Sunday, April 25, 2010

Bill 232 Pot Pourri

Bill C-232, An Act to amend the Supreme Court Act (understanding the official languages), would in Lorne Gunter's words:

...amend the Supreme Court Act to insist that all future appointees to our highest court be fluently bilingual, and not just fluent in conversational French and English, but in both official legalistic languages. It will make it a prerequisite for justices to be able to hear all cases without the aid of translation.

Forget whether the bill is a good or bad thing for a moment (although more on that towards the end), Gunter makes note of something interesting:

There is almost no chance of stopping Bill C-232. It passed the House of Commons late last month with all three opposition caucuses voting for it. Only the Tories voted against, but even they didn't kick up much of a fuss, so most Canadians were unaware the bill was even being discussed.

He's quite right: looking through the Open Parliament references , you find a whole three pages worth of MP debate on this bill, extending from about May of 2009 until the end of March 2010. Of the Tory Caucus, only Terence Young, James Lunney, Ed Fast, Jacques Gourde, and Steven Blaney bother to raise the government's objections. Furthermore, their arguments come slathered in rhetorical goo touting the Conservatives commitment to official bilingualism. This is an interesting contrast to the response from grassroots conservatives, which has veered towards the apocalyptic. So what's going on? Clearly, the government is walking on egg-shells over C-232.

One possibility, that Gunter raises but seems to discount, is that the Tory strategy is to let the bill die in the Senate. With a government plurality in the upper chamber, that seems a likely outcome, especially since the new Senators tend to vote like CPoC back-benchers, and since independent Senator Elaine McCoy has expressed her disapproval of the bill in fairly strong language.

Beyond that, there is some question as to how onerous the new requirement would actually be. Max Yalden writes that

[Dan] Gardner is not altogether accurate when he says that the proposed bill would "bar anyone who is not fully fluent" in the two languages from appointment to the Supreme Court. What it says is that a person may be appointed who "understands French and English without the assistance of an interpreter" which is a quite different, and less demanding, criterion.

This point gets expanded upon in Ms. McCoy's comments section:

Drastically less demanding. And I'm sure you know that simply understanding speech is quite different from the requirement to be fully bilingual, or be able to speak or write fluently. And you are too canny to confuse the difference between interpreters and translators. The bill has the very mild aim that the Supreme Court meet the same basic standard as all other courts, the Federal Court, Tax Court, Court of Appeal, etc., which have all had the same requirement for years now, with no noticeable problem. It is a standard the Supreme Court has itself approved and advanced, for all other Federal courts and institutions. And eight of the nine current Supreme Court justices currently meet that mild criterion of oral understanding, and it was nine of nine until recently, and I know of no-one that has accused those courts' composition as evidence of lower legal standards...

In any case, the line of defense being taken by some opponents of C-232--that it will exclude Westerners and/or Conservatives--from the bench (because appointees will now come disproportionately from the Liberal hotbed of central Canada) seems misguided. In so far as it seems like a demand for affirmative action on behalf of monolingual Albertans. The obvious response seems to be that if Westerners and/or Conservatives want to have their representatives on the Supreme Court, they should get up off their asses and learn French.

65 comments:

Marky Mark said...

Seems to me you can't have it both ways-if the idea is that the standard of bilingualism is only low enough to be able to order lunch, then that doesn't lead to the justices being able to understand and discuss complex legal issues---and if it means the highest level of bilingualism, then the facts are clear that that will cut out a ton of the best candidates.


Iggy also has said on this issue that "we are a bilingual country." That may be desirable, but we aren't, and "official bilingualism" was never articulated as meaning we were a bilingual country.

Gayle said...

There is no chance that SCC appointments will be limited to central Canada.

There are three justices from Quebec, three from Ontario, one from BC, one from the Maritimes and one from the prairie provinces.

What is a concern is that so few lawyers and judges are fluent in legal French in the west that the talent pool is too limited to ensure the best legal mind is appointed.

And there is no way someone fluent in conversational French only is going to be able to follow a legal argument in French.

Gayle said...

If the senate kills this bill I am going to laugh and laugh while all the tiny tories contort themselves into justifying why the senate subverted the will of parliament.

Marky Mark said...

I agree with that--I think it's a bad bill that passed with zero debate and no public awareness...but I don't think the unelected Senate should kill any bills at all.

Once enacted it either will become a divisive wedge issue and/or it will be watered down with regulations to the point that bilingualism will be defined as the ability to order a Big Mac in either official language and nothing more.

Shiner said...

What is a concern is that so few lawyers and judges are fluent in legal French in the west that the talent pool is too limited to ensure the best legal mind is appointed.

Nonsense.

First, we're not talking about f'ing Ezra Levant, we're talking about the best legal minds in Canada. If you have any interest in the law on a national level in Canada you will have encountered french before.

