Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bill C-232: The Pro Side

A very interesting read from Lawyer's Weekly re Bill C-232, which provides that in the future, judges of the Supreme Court of Canada must understand English and French without the assistance of an interpreter. My favorite bit is on the accuracy of translations:

So let’s have a closer look at the accuracy of the interpretation at Supreme Court hearings. I argued a case last month in the Supreme Court. When I said, in French, “The Gosset case affirmed the principle of full compensation of the injury”, the interpreter translated “Gosset says that there has to be comprehensive damage”. When I wanted to contrast the civil law and the common law, which adopt different positions on the compensation of grief, I said, in French, that “at common law grief is not compensable”. The interpreter omitted to translate “at common law”, making it sound as if the statement related to the civil law, thus inserting a contradiction in the English version of my argument. Other examples of errors are the translation of “droit commun” (which means general law) by “common law” (a totally different concept), saying that one’s rights were not breached without specifying that I was talking about “Charter rights”, which makes my argument incomprehensible, or saying that the second paragraph of article 1610 of the Civil Code was not applicable when I said that it was.

Overall, the interpretation was good, but inconsistencies, incomplete statements and, indeed, errors such as these necessarily affect the force and the logic of the oral arguments presented. A legal argument is like a chain: if one piece breaks, the whole thing falls apart. Legal language is highly technical and cannot suffer from imprecision.


Yet, I was lucky, as all the members of my seven-judge bench understood French and did not rely on the interpretation provided. Michel Doucet, who argued Charlebois v. St. John (City) in 2005 before a full bench that included Justice Major, was not so lucky. He was shocked when he listened to the English version of his argument on CPAC. The interpreter distorted the meaning of several sentences, omitted a reference to a section of the Charter, and totally omitted to translate a sentence.

Lawyers who appear before the Supreme Court finely hone their arguments and rehearse several times. Each sentence is carefully crafted, especially as time is short. It is not too much to ask that judges understand all the subtlety and the nuance of what is being said, in the language in which it is said.

By the way, if C-232 is considered "well-intentioned", and most people seem to feel that it is, why not ask to Senate to slap a delayed implementation date on it--say 8 years down the road (undergrad degree plus 4 years law school)--so that the current crop of unilinguals get a chance to serve but the next generation of lawyers with SC ambitions can train up to the level required?

65 comments:

Blair said...

The Pro Side? I know I'm kicking a dead horse here and there really isn't anyone other than Gayle--who is also from the west, where the major opposition to this is--on this site who agrees with me but you haven't really presented the con side. I believe there was one post you put up expressing concern?

I actually apologize for how many comments I've left regarding this bill but it makes my blood boil.

Archie said...

One problem with your thinking, in 4-8 years there will be more Chinese speaking Canadians then French speaking and they could legally demand the the Judges be Chinese speaking as well. Were do you stop. Bill C-232 is a legal nightmare, and lucky enough it will die a slow death in the senate

bigcitylib said...

No, I haven't really presented the con side because there is enough of that out there in MSM-land columns and editorials. And, actually, I think as far as this site goes, most of the commentary has been against the bill.

elroy said...

Blair, you have to realize there is no con side here for BCL. Anything which potentially restricts or handicaps the role of western Canadians, and Albertans in particular, in the governance of the country is considered a plus.

Shiner said...

One problem with your thinking, in 4-8 years there will be more Chinese speaking Canadians then French speaking and they could legally demand the the Judges be Chinese speaking as well. Were do you stop. Bill C-232 is a legal nightmare, and lucky enough it will die a slow death in the senate


That's not a problem of thinking for anyone who actually understands what's going on. Canada is officially bilingual. Canadians have a right to services in one of two languages. Chinese is not, nor will it ever be, one of those two languages. Is it too much to ask that before one speaks about this, one puts just a bit of effort into learning about Canada's linguistic history?

R. G. Harvie said...

Perhaps the point is well taken, in some respects.. but really, having a bi-lingual court doesn't remove the problem.

Because the decisions of the Supreme Court are going to be written in one language or the other, n'est pas?

And so, at some point, someone is either going to translate that into English or French, and that decision is going to then have two "meanings" as well.

Because, as the lawyer points out, in law, the language we use often cuts with a fine edge, and any minor change, even in punctation, let alone full language translation, can provide a different meaning.

If we truly strive for consistency, the most logical conclusion would be to use only one language. And to require all argument in that language alone.

The language of world commerce?

English.

Imagine how that would play, however, in la belle Province.

Shiner said...

Imagine how that would play, however, in la belle Province.

Or in France, Germany, Mexico, Japan, Russia etc., etc., etc.

