Archived - Notes for an address during a reception at the Centre de la francophonie des Amériques
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Québec City, January 11, 2012
Graham Fraser - Commissioner of Official Languages
Check against delivery
Beginning of dialog
Good evening everyone.
I would like to thank the Centre de la francophonie des Amériques for this lovely reception and for the very interesting tour of the Centre. I would also like to congratulate Mr. Roy and Mr. Desgagnés for their excellent work. I have a lot of respect for the work that Jean-Louis and Denis have accomplished in their careers, and I applaud the Government of Quebec for their appointments. They are both major assets for the French-speaking community.
By fostering exchanges, partnerships and the development of Francophone networks, the Centre de la francophonie des Amériques helps to promote the Canadian Francophonie and enhance the vitality of official language minority communities. As Canada’s commissioner of official languages, it is an honour for me to be here with you to celebrate how far we have come.
We have come a long way since the Official Languages Act was adopted in 1969. It is now much easier for French-Canadians to receive services in French and for their communities to thrive. Challenges remain, however, as evidenced by the newspaper coverage this past year.
As we begin a brand new year, it seems like a good time to take stock of the situation. Language made the headlines quite a few times in 2011: a unilingual English-speaking Supreme Court judge, auditor general, Caisse de depot executives and Montréal Canadiens coach. What struck me most this past year is that the French-speaking community spoke up for itself—loud and clear. This is good news.
As we begin a brand new year, I am still optimistic. The controversy surrounding the appointments has shown that both English- and French-speaking Canadians have higher expectations. The bar has been raised. I sincerely believe that, by continuing to demonstrate strong, consistent leadership in Canada’s French-speaking community as a whole, we will continue to foster a North American culture that respects and values the French language.
Not all the signs are negative, however. For the first time, a majority of provincial premiers are bilingual, as are eight out of the nine NDP leadership candidates. The Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, the Chief of the Defence Staff, the Clerk of the Privy Council, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism all come from Western Canada and are all bilingual.
In 2012, Québec City is hosting two major events celebrating French language and culture. In May, the Forum de la francophonie canadienne will feature a strong arts and culture component. And from July 2 to 6, the Forum mondial de la langue française will bring a thousand people together to discuss the future of the French language. These events will help promote Francophone culture while spotlighting the city of Québec once again.
While it is true that French-speaking North Americans are swimming in a sea of English, and that the coexistence of English and French is a definitive feature of Canada’s identity, in Quebec—the cradle of Francophone culture in Canada—French is at the heart of the “national” identity. We must always remember, however, that the message of the French-speaking world, regardless of whether it originates in Canada or France or any other of the world’s French-speaking countries, is one of inclusion, openness and discovery.
This is my wish for 2012—that this message continues to be spread throughout the world and that it resonates with everyone and in all languages in a positive and inclusive way. The message of the French-speaking world must transcend administrative measures and political commitments. Recognition of French’s equality in Canada must continue to be a value within federal institutions and in Canadian society. This can be achieved not only by stronger leadership from our officials and politicians, but also through greater openness to the world from all Canadians.
I wish you every success and all the best in the new year.