Second, as BCL says in the post, we're talking about a judge's ability to understand french, not his ability to pick up chicks in the Saguenay. It takes junior policy advisors in Ottawa (with no experience in french) a couple months of language training to get an exemption for comprehension. Surely someone with the intelligence is requires to become a Supreme Court judge and the resources that suggests can pick up french if they have any interest in the job.

Marky Mark said...

shiner,

But the law doesn't say that someone appointed would be requried to commit to learning French-they'd already have to have become fluent enough to satisfy whatever standard is included in the law.

This law is akin to a constitutional change and it seems reckless to me thatit could have gotten this far with what appears to have been no debate and no broader public awareness or scrutiny.

I fear that this is a case of excessive regulation done for symbolic reasons by people who don't really understand how the SCC works.

Obviously it's desirable that all justices be completely bilingual at the highest level but there are a multitude of other considerations that go into an appointment.

When Ignatieff says that "we are a bilingual country" it just shows me that he neither read Trudeau's "Federalism and the French Canadians" nor understood the rationale for official bilingualism when that public debate took place.

bigcitylib said...

MM,

I'm not yet convinced that the law is that horrible, but what I find surprising is that the gov. would have let it get this far without raising much of a stink over it. Esp if their secret opinion is that its horrible.

Marky Mark said...

BCL,

Very surprising but did they have the votes to kill it?

I also don't think the law is a disaster but am struck by the rationale. If it is sold as an extension of official bilingualism, that is one thing, but Iggy's rationale expressed in your link is news is and of itself. Official bilingualism was fought for with the rationale that we needed equal access to federal institutions. The argument was never that we were to become a bilingual country. That argument was in fact the attack against the policy and now that statement proves the attack wasn't loony (unless you think in making too much of one statement).

TP said...

Maybe the Cons want this to pass so they can continue to call themselves the only worthy party for western voters.

Blair said...

Affirmative Action for Westerners? Hardly the case.

There a couple of important things you need to remember. This is a federal initiative. Education is a matter of provincial jurisdiction.

French in western Canada doesn't exist anymore. I'm about as Western Canadian (SK) as you can get--other than not being a Conservative supporter--and I have a Belgian/Ukranian ancestry. None of us younger than the grandparent level speak French anymore; our grandparents grasp of the language is weak.

So not only is there no cultural exposure to the language, our provincial education systems don't put a huge amount of emphasis on it. There are 3 major issues: monolingual educators who barely speak the language teaching it; a lack of cultural immersion makes the education impractical and confines it to the classroom, not allowing us to practice; and it is an elective in upper years so, considering the first 2 point, many elect to take different electives, more relevant to their lives. My significant other is working on her education degree right now, in fact. Her goal is to get into curriculum development and change how we teach French in Western Canada. She's from British Columbia and loves French but despite that her education was insufficient to prepare her. Is that her fault? Reality is it is a lot harder to learn French out here than in central Canada or parts of Atlantic.

My final point is this: taking pot shots at "affirmative action for monolingual Albertans" is part of the reasons Liberals can't win seats West of Ontario anymore. It is akin to Conservatives scoffing at latte-sipping big city Liberals. Frankly, we are disadvantaged when it comes to French education--not stupid and backwards.

Ti-Guy said...

"My final point is this: taking pot shots at "affirmative action for monolingual Albertans" is part of the reasons Liberals can't win seats West of Ontario anymore."

There it is. Alberta equals the West.

Albertans won't vote Liberal anyway. I mean, what chance is there when potshots from hapless bloggers are understood as Official Liberal Policy?

It's hopeless. And people are tired of being subjected to this emotional blackmail by Albertans who have no intention of voting anything but Conservative anyway.

bigcitylib said...

Hapless?

Gayle said...

Blair is correct. I assume the fact the substantive part of his argument was ignored in favour of yet another tiresome jab at Albertans means that others recognize the merit of his position.

Ti-Guy said...

We're all hapless. It's not an insult.

Ti-Guy said...

"that others recognize the merit of his position."

I personally don't care anymore. Vote NDP again.

bigcitylib said...

Blair and Gayle, not to sound unsympathetic, if this law comes into force then if anyone out West has ambitions for the Supreme Court, they had better find themselves a good French teacher one way or another. Being orginally from BC, I realize that the Francophone presence out there is not great and thus learning the language becomes a little more inconvenient. Still, people have managed to do it. If they are lawyers with big dreams out there, they had better figure out the trick.

(Assuming the law actually comes into force)

RuralSandi said...

Perhaps the west would be happy if judges be required to have a Texas accent when necessary (talking Alberta here).

Medical people have to learn Latin for their jobs.

Shiner said...

BCL, exactly. Everyone's acting like these names are picked out of a hat. A seat on the Supreme Court is something you work towards. Harper doesn't call you up Monday morning and say "Hey, got some great news, but you better run out to Chapters and pick up a Becherelle!"