Why is everyone constantly bringing up this "language of the world" tripe when we're not talking about the world, we're talking about a bilingual country.

This is a deceivingly simple issue. A bilingual country should have a bilingual supreme court.

Just put yourself in the shoes of a francophone for a minute. Your family, your community, have been here longer than 99% of the anglos you share the country with. Your ancestors loyalty to the country is based on a historic understanding of your place within this country, a recognition as a minority apart. Yet when you go to the highest court in the land they tell you (theoretically, as many have already pointed out this isn't quite the massive shift people are making this out to be, the Court is bilingual) they call on an interpretor because the people judging your case can't understand the funny words your lawyer is using.

Whenever I see an article railing about this in a local paper I think of all the local Ottawans who hit the roof when Quebec courts have the nerve to deal with their traffic cases en francais. No doubt the same sort that make up the con side of this issue.

R. G. Harvie said...

Ok..

Then pick French.

The point isn't WHICH language, it's that two languages give two meanings.

And it's not as if Quebec is even remotely tollerant of the public use of English.

Shiner said...

And it's not as if Quebec is even remotely tollerant of the public use of English.

Ah, the mask slips.

And Alberta isn't tolerant of the use of French, what on earth is your point? Quebec is an officially unilingual province. What does that have to do with the Supreme Court? Surely as a lawyer you understand the difference between ought and is.

Shiner said...

By the way, nobody seriously believes that this rule would take precedence over the well-established regional basis of the Court right? Are people actually arguing that the Prairies' seat on the Court will be done away with and another seat given to Quebec?

Jerome Bastien said...

Just put yourself in the shoes of a francophone for a minute.

Shiner: I can do that fairly easily, as I am a francophone (and a fluently bilingual lawyer).

This bill is nonsense. I have sympathy for the argument that translation of legal arguments on the fly are not perfect (although confusing 'droit commun' and 'common law' should never happen to a seasoned legal translator). But the proposed fix to this problem is worse than the problem itself, because while there may be some confusion at a hearing, SC judges discuss cases at length post-hearing, and if one judge is confused because of a bad translation, the other judges will help him out.

There simply is no issue in the legal community as to whether SC decisions are wrong because of a mistranslated legal argument. Im not saying its impossible, but its just not an issue.

This bill is about pandering to special interest and identity politics, and about maintaining the notion that French-Canadians are perpetual victims. As a bonus for Liberals, it marginalizes the west.

The Supreme Court has way too much power for it to become an affirmative action type appointment.

Shiner said...

This bill is about pandering to special interest and identity politics, and about maintaining the notion that French-Canadians are perpetual victims. As a bonus for Liberals, it marginalizes the west.

The Supreme Court has way too much power for it to become an affirmative action type appointment.


You completely ignore two things:

1) The purpose of this bill is as much symbolic as practical (you may debate the practical use, but I'm not convinced). As I say above, for me it's as simple as a bilingual country should have a bilingual supreme court. The debate, for me, is useless as long as Canada is officially bilingual. I personally find it absurd that the law tells me (as a hypothetical francophone, I'm Ottawa-Irish) I have a special status as a francophone and yet unilingual anglophones will sit in judgement when I appear at the Court.

2)I haven't seen any evidence at all so far to support the argument that this in any way marginalizes the West. There's a clear equation for selection to the Court and aside from legal credentials, region has always been the dealbreaker. BC, the Prairies, Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic Provinces have their representatives on the bench. Nobody is going to put a cowboy hat on Jean-Philippe from Trois-Rivieres and try to pull a fast one.

Don't pull the affirmative action nonsense, you look foolish. We're talking about a learnable skill, not an ethnicity.

Shiner said...

To add to my previous post, it's incredibly rich for someone whose argument is that where someone is born should be more important than a skill they posess to yelp affirmative action at the other side.

Jerome Bastien said...

Shiner:

As I say above, for me it's as simple as a bilingual country should have a bilingual supreme court.

I agree, and it is. I disagree that every member should be bilingual (enough to hear legal arguments without an interpreter).

I have a special status as a francophone and yet unilingual anglophones will sit in judgement when I appear at the Court.

Why would a hypothetical francophone, or a real one, like me, have 'special status'? I dont think I have a special status, nor do I think I deserve one. Perhaps you should define what you mean by that.

Also, you seem to be confusing trial judges with the Supremes. If Im accused of a crime (or if im involved in a civil matter), I can have a french speaking trial judge. That is not an issue. Trial judges are the ones who "sit in judgment" to borrow your language. Supreme Court judges determine questions of law, not questions of fact.

