ARCHIVED - Ottawa, September 9, 2009

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Forty years of language debates as seen by political cartoonists: Graham Fraser wants us to reflect and smile

Graham Fraser, Commissioner of Official Languages, opened an exhibition in Ottawa today that traces the 40-year history of the Official Languages Act as seen through the lens of the political cartoon. “The cartoons are a way of reliving the often passionate debates that have marked the path of Canadian bilingualism, and of highlighting this important anniversary. By presenting them to the public, I hope to give people an opportunity to reflect, but also to smile,” said the Commissioner.

“These cartoons, which capture popular sentiment at specific points in time, are part of Canadian history,” explained Mr. Fraser. “People who lived through those debates will remember the passions they raised, and younger people will find in them a different way of discovering a slice of Canadian history.”

The exhibition Déjà Vu: 40 Years of Language and Laughter in Political Cartoons was created in cooperation with Library and Archives Canada.

“What we should keep in mind is that the Anglophone space and the Francophone space express different worldviews, and that the ability to speak these languages grants access to these spaces and to their riches, their ideas, their democratic traditions and, of course, their markets,” says Daniel J. Caron, Librarian and Archivist of Canada.

Through 68 cartoons drawn by 30 artists from all over the country, the exhibition takes up some of the major themes that have marked language-related stories over the past 40 years. Among other subjects, the cartoons remind us of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism and of official language issues in the public service—and even on the hockey rink! “The various themes make us realize how debates on official languages affect Canadian citizens beyond the political arena,” said Mr. Fraser. “We also see the skill with which the cartoonists have captured the nuances and different points of view on language issues. They cast an insightful eye on current events and force us to rethink our attitudes and positions.” 

The main exhibition will be installed until December 2009 at the Library and Archives Canada building in Ottawa, a short distance from Parliament. A smaller version of the exhibition is now on the road and will be presented in many Canadian cities. The regularly updated schedule for these traveling exhibitions is available on the Office of the Commissioner’s Web site.

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The exhibition opening will be held on September 9 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Library and Archives Canada building at 395 Wellington Street. Guests will include cartoonists Guy Badeaux (Bado) and Terry Mosher (Aislin), and the event will be hosted by columnist Paul Wells and improvisational comedy troupe Improtéine.

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Robin Cantin
Manager, Media Relations
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