Blair said...

BCL,

I see what you're saying and you know what, I do agree with you that it's fine, if unnecessary--depending on the degree of fluency required. There are a lot of folks from Ottawa and Montreal who are expressing concern though, and those are arguably the most bi-lingual places in the country.

The anti-Western sentiments in here frustrate me though. More than anything I took issue with your "affirmative action" dig.

Shiner said...

I wish Westerners would buck up and stop being so delicate. You've been heaping scorn on Ontarians and Quebecois for decades and act shocked when it comes back around.

Blair said...

"I wish Westerners would buck up and stop being so delicate. You've been heaping scorn on Ontarians and Quebecois for decades and act shocked when it comes back around."

See, and people out here would argue that the federal government licks the feet of Quebec and Ontario and ignores the West--a trend we've seen since Trudeau. A lot of people think Ontarians are pompous asses and Quebecers are whiny and sensitive. What I'm saying is maybe as a nation we shouldn't generalize entire regions; each region has legitimate differences and grievances. I'm also saying that Central Canadian Liberals pretty much can't win a seat west of Ontario and maybe the attitude you just showed explains why.

Sorry about how off-topic this got.

Ti-Guy said...

"You've been heaping scorn on Ontarians and Quebecois for decades and act shocked when it comes back around."

Isn't that the truth.

Shiner said...

I'm also saying that Central Canadian Liberals pretty much can't win a seat west of Ontario and maybe the attitude you just showed explains why.

What attitude? I'm a born and raised Ottawan. I've spent my adult life listening to Westerners shit all over my city, my province, and my country. For our laziness, our stupidity, our apparent elitism, and our frenchness. It rolls off my back, I have better stuff to do than sit around and consider how Albertans might feel about me. For a good while I did care, it's why I signed up with the CPC, then I got sick of the sense of victimhood.

And this is on topic, it gets right to the point. You might not think this is an East-West issue, but that's certainly how it's been framed. It's the damned frenchmen and their sissy Ontario cousins picking on the poor unilingual Westerner who is supposedly being locked out of the Supreme Court.

Blair said...

Your site claims you are a 20-something, so you and I are around the same age. I'm a born and raised Saskatchewan farm boy. I've spent my whole life listening to Central Canadians call Westerners hillbillies, uneducated, conservative bigots, ect. My friend who is going to U of T went there and dealt with people asking her how she missed "her simple life back home". Generalizations go both ways.

As far as a sense of victimization goes the west does have a lot to complain about; being born and raised in Ottawa means you haven't lived it so I don't expect you to get it. I don't understand all of Quebec's issues, I don't understand all of Ontario's issues. That doesn't mean I won't admit that they exist. Do people out here need to move on from things like the NEP? Absolutely. Has western Canada been left out in the past? Absolutely.

It isn't simply about the "damned Frenchmen and their sissy Ontario cousins picking on the poor unilingual Westerner". Rob Silver--a bilingual, Montreal-born, Toronto-residing lawyer who is, I believe, friends with BCL--has expressed concern over this bill on the G&M because outside of 15% of the population most people couldn't even speak both languages basically, much less learn the legal jargon in 2 separate languages. This excludes people raised outside of Montreal and Ottawa, not just Westerners. Is it a Western issue? Absolutely.

As I said in an above post and as BCL alluded to in his post the biggest issue here is degree. At a certain level of expertise and grasp of each language this would discriminate against a lot of people who, unlike yourself, weren't fortunate enough to grow up in a bilingual city. If it is extreme it could be discriminatory. If it isn't, it is unnecessary and just a way to make Quebecers happy.

It's actually kind of funny, you complain about westerners the way that we complain about Quebecers. A bunch of teary-eyed spoiled children. Interesting to see that perspective.

Gayle said...

Blair nails this whole issue.

God knows I am sick of hearing Albertans whine about the big bad east, but at the same time I am sick of being treated like some kind of ignorant hillbilly by people from Ontario and Quebec.

A lot of both happens right here on this blog.

"...if this law comes into force then if anyone out West has ambitions for the Supreme Court, they had better find themselves a good French teacher one way or another."

I don't disagree, but you need to accept there are people who are qualified to sit on the SCC right now who will be excluded once this law takes effect. The window of opportunity for western appointments to the SCC is small (currently it is filled by someone from Manitoba).

The level of fluency necessary to qualify would take years to acquire and, as Blair points out, would be very hard to maintain (my bilingual lawyer friend spent several years in Quebec in order to acquire that level of fluency). On an earlier thread I said that the way to accomplish the desired goal is to make fluency in both official languages a requirement for entry to law school, and then teach law in both official languages. Since a trial in either official language is a Charter right, it makes sense to require all law students to be fluent.

Ti-Guy said...