Never mind the fact that your odds of participating in a case brought to the SC is about 1 in a million, even if you did, you would not actually need to appear at the SC, and witnesses dont testify at the SC.

I haven't seen any evidence at all so far to support the argument that this in any way marginalizes the West.

The bill would mean that the pool of western judges would be reduced to 1 or 2 candidates. This marginalizes the west and makes these appointments, in practice at least, "affirmative action" (at the risk of looking foolish). It's not ethnicity but the salient point is that the candidate is selected based on some characteristic other than his legal qualifications.

Jerome Bastien said...

To add to my previous post, it's incredibly rich for someone whose argument is that where someone is born should be more important than a skill they posess to yelp affirmative action at the other side.

Shiner Im sorry but you totally lost me here. How is my argument that 'where someone is born should be more important than a skill they possess'?

Shiner said...

Shiner Im sorry but you totally lost me here. How is my argument that 'where someone is born should be more important than a skill they possess'?

Are you not arguing that having a large enough pool of Western judges (and I'm not accepting your suggestion that this law would in practice have such a drastic affect on the pool) is more important than having judges capable of performing their job without an interpretor? Isn't that your entire point? That the fact someone is born in Moosejaw is more important than the fact that they can't do their job without outside help?

Jerome Bastien said...

Are you not arguing that having a large enough pool of Western judges (and I'm not accepting your suggestion that this law would in practice have such a drastic affect on the pool) is more important than having judges capable of performing their job without an interpretor?

No, my point is that this law tries to fix a non-existent problem with identity politics.

As a corollary, it does marginalize the west. As far as where a person is born, that is totally besides the point. I dont know exactly where the cut-off point is when deciding where a judge comes from, but Im pretty sure it's not place of birth.

Having SC judges from everywhere in Canada is indeed good practice, but its an entirely different argument, which Im willing to have.

Shiner said...

As a corollary, it does marginalize the west. As far as where a person is born, that is totally besides the point. I dont know exactly where the cut-off point is when deciding where a judge comes from, but Im pretty sure it's not place of birth.

Sorry, you still haven't demonstrated how this marginalizes the west, aside from the general dislike many westerners have for french people. It will not result in any fewer western judges. Nor have you shown how picking Supreme Court judges from the west who are able to speak french (or willing to learn to speak french) in any way diminishes the abilities of the Court. Speaking french doesn't make you stupid.

Like most things in Canada, there is a recognized convention concerning the appointment of Supreme Court judges based on the regions, I'm surprised you weren't aware of that.

Jerome Bastien said...

Like most things in Canada, there is a recognized convention concerning the appointment of Supreme Court judges based on the regions, I'm surprised you weren't aware of that.

Of course Im aware of that.

Adding a requirement that judges be fluently bilingual will severely hurt the pool of western judges from which the PM may draw upon. That is more or less self-evident. Neither Beverley McLachlin (who is bilingual today but was not at the time of her appointment) or John Major, or many other great judges would have been named to the SC with this bill in effect.

The point is not that it will result in fewer western judges, its that these western judges will be picked only because they are bilingual, because the pool of 'qualified' candidates will be reduced to a few.

If you wish to believe that many judges in the west are bilingual, all the power to you, and I will not spend my time convincing you that 1+1=2.

Shiner said...

Adding a requirement that judges be fluently bilingual will severely hurt the pool of western judges from which the PM may draw upon.

Prove it. People keep on stating this as fact after extrapolating the linguistic characteristics of the west, or lawyers in general. We're not talking about just anyone here.

Given that McLachlin was able to learn french, I would suspect she would have made the effort if it was a requirement for her job. Since Trudeau we've been fortunate in having a bench chosen based at least partly on ability. I find it shocking that a supposed grand master of Canadian public law and all its constituent subjects would not be bilingual. It's like a french literature professor being unable to speak french, or World War 2 historian unable to understand german.

I do apologise if I'm snippy and sarcastic, that's just the way I am. I commend you for remaining civil Jerome.

Jerome Bastien said...

Prove it.

No I wont. Like I said, 1+1=2, if you dont agree with that, what's the point?

People in western Canada are overwhelmingly unilingual anglophone, and that includes judges. If you chose not to believe it, what can I do?

You may find it shocking but its actually true: lawyers in BC/AB/SK/MA practice overwhelmingly in English. Judges are just lawyers who donated to the right political party at the right time, not 'grand masters of canadian public law' (I hope I didnt shatter too many illusions just there).

I do apologise if I'm snippy and sarcastic, that's just the way I am. I commend you for remaining civil Jerome.

