Notes for the presentation of the 2013–2014 Award of Excellence – Promotion of Linguistic Duality
Moncton, New Brunswick, October 22, 2014
Graham Fraser - Commissioner of Official Languages
Check against delivery
Beginning of dialog
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
It is a pleasure to be here in Moncton to celebrate the success of the Frye Festival, which has been an annual celebration for the past 15 years.
Bringing together authors and readers of all ages, both English- and French—speaking, the Frye Festival promotes the bicultural and bilingual nature of Moncton and New Brunswick, and spotlights Canada’s two official languages on the international stage.
This festival is an opportunity for the community and for the artists, from here and from abroad, to create and to express themselves in both official languages—and to discover what is happening in the other language community. The Frye Festival is a great example of the mutual respect that both official language communities have for one another.
In his collection of essays The Educated Imagination, Northrop Frye says that there are three levels of the mind and that they each have their own language.
First, there is "the level of consciousness and awareness, where the most important thing is the difference between me and everything else." The language of this level is the language of ordinary conversation, or the language of self–expression.
Then there is "the level of social participation, the working or technological language of teachers and preachers and politicians and advertisers and lawyers and journalists and scientists." This is called the language of practical sense.
Last, there is "the level of imagination, which produces the literary language of poems and plays and novels." Footnote 1
They are not really different languages, of course—we are still talking about our language, whether it is English or French. But they are different reasons for using words and different ways of expressing ourselves in our language communities and of embodying our linguistic identities.
It is interesting to note that the public consultation event following tonight’s reception is particularly symbolic of Frye’s thinking. All three levels of language—conversation, social participation, imagination—in English as well as in French, will be used. Frye, who was master of the metaphor, would have appreciated the connection. The Frye Festival is both a testament to the legacy of its namesake and a symbol of the Atlantic region’s cultural and linguistic reality.
As the artists and other creative types among you here know, literature does not exist separately from the language and life of the community. On the contrary, it stirs people’s imagination. Literature contributes to developing the cultural capital of communities, which, while for the most part intangible in nature, is just as important to a community as its economic, social or political capital.
Too often, government administrations seem to forget something quite obvious: artists from minority communities are just as representative of their province, and of Canada as a whole, as artists from the majority. Each and every artist represents his or her Canadian identity in a unique way, and helps to define his or her community, whether English-speaking or French-speaking. And this is what we celebrate in Moncton every spring.
A great many Canadians believe that the best way to measure our willingness to live together in mutual respect is to give full recognition to our official languages and the diversity of our cultural expression. In this context, guaranteeing the cultural development of our English- and French-speaking communities should be a goal we all share.
Even though Moncton has the same language obligations as other cities in New Brunswick, your city declared itself officially bilingual. This gives it a unique branding advantage across Canada.
Emphasizing the importance of linguistic duality, to the point that it becomes an integral part of Moncton’s image and identity, means important gains for citizens, especially the civic pride that Monctonians feel living in a bilingual city that reflects who they are.
We live together, side by side. We need to know each other better in order to respect each other more. That is why I think it is important to expand opportunities for contact and exchange—and the Frye Festival is the perfect example of this.
The School-Youth Program, and particularly the Frye Academy event, helps young Canadians to gain a better understanding of the fact that a second language is more than a simple tool—it is a gateway to their country, and to the world. Experiencing both official languages through literature provides direct access to our two language communities.
By taking part in the Festival’s activities, young Canadians can take full advantage of their two official languages and put their language skills to the test. It is important for young people from New Brunswick and the rest of Canada to be able to benefit from opportunities to practise their language skills, in their first as well as their second official language. The Frye Festival is just such an opportunity.
I am convinced that, in addition to promoting official languages and Canadian literature, the Frye Festival is bringing our two major language communities closer together, at both the local and national level.
Since the beginning of my mandate, I have often repeated that promoting official languages—and, by extension, bilingualism—is an essential part of leadership.
The concept of bilingualism as a value to be promoted requires strong leadership. It also requires continued cooperation between municipal authorities, private-sector companies and community organizations.
This is what you have here in Moncton: willingness among everyone to work together to encourage the promotion of English and French and to foster a healthy relationship between the two language communities. But for this cooperation to be successful, leadership is necessary.
In 2009, I created an award of excellence to recognize individuals or organizations that are not subject to the Official Languages Act. This award is given for excellence in promoting linguistic duality in Canada or abroad or by contributing to the development of Canada’s official language minority communities.
It gives me great pleasure to present this year’s Award of Excellence – Promotion of Linguistic Duality to the Frye Festival.
I am sure we all agree that the Festival more than meets the criteria for this award, and that all of the people involved in its organization show great leadership in promoting both official languages.
In order to run such a successful festival year after year, Ms. Arnold and her board of directors have created positive relationships between official language communities in New Brunswick and those in the rest of Canada.
I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to the Frye Festival team for its outstanding effort and dedication, and to Ms. Arnold for her inspiring leadership and contribution to the promotion of linguistic duality in Canada.
Thank you, and have a great evening!
- Footnote 1
Northrop Frye, "The Motive for Metaphor," The Educated Imagination, Toronto, House of Anansi Press, 2002, p. 8.