"I'm a born and raised Saskatchewan farm boy. I've spent my whole life listening to Central Canadians call Westerners hillbillies, uneducated, conservative bigots, ect. My friend who is going to U of T went there and dealt with people asking her how she missed "her simple life back home". Generalizations go both ways."

I don't believe this for a second. I've never heard anyone talk like this except as a reaction to jerks.

Hate to break it to you, but people here don't spend a lot of time talking about Westerners at all, unless one of those idiot politicians like Klein, Lukiwsky or Breitkreuz opens his gob.

Of course, wildly-popular bloggers like KKKate MacMillan from Delisle, Sask. don't help dispell these negative stereotypes, but I digress...

Ti-Guy said...

"A lot of both happens right here on this blog."

When have you been personally disrespected on this blog except by the trolls, a good proportion of which are Western Canadians, by the way?

Marky Mark said...

I believe that the debate here has now surpassed the debate in the House both in terms of duration and quality.

Gayle, once you start saying bilingualism is a prerequisite to entry to law school you're taking bilingualism to a level never contemplated by the architects of our official bilingualism policy. When those architects were attacked for trying to make everyone bilingual, their response was that they were merely trying to make official federal institutions bilingual so that "French Canadians" would feel at home in Canada and not be narrowed to Quebec.

There are pros and cons but on this issue I believe the value of a bilingual (whatever that may mean) Supreme Court is symbolic alone and is outweighed by a whole host of other considerations. Some of those considerations also are symbolic and some are substantive.

While not really explored in this debate, this law, even if enacted, is open to a Charter challenge anyway (although perhaps not one that is likely to succeed).

Marky Mark said...

Today's column from Lysiane Gagnon speaks to this point:

"Now, I’m not one of those French Canadians who wants every major federal post to go to a bilingual person. I’m totally opposed to a bill tabled by NDP MP Yvon Godin that would call for all future Supreme Court of Canada appointees to be bilingual. This is an unrealistic idea that is dangerous to boot, since it would greatly diminish the pool of qualified candidates and virtually exclude candidates from the Western provinces. The bill was adopted by the Commons and is now being examined by the Senate, which will hopefully reject it....The Supreme Court has fine legal translators, and its decisions can be read in both languages. As for the so-called right of citizens to be directly understood in their native language by all the members of a Supreme Court panel, this is bogus. There is not a high-level tribunal in the world that goes by such a rule, neither at the UN nor at The Hague or the European Union. That’s what interpreters are for. Lower courts should accommodate, when possible, the desire of the accused to be tried in his native language, but the Supreme Court is an appellate court that studies written material and where most representations are made by lawyers. In any case, the matters that land in front of the Supreme Court are so complex that the level of bilingualism required would have to be extraordinarily high – to a degree that a large majority of functionally bilingual people can never reach..."

Gayle said...

"I don't believe this for a second. I've never heard anyone talk like this except as a reaction to jerks."

You have never heard it so it must not be true? Or, when you have heard it the person "deserved it"?

Hate to break it to you, but the notion that Albertans are hicks is not at all uncommon in central Canada. I have been exposed to it both professionally and personally, since I do a lot of collaborative work with colleagues in Ontario and Quebec.

When you talk about Albertans generally (and you do), I take that personally. I would do the same if you talked that way about women too.

Marky Mark said...

In fairness an opposing view from Chantal Hebert.

Gene Rayburn said...

Now here I am in Vancouver thinking that BC was part of the west. Thanks Blair for clearing that up. I guess those Liberal seats we have must have disqualified us.

Niles said...
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Niles said...

"French in western Canada doesn't exist anymore." states Blair.

Blair, it might be that in your family you don't speak French anymore. --I for one don't speak German despite the two previous (born in canada) generations being fluent. My friend doesn't speak Ukrainian despite the previous two generations (born in canada) being fluent--

I also was born/raised in an anglo --mostly-- Saskatchewan community, with family ties across the West. But I was taught my educational French --as were two generations of family-- by a Saskfrancois, who came from a francaphone *community* in the South of the province, so I can't let this "doesn't exist" go unchallenged or I'd get a boot to the head from a ghost.

French is a noisy, living heritage and presence for Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta --I presume the same for BC, I just don't have the personal experience there-- It's settler descendants and Metis, not to mention recent immigrants from Francaphone colonized nations, so...wtf with the casual wiping out of a significant part of the entire region, let alone Saskatchewan, Blair? Batoche ring a bell?

There are federal statutes on bilingualism services across the country, because there are francaphones across the country and-have-been-since-New-France.

This is not to say they don't feel turned invisible, and not always by just the anglophones. I have been privileged to listen to uhm...passionate commentary around a pub table regarding Quebecers acting as if la belle province is the only french presence in 'town'. aiaiai.

(ti-guy, you ever get that sort of talk?)

In any case, I'm not concerned about "the West" missing out on Court appointments due to monolinguality, and I'm not sure why Blair's leaping to that conclusion, unless he thinks all candidates from "the West" are going to be White Anglo Men Of A Certain Age Who Shouldn't Have To Change.