Thank you, and no worries, by internet standards, you're pretty much a victorian gentlemen yourself.

Shiner said...

I think you owe the Supremes a bit more credit. Since Trudeau the Canadian law community has had a good deal of say on who is appointed to the SCC and I don't think I'm being starry-eyed by suggesting that the current SCC isn't stacked with a bunch of no good cronies.

McLachlin - top student at U of A and editor of the law review, professor of laws at UBC

Binnie - McGill, Cambridge, U of T, ADM at Justice, extensive involvement in SC cases

LeBel - highly decorated student and professor at both Laval and U of O

Deschamps - Associate professor at Sherbrooke

Abella - Chair of Ontario Labour Relations Board, member of the Ontario human rights commission, Royal Commissioner, professor at McGill

Charron - Professor U of O

Rothstein - lecturer at Manitoba and, not for nothing, put forward by the Libs and selected by Harper

Cromwell - taught at Queen's and Dalhousie, Executive Legal Officer at the SCC, and, again, initially picked as a judge under Chretien, but brought up by Harper

Marky Mark said...

I'm willing to bet that the extent of bilingualism which will apply will be such that the skill of any justice in the other official language will be less than what currently is in place with translators.

I'm very much against this law. Contrary to what was said above, we are NOT a bilingual country and official B&B was never "sold" on that basis. In fact, when westerners argued that Trudeau was trying to make the country bilingual, he disagreed and said his policy was being misrepresented.

I feel quite confident that Trudeau and the other visionaries who took us down the road of opening up federal institutions to both languages would be dead set against this particular law.

And it's actually hilarious that unilingual legislators are imposing this de facto constitutional change (which I believe will not withstand judicial scrutiny) on the SCC.

Jerome Bastien said...

Shiner:

You're absolutely correct. These people are indeed the cream of the crop amongst judges.

Of these, I can say with certainty that McLachlin and Rothstein were unilingual anglophones at the time of their appointment (and both come from the west).

Going back to your 1:20pm post:
I find it shocking that a supposed grand master of Canadian public law and all its constituent subjects would not be bilingual

These people are in fact "grand masters", yet they are (or were) not bilingual.

This is to be contrasted with judges in general. Im not saying they're no-good cronies, but donating to political parties certainly helps one to reach the bench. Quebec is embroiled in such a scandal right now (see Raymond Bachand's allegations) but the fact that political donations help one being nominated as a judge is the worst kept secret in legal circles.

Shiner said...

I'm willing to bet that the extent of bilingualism which will apply will be such that the skill of any justice in the other official language will be less than what currently is in place with translators.

I agree, but I doubt they'll be forced to do without translators.

As I've said, it's as much symbolic as anything else and, as such, I have a hard time with the vehemence with which people like you are railing against this.

The anger is out of all proportion to the actual effect (very little) this will have on the Court. There's something obvious at play here that goes beyond a practical worry that some super-judge in Alberta will be excluded from the Court because he can't be bothered to learn french.

Shiner said...

I understand that Jerome, but generally speaking the SCC is not a haven for hacks anymore. The pool for the SCC is not "judges" it's a very particular caliber of judge and I think (both of us are going on gut here) that the linguistic divide within this particular group is way overblown in this debate. I'd be curious to see the linguistic profile of the short-list presented to the Prime Minister when a spot comes up for the Prairies.

Marky Mark said...

I agree, but I doubt they'll be forced to do without translators.

As I've said, it's as much symbolic as anything else and, as such, I have a hard time with the vehemence with which people like you are railing against this.

The anger is out of all proportion to the actual effect (very little) this will have on the Court. There's something obvious at play here that goes beyond a practical worry that some super-judge in Alberta will be excluded from the Court because he can't be bothered to learn french.


I'm against it for three reasons:

1. The symbolic benefit is outweighed by the fact that many excellent candidates will no longer be eligible (unless the level of competence is merely being able to, say, order lunch). A subset of the current panel, which you agree adheres to the highest standard of excellence, would not have met any meaningful test of bilingualism. It's also outweighed by the fact that any symbolic benefit to francophoens is surpassed by anger in the West and in other places where there simply is no francophone presence.

2. It's important to remember what was debated and what was at stake when language was at the forefront. It was NEVER argued that Canada was or ought to be a bilingual country. Instead, it was argued that "French Canadians" should be made to feel at home within federal institutions and not confined to Quebec. That was it. (See Trudeau's Federalism and the French Canadians.") Translators at the SCC fill this need.

3. I believe that this law goes beyond how access to the courts is contemplated by the Charter and violates the Charter.

Oh-and I grew up in Quebec as an anglo and probably am bilingual enough to meet any test that is likely to be in force in the SCC.

