Archived - Bad news travels fast! - Reply to article by Luc-Normand Tellier in Le Devoir

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Written by Graham Fraser, Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada

June 27, 2013 – Professor Luc-Normand Tellier has written a heartfelt response to the derogatory comments of a National Post columnist. According to Mr. Tellier, the Post columnist is reflecting majority opinion in English Canada. I would like to respond to this.

I do not think it is right to take the comments of one columnist as representing the views of the majority. The National Post publishes a variety of articles without claiming that they represent majority opinion. Sometimes the editorial writers and columnists take pride in expressing minority views in frank language. But there are many widely respected columnists outside Quebec who do not share the views that so offended Mr. Tellier.

I realize how easy it is to depict English-French relations in Canada in a negative light. Normand Lester is one among many who have done so. A certain version of the past marked by a number of sad moments is widely accepted among Francophones: Lord Durham's Report, the hanging of Louis Riel, Regulation 17 which ended French-language instruction in Ontario, the conscription crises during the two world wars, and so on. These are historical facts that cannot be denied.

But there are other facts that are often forgotten. Less than 10 years after the Durham Report came out, Lord Elgin again made French an official language for use in the Assembly; John A. Macdonald ensured that French was protected in Parliament and in the courts; a group of English Canadians came together to campaign against Regulation 17. The list goes on and on.

Also contradicting the statements by Mr. Tellier are certain other facts reflecting the attitudes of English Canadians toward Quebec and toward French. Year in and year out, 300,000 young Anglophones across the country are studying in French and taking immersion courses. In British Columbia, parents have to line up overnight at school board offices to enrol their children in immersion programs. The existence of quotas for these programs clearly shows that supply is not keeping up with demand.

One of the most active NGOs in Canada is Canadian Parents for French. This organization provides ongoing support for the teaching of French and it lobbies school boards and provincial departments of education to improve the quality of French instruction and to increase the supply of immersion courses.

The Université Laval football team has not just produced Vanier Cup winners; it has also produced champions of the French language. Justin Morrow, an athlete from Southern Ontario, spoke only English when he arrived in Québec City. When he left, he was a member of a championship team, a university graduate and a bilingual Canadian. He also founded Canadian Youth for French and has become a tireless promoter of the language.

Unfortunately, it's easier to be pessimistic than optimistic. Failure is obvious, success is invisible. The opinion expressed by Mr. Tellier certainly exists, but it is a minority view. The majority are proud of linguistic duality and consider it to be a Canadian value. They are also proud of Quebec and regard it as a key part of the country's identity.

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