Since he's in his 20 somethings, even Blair could prep for such an appointment if he sat his law degree and then went and practised in francaphone areas for the Crown, and then worked his way up the Court levels as a judge.

Ti-Guy said...

You have never heard it so it must not be true?

I said "I didn't believe it."

Or, when you have heard it the person "deserved it"?

Overwhelmingly, yes.

I'm starting to wonder if maybe some people are getting their experience of class/cultural prejudice from watching too many American sitcoms and movies in which the main characters venture into the heartland and spend the whole time sneering at the rustics and their quaint habits. Canada, even the East just doesn't have extensive cosmopolitan enclaves sufficiently buffered from the hinterland to make that type of prejudice remotely believable, let alone humorous. The thing you notice about Montreal and Ottawa (and to a lesser extent Toronto, since it really is a massive urban zone) is how quickly you get can get out them to be smack-dab in what are substantially remote and isolated areas.

When you talk about Albertans generally (and you do), I take that personally.

Well that's too bad. Grow a thicker skin. You give that kind of stuff power by reacting to it. In any case, I'm used to a culture where people use that kind of slagging to "go one better"; to one-up the offender with something wittier to signal that the offender has met his match. It's a kind of competitive banter.

Bottom line though, you still don't know how *furious* I got (and still am) over popular Ralph Klein's antics with respect to the Iraq invasion. And Alberta's ability to vote in a bloc to keep that martinet Harper in power isn't helping. That some Albertans end up collaterally damaged by *hurt feelings* from generalisations doesn't begin to compare to any of that.

Blair said...

Holy, so much to respond to!

Gene:
B.C. has 5 Liberal seats, hardly overwhelming. Like Conservatives being unable to win in Quebec--they still have a few seats. I didn't mean it literally, would you prefer "barely win a seat".

Ti-Guy:
Ti-Guy, I find it humorous that you hate how 64% of Albertans voted for a national party, electing 27 seats but you haven't mentioned your fury over 38% of Quebecers electing 49 members of a separatist party... or how furious Westerners get when Jean Charest goes to Copenhagen and slams western provinces. Like I've been saying, the animosity goes both ways and, like I also said, maybe we shouldn't generalize to entire regions because we just exacerbate it.

Niles:
95% of the Saskatchewan population is English speaking only (StatsCanada, 2006). There are a couple of French communities in the province, yes. Gravelbourg, for example. However, they aren't a "noisy, living heritage" anymore. Maybe back when you were in the province, but today it just doesn't really exist. Some people can speak it as a second language but because of the monolingual nature of the province they don't use it. I'm not "casually wiping them out" I'm just saying that they are not a substantial force in this province, and the % of French speakers is declining. Heck, even back during the B+B Commission Saskatchewan was one of the most vocal opponents of bilingualism in the country.

Not everyone will be the white anglo male (I'm not sure why you picked male over female) but the demographics out here show that they don't speak French. That is just a reality. Heck, only 1.8% of Newfoundlanders speak a language other than English--they are worse off than us.

My concern, as I've stated, has to do with the degree of bilingualism required. It takes 3 years to learn all the legal definitions, cases and terms in English, followed by a year of articling. Considering that when they hit first-year University most SK students can barely do basic French how are they to re-learn their entire education in French?
If they want basic bilingualism, that's fine. I am totally ok with it, and I support it. In fact, as Hebert points out most of our judges are already bilingual! If they need to completely and fully understand the law in both official languages then yes, I think that is silly and really puts virtually anyone outside of Montreal and Ottawa in a position where they are extremely disadvantaged. As I pointed out, a bilingual, Quebec born lawyer (Rob Silver) has pointed out on his G&M blog that this is potentially a really bad thing!

I don't see the need for the bill at all really. Here is where my Westerner bias really shows and I'm sure I'll get slammed for it, but I don't think we need ANOTHER symbolic recognition of Quebec's language--the judges are all bilingual anyways.

I think I'm beating my head against a brick wall here. Y'all (har har) clearly disagree with me so there isn't much of a point in kicking a dead horse.

Ti-Guy said...

Ti-Guy, I find it humorous that you hate how 64% of Albertans voted for a national party, electing 27 seats but you haven't mentioned your fury over 38% of Quebecers electing 49 members of a separatist party...

I take it you think I'm a Quebecer? I'm a francophone from Ontario, born and raised.

Not all francophones are from Québec, you know. There's a population of Saskatchewan's-worth of us living outside Québec.

I'm an ardent federalist. The Bloc can go to Hell, despite it being a better opposition in Parliament than the C.R.A.P. ever were.

Blair said...

Oh no, I just meant that 90% of the animosity felt in Western Canada is felt towards Quebec.

What I found humorous is that I could take your sentence and change the names and it would be something you could hear out west in a political discussion.