Jerome Bastien said...


The anger is out of all proportion to the actual effect (very little) this will have on the Court. There's something obvious at play here that goes beyond a practical worry that some super-judge in Alberta will be excluded from the Court because he can't be bothered to learn french.


This is actually a good point and in all honesty, I dont know. The bill says "understands French and English without the assistance of an interpreter". Who is going to make that determination and how?

This is actually another problem of the bill - how it will be enforced?

Would Stephen Harper's bilingualism be enough? Stephane Dion's? (not that i want to open up old wounds, but remember that Dion interview on CTV - 'am I prime minister right now?')

And if they dont do away with interpreters, than what's the point of the bill? Symbolism? That's some flimsy grounds to prevent the best qualified people from holding a very important position.

Marky Mark said...

The anger is out of all proportion to the actual effect (very little) this will have on the Court. There's something obvious at play here that goes beyond a practical worry that some super-judge in Alberta will be excluded from the Court because he can't be bothered to learn french.


This is actually a good point and in all honesty, I dont know. The bill says "understands French and English without the assistance of an interpreter". Who is going to make that determination and how?

This is actually another problem of the bill - how it will be enforced?

Would Stephen Harper's bilingualism be enough? Stephane Dion's? (not that i want to open up old wounds, but remember that Dion interview on CTV - 'am I prime minister right now?')

And if they dont do away with interpreters, than what's the point of the bill? Symbolism? That's some flimsy grounds to prevent the best qualified people from holding a very important position.


That's the nub of it. Either the standard is high and the bill is consequential or the standard is low and it is effectively meaningless. This is political grandstanding when the topic is sensitive and complicated. I think the sponsors are irresponsible and many of those who supported the bill in the House didn't want to be seen as being against "bilingualism" since obviously that is something that is desirable. Opponents of the bill are being branded as anti-French when I'd argue that in many cases they are saying something more akin to "don't fix what ain't broken."

Jerome Bastien said...

The pool for the SCC is not "judges" it's a very particular caliber of judge and I think (both of us are going on gut here) that the linguistic divide within this particular group is way overblown in this debate.

Sure, but history shows that in the past, very qualified jurists from the west were mostly unilingual anglos (mclachlin, rothstein, laskin, major, ...)

also as an aside, it's not very relevant but L'Heureux-Dube, who was bilingual, was also batshit crazy.

Shiner said...

And if they dont do away with interpreters, than what's the point of the bill? Symbolism? That's some flimsy grounds to prevent the best qualified people from holding a very important position.

But that's just it. If it is symbolism, as I suspect, I assume it would be the same measures used in the rest of the federal government, I suspect a BBB or CCC. Which anyone can get with a bit of brains.

There is the possibility that it wouldn't be symbolic (I'm okay with that, though you aren't, we won't come to an agreement on that) and the level would be Exempt or translator level. I doubt this very much, because native speakers would be barred from the SCC (both English AND French).

So, should this be clarified or not? I think not. As is I think bilingual means whatever the hell the PM of the day wants it to mean.

Marky may give more weight to the irrational hatred of all things french in the west and the fear that the frogs are taking over, I give more weight to the francophone who questions the validity of a Supreme Court where only 3 of the members understand what he is saying at any level.

Shiner said...

That's the nub of it. Either the standard is high and the bill is consequential or the standard is low and it is effectively meaningless.

So what's the problem if it's meaningless Marky? Again, I can't for the life of me understand why something that doesn't actually have any noticeable affect make westerners so angry. What is it about a bit of french as a courtesy (like singing the national anthem in both languages) that offends westerners so damned much? It's no dig at them, it doesn't effect their ability to one day become members of the SCC, it doesn't effect their representation on the court, yet you and they are hitting the roof over this.

Marky Mark said...

Marky may give more weight to the irrational hatred of all things french in the west and the fear that the frogs are taking over, I give more weight to the francophone who questions the validity of a Supreme Court where only 3 of the members understand what he is saying at any level

Nice try. ;) You know I'm not saying that. I'm saying someone is changing "the deal" without any meaningful debate either in the House (where BCL showed there was almost none) or in the broader public. The current arrangements we have in place were heavily debated and carefully crafted. Someone wants to risk all that for their version of positive symbolism even though it also comes with negative symbolism.

I noticed you haven't really commented on the fact that I maintain that this is something that the architects of our current policies (e.g., Trudeau) would not have supported. Do you agree? Or are you saying it's time to expand bilingualism?

So what's the problem if it's meaningless Marky? Again, I can't for the life of