Letter to the Editor - LeDroit

Taking linguistic minority communities into consideration, regardless of region

Response to Pierre Jury’s editorial titled “Insultant [Insulting]” published in LeDroit on January 20, 2015

I read Pierre Jury’s January 20 editorial with much interest. He claims that my remarks about the situation of Quebec’s English-speaking community were “insulting” and “frustrating” and that “I had slapped the Government of Quebec on the wrist.”

Allow me to bring into context the interesting conversations I have had with members of the Government of Quebec and their predecessors. I have also had similar conversations with members of every provincial and territorial government in Canada. The purpose of my remarks was not to slap anyone on the wrist or to insult anyone. Furthermore, my remarks have been well received by those for whom they were intended.

Every province other than Quebec has a minister responsible for Francophone affairs. The provinces’ commitment to their minorities varies, of course. Our country is very asymmetrical when it comes to services provided in the minority language. The need for services in French is clear in every region of the country.

It is true that in Quebec there are hospitals, universities and school boards that serve the English-speaking community. However, these institutions were built by the communities 200 years ago, in many cases, before any semblance of a modern public service. Often, these institutions no longer belong to the English-speaking community. They are Quebec institutions that can, or must, provide services in English.

Let me be clear. There is a big difference between the situation of Anglophones on the Island of Montréal, where they are concentrated, and that of the 300,000 Anglophones who live elsewhere in Quebec. For example, the situation of an Anglophone living in Sherbrooke, Québec City or Gaspé will be vastly different from what prevails in Beaconsfield, Baie d’Urfé or even Aylmer. Also, Anglophone seniors face particular challenges.

Discussions on Bill 10 are ongoing. I hope that their outcome will reflect the close and significant ties that health-care institutions have with the communities so that they continue to support and invest in them. The Anglophone community’s well-established tradition of social involvement must be preserved.

I am not criticizing anyone when I say that—I am simply trying to establish facts. For example, we would have a clearer picture of the situation if there were a secretariat or office responsible for compiling data on the realities of minority communities and for assessing how they are impacted by government policies. As provincial governments elsewhere in Canada have found, establishing mechanisms to remain aware of issues affecting their linguistic minority communities has proven helpful.

Graham Fraser, Commissioner of Official Languages

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