I am glad we see eye-to-eye of the BQ!

Ti-Guy said...

I just meant that 90% of the animosity felt in Western Canada is felt towards Quebec.

Well, that's a certainly a relief.

*rolls eyes*

Blair said...

" I got (and still am) over popular Ralph Klein's antics with respect to the Iraq invasion. And Alberta's ability to vote in a bloc to keep that martinet Harper in power isn't helping."

No different than western animosity to Quebec.

*thumbs up*

Gayle said...

Hmmm

Saying you don't believe something usually means you think it is untrue.

And who mentioned hurt feelings? I am not so delicate as that. When I say I take your comments anout Albertans personally, I mean I take them to refer to me as well, what with my being an Albertan and all. I get the whole "using exaggeration for effect" thing, but it is misplaced here.

Gene Rayburn said...

Nice try Blair, changing the goalposts might work in Conbot land but it's a piss weak defense.

Keep beating your head against that wall. It's working!

Blair = fail!!!

dupmar said...

It's a bit of a farce that Canada lays claim to a francophone cultural heritage and membership in " La Francophonie", then objects to French language competence by Supreme Court justices. You can't have it both ways, either the claim to "La Francophonie" is justified or Canada should withdraw from membership in this body.

This is hardly unexpected, the country as a whole, and proposed applicants to the Supreme Court, have had close to 50 years to prepare themselves since the days of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism.

If competence in both official languages is expected of our political leaders and Governor General, why shouldn't it be expected of Supreme Court Justices.

You may want to consider the fact that bilingual ability is a requisite to graduation for every graduate of our much maligned University of Ottawa, should Supreme Court justices be held to a lesser standard.

Not to mention that competence in a second language is a requisite to graduation in every PhD program in the land. I raised the issue on blogging tory blogs and suggested they campaign against this linguistic "injustice" against graduate students. Since a PhD is a requisite to most teaching positions, are those arguing against the legislation arguing that our Supreme Court justices be held to a lesser standard than any university professor in Canada.

I take note that the blogging tories have initiated a " culture war" on the issue of bilingual requirements for Supreme Court justices and have commented on same on their blogs. Do Liberals wish to join in this pursuit, complaining about " French language crap" as they so eloquently put it.

There is a great deal of arrogance in the claim that Alberta speaks for " the West" on this and related cultural matters. From what I can see, such arguments are being put forward not by the government of Alberta, but rather by self-appointed spokespersons who claim to speak for "the West".

As a francophone born and raised, for a period of my youth, in Manitoba, I would certainly counter that not all of western Canada shares such narrow-minded bigotry. It is quite true that major efforts have been made over the past century plus to eradicate French language and culture in Western Canada, unsuccessful to date. Per my last visit to my father's hometown in rural Manitoba, the current generation is still receiving their primary education in French.

Perhaps our Supreme Court justices, and would-be justices, might take the hint and acquire necessary competence, including competence in both of Canada's official languages.

Ti-Guy said...

No different than western animosity to Quebec.

How morally vacuous. There's a vast difference between supporting an immoral, illegal war promoted with outright lies (which were known to be lies at the time) that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and being miffed at the legitimate criticism of exploiting a filthy fossil fuel reserve.

Ti-Guy said...

Saying you don't believe something usually means you think it is untrue.

I cannot know how true it is. But knowing I don't believe it is something I can assert with confidence.

It's a fine distinction, but it is honest. I don't believe Blair. And the more he comments, the less credible he becomes.

Blair said...
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Blair said...

I don't know what you're talking about with the changing of the goalpoasts, Gene. Seeing as how you think that 7/92 western seats, and 5/36 BC seats doesn't constitute a massive failure of the Liberal Party to break into western Canada maybe you shouldn't be calling people fail.

Anyways, might as well just drop it. My western-flavoured Liberal opinion clearly isn't welcome in here. Too bad. This is why I hate being a Liberal in SK.

Gayle said...

"From what I can see, such arguments are being put forward not by the government of Alberta, but rather by self-appointed spokespersons who claim to speak for "the West"."

I do not know anyone who is doing this, but if you are referring to some of the comments here, I really do not understand this. Are people not entitled to express their opinions based on their own life experiences? I do not think those of us who speak from our own experience and knowledge are the arrogant ones here.

"I would certainly counter that not all of western Canada shares such narrow-minded bigotry."

What narrow minded bigotry are you referring to?

"Not to mention that competence in a second language is a requisite to graduation in every PhD program in the land."

Really? I don't have a PhD but the people I know who do are definately unilingual. Perhaps the standard of "competence" is subject to interpretation?

I remember when I started university we were required to study a second language. I chose French since I studied it for 6 years in grade school. On the written exam I scored high enough to be placed in the advanced class. On my first day in class I realized how bad my oral French was. I could not understand a word they were saying, and stupidly dropped out instead of toughing it out (18 year olds do not always make the best life decisions). I took a lower level course on written French instead, passed it with flying colours, and then never used the language in Alberta again. I did use it in Quebec and France though.

Ti-Guy said...

My western-flavoured Liberal opinion clearly isn't welcome in here.

It's coming off as anti-French.

Western Liberals are more than welcome here. When they existed in greater numbers, they were a breath of fresh air compared to the establishment type they represent in the East.

Feynman and Coulter's Love Child said...

The obvious response seems to be that if Westerners and/or Conservatives want to have their representatives on the Supreme Court, they should get up off their asses and learn French.

What if we want to do something more important with our lives, like vacuum the same tiny piece of carpet over and over again, or sharpen pencils endlessly?

Blair said...

What I've been trying to demonstrate--apparently really poorly--is that in some ways this bill can be seen as anti-western and other than Gayle the views in here seem anti-western.

dupmar said...

Gayle,

My comment on " narrow-minded bigotry" was not directed at you, I thought you could judge from the context of the statement that it was being directed against those on blogging tory blogs who are waging a "culture war" against the French language and the French fact in Canada on their blogs.

Their intent could not be clearer.
They are tired of having to put up with this cultural duality, and want Quebec out of Canada. Then they will turn their attention to the historic tasks their forefathers failed to achieve and clean out any remaining pockets of francophony in what remains of Canada. Such views find currency daily on blogging tory blogs addressing the issue.

And yes, second language proficiency is a requisite of PhD programs, the fact that some less than proficient people manage to obtain a degree is simply a reflection of the gap between a stated standard and reality.

Sort of like the fact that French language proficiency is a requirement for a medical degree in Quebec, yet sovereignist blogger Angry French Guy recounts from his personal narrative how family members who were denied French language service in Montreal hospitals by doctors whose first question was " do you speak English".

Which is why the debate is over something which will largely be symbolic, they will find a way to lingustically incompetent judges bilingual, but that is another story. The current preoccupation is with those who seek to eradicate any, even largely symbolic, reference to cultural duality and the official recognition of the French language in Canada.

dupmar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gayle said...

"They are tired of having to put up with this cultural duality, and want Quebec out of Canada."

Now they do, but when it appeared Harper was making inroads in Quebec they were all for Quebec staying.

I am not sure it is about the culture so much as it is about the politics. Quebecers seem to support more government involvement and government programs. RIght wing wing nuts fear that - especially when said government involvement is successful.

Blair said...

I think it has to do with the perception that Bernier outlined--that Quebecers are spoiled children always wanting more; issues where Trudeau, Mulroney and Chretien all chose Quebec's interests over the west; Quebec making demands from Canada when they take so much equalization. That sort of thing. I think a lot of the language issues are seen as straws breaking camel's backs out here.

I think that Westerner's wouldn't want Quebec out of Canada if we saw them as giving something to this country--I'd like to add that I think Quebec does contribute and the views I am describing aren't a dogma I ascribe to but I do think they encompass a lot of the feelings out here--and not just making demands.

So a lot of Westerner's see this as just another move in a long list of moves to appease Quebec and it could, possibly, negatively impact them.

That's my take,and to a more nuanced extent, my feelings on the matter.

dupmar said...

The Harper government itself isn't saying a great deal on this issue, but they are giving free rein to those on the blogging tory aggregate to run with the issue, and in their minds it is about "culture", their vision of Canada and grievances directed at Quebec.

This despite the fact the private member's bill was presented not by a Bloc MP, but from a francophone New Brunswick Member of Parliament.

No need to get distracted by the facts, in their minds Canada outside Quebec remains some monolithic unilingual bloc with a bit of Mandarin, Spanish and Hindi thrown in for diversity and this is all about "appeasing Quebec". Quite so, in a simpleton's worldview, French Canada can be reduced to Quebec, much as western Canada can be reduced to Alberta.

And then they invariably claim they are quite prepared to learn a second language, but would much prefer that it be Mandarin, Spanish or Hindi rather than French, since French is so impractical and limiting, not that they actually intend to expand their cultural boundaries with any such efforts.

As for their affinity to alternative cultural choices such as Spanish, I think the recent hue and cry on various blogging tory blogs over Hispanic presence in our neighbouring Republic and the cultural imposition made by such presence gives a true measure of such alleged sympathies.

Gene Rayburn said...

Who are these westerners that you speak of Bliar? You know you don't speak for all of us Bliar.

Please refer to yourself as a Saskabertan from now on.

Gene Rayburn said...

"This is why I hate being a Liberal in SK."

Bollocks Bliar. That's a weak attempt at a concern troll though.

Gayle said...

"Who are these westerners that you speak of Bliar? You know you don't speak for all of us Bliar."

And some people around here say I am the one who is too sensitive.

