Archived - Notes for a speech at the second annual ceremony for the Sheila and Victor Goldbloom Distinguished Community Service Award
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Montreal, October 22, 2010
Graham Fraser - Commissioner of Official Languages
Check against delivery
Beginning of dialog
Ladies and gentlemen,
It’s a pleasure to be here today to take part in the second annual Sheila and Victor Goldbloom Distinguished Community Service Award ceremony. I would like to thank the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) for their invitation.
The theme of leadership is one that has interested me as Commissioner. I’ve talked about it in my annual reports over the last few years.
Over these past few years, my office has been engaging in intense conversations with federal institutions—conversations that would be quite familiar to Victor Goldbloom! My goal is to ensure that they better understand the importance of leadership in promoting Canada’s two official languages, both within the federal public service and in Canadian society as a whole.
Promoting linguistic duality as a value within the public service and in Canadian society requires strong leadership from the federal government, its institutions and its leaders. It is an essential ingredient in ensuring that linguistic duality is no longer perceived merely as a set of obligations, but rather as a value. With strong leadership and solid linguistic reflexes, federal institutions will be better able to fulfill their obligations with regard to service to the public. This in turn can help them fulfill their responsibilities towards enhancing the vitality of official language minority communities and supporting their development.
What does this mean for official language minority communities like yours? It means that you, too, need strong leadership, so that you can share your community’s concerns with governments, influence government policies and political debate, and promote linguistic duality as an asset in Canadian society.
The recent hearings of the Senate Standing Committee on Official Languages are a good example of community leadership. It is in large part due to the leadership of community organizations and their members that the Committee undertook its first-ever study of Quebec’s English-speaking community and was able to hear, first-hand, about the community’s issues. I applaud the Committee’s initiative.
As I reiterated to the Committee, the English language itself is not in danger. The challenge lies in ensuring the continuity and vitality of the English-speaking community in Quebec and its institutions. The challenge is in ensuring the continuity of community institutions, such as Sacred Heart School, where we are today, and which is celebrating its 150th anniversary.
The reality of English-speaking communities in Montréal is quite different than that of communities outside its metropolitan region. Like Canadian society as a whole, the English-speaking community in Quebec is not homogeneous or one monolithic block. It is quite diverse both in its make-up and in its realities.
In an ever-changing society such as Canada’s, it’s also important that the leaders of tomorrow—whether in the federal public service, official language minority communities or Canadian society at large—are aware of and continue to promote linguistic duality as a fundamental Canadian value.
Thus, it’s important to take the time, as you are doing here today, to recognize individuals within the community who have demonstrated leadership—through their community involvement, their work or volunteering.
With their distinguished careers, Dr. Goldbloom and Mrs. Goldbloom are but one example of the leadership individuals can exercise within their community. They are also an example of how communities and their members can work towards building bridges between Canada’s official language minority communities and the majorities. Therefore, it’s quite fitting that the QCGN named and established an award that recognizes individuals like Dr. Goldbloom and Mrs. Goldbloom, who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in contributing to the English-speaking community’s vitality.
While I spoke of leadership—both within the public service and within communities—we must not forget that the Act has always been more than a set of rules about language within the public service. From the very beginning, it has been about respect—for individuals, among communities and across cultures. Despite the challenges faced over the past five decades, English-speaking Quebecers have accepted their evolving society with grace and respect, adapting to the social changes around them and continuing to be active, committed participants in their communities. The linguistic duality and diversity of these communities help build countless bridges within Quebec and across Canada.
This year’s three winners—Mr. Richard Walling, Mr. Alex K. Paterson and Ms. Elsa Bolam—and indeed, all the nominees, embody these values. Through their work and leadership in the health, education and cultural sectors, respectively, these individuals have gone above and beyond the call of duty in contributing to the vitality of the English-speaking community. They are also examples of community leadership and my hope is that the recognition of their work will inspire others to follow in their footsteps.
In closing, I offer my heartfelt congratulations to the winners and to all the nominees. I commend the QCGN for this inspired award and wish you all continued success in the years to come.