon to the post of Governor-General. The new official representative of Queen Elizabeth II in the country will not speak French. Originally from Nunavut (northern Quebec), he speaks English and Inuktitut.
This week, the Commissioner for Official Languages regretted that the events on the Prime Minister’s Facebook page were not fully translated into French.
According to a recent poll, more than 90% of Canadians claim to be bilingual, a part of Canadian culture, but less than 20% of them are fluent in both languages.
Stephanie Sonard, a professor of political science at the Royal Military College of Canada, said: “Because a few Canadians are truly bilingual, everyone can serve in the language of their choice.
“Since 2019 we have been waiting for the modernization of the Official Languages Act,” he adds, lamenting the delay in Parliament in examining a text that would allow work to correct the asymmetry between the two languages: only nine of the ten Canadian provinces have English as their official language.
“For a long time, defending the French meant being branded a sovereign. [separatista, ndlr]. Things have changed and today people are daring to challenge British domination, “said Stephen Boulock.
Referring to recent appointments to higher state positions, Frederick Ferrett, a physician in the field of linguistics, explains that phonographs are “angry, shocking and this anger is justified.”
“However, this kind of situation is relatively rare at present,” clarifies the leader of the National Consultations on the Reform of Official Languages, especially in Quebec.
But things are more complicated for phonographs living outside of Quebec, despite improvements in recent years, he adds.
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