At what point did Blair say he spoke for all westerners? I think it is quite apparent he is giving his perspective as someone who lives in Saskatchewan - what with his whole "I live in Saskatchewan" disclosure earlier in this thread.

Why so many people attack him for giving his opinion is beyond me. For what it is worth, as someone who has lived in Alberta all my life, and who has travelled extensively throughout the province, and in Saskatchewan, and in northern and other parts of rural BC, I would say his take on things is pretty much in line with my experience. I have family in the Okanagan, and I really love northern BC so generally travel out there every couple of years or so. I even talk to the people I meet while travelling.

You may not agree, as is your right, but calling him a liar instead of bringing your own perspective into the discussion is hardly what I would call reasoned debate.

I must say I am astonished at the anger and vitriol directed towards someone just because they propose a perspective that contradicts your own.

Marky Mark said...

I think this thread more or less proves the point that this change in law isn't worth it. I've heard no real support for the law on its merits and instead I've seen rational reasons against the law conflated into bigotry against francophones. Official bilingualism remains the law of the land and people should be able to debate whether this particular law fits within it or not. Certianly Ignatieff's argument that "we are a bilingual country," which also has been argued in this thread, is out of step with official bilingualism.

And don't forget that at the same time as trudeau sold us on official bilingualism successive governments of Quebec have, to various degrees, pursued a policy of unilingualism in Quebec with various measures put in place that restrict the use of English and the rights on anglophones int he name of the "collective" rights of the francophone majority.

If people want to argue either that this law is part and parcel of official bilingualism or that we should expand our policy to move towards being a bilingual country, they should be able to do so without calling those who disagree bigots.

bigcitylib said...

Actually, MM, I was going to write about how little traction the opposition to this bill has actually had. I think it peaked at about a dozen MSM stories and twice as many angry blog posts, and thats it. Unless the Senate kills this thing...quietly...I'm thinking it might actually go through.

I'm starting to wonder if, for most people who might stumble across the story in their paper, they see it as a "lawyer's rights" issue, and not a West vs. East thing or whatever--ie lawyers will have to work harder if they want to reach the Supreme Court. That might explain the lack of outrage. Nobody really cares if lawyers get hassled.

Marky Mark said...

I'm starting to wonder if, for most people who might stumble across the story in their paper, they see it as a "lawyer's rights" issue, and not a West vs. East thing or whatever--ie lawyers will have to work harder if they want to reach the Supreme Court. That might explain the lack of outrage. Nobody really cares if lawyers get hassled.

BCL, that's probably right. As much as I think the law is flawed and that there was precious little debate in the House, in principle I don't think the Senate should kill any bill. What I fear will happen is that once it has become law it will be used as a wedge issue in the next campaign so that the CPC can increase its numbers out west. That's cynical but represents a real calculation for them as they have to feel that they have nothing to lose in Quebec by pursuing that sort of strategy. But the country will suffer.

Niles said...

"is that in some ways this bill can be seen as anti-western and other than Gayle the views in here seem anti-western." says Blair.

Dang son, but you got a big brush and a sloppy hand. I'm beginning to think 'anti-western' is 'anything that doesn't agree with Real Westerner Blair's declarations' the way you've been slathering those broad and broader strokes.

I can't speak for the other born and raised Westerners lurking around BCL's place, but if you're going to hyperventilate about Ti-Guy's Ontariariarioan attempts to goose you in the ass, you might want to step back from dismissing the rest of the Prairie vox pop here and rendering a founding portion of the Canadian West *extinct*. Your words - decreed not just for Saskatchewan but three other provinces (and chunks of Yukon and NWT) to boot.

The bill is anti-western in that you're blinkered enough to see it as anti-western.

I guarantee, the biggest crop out of the "West" has been whingeing about the "East", and it has been since well before Confederation.

Has it occurred even once that a candidate from oh, say Quebec or New Brunswick, has the same linguistic challenge, in reverse? Or is the presumption to be that everyone just natcherly knows Legal Anglais?

Saying that something 'is' isn't always the best reason for it to continue.

Gayle said...

For the record, I don't think this has anything to do with East v West. It's about appointing the best legal minds to the SCC. It is not about the poor lawyers having to learn French, it is about the poor Canadian justice system being weakened by the failure to appoint the best people to the job.

Blair said...

MM-- good points.

BCL--I wonder if the reason that the bill hasn't seen very much discussion is because people see it as more symbolic bilingualism. I think the majority of the public doesn't know the degree of fluency which could potentially be required.

Niles-- I said "This excludes people raised outside of Montreal and Ottawa, not just Westerners." and "Heck, only 1.8% of Newfoundlanders speak a language other than English--they are worse off than us."

Also, I am not declaring French extinct in Saskatchewan. I am, however, saying that it is a massive, massive minority and wasn't really one of the "founding cultures" of Saskatchewan; British, Ukranian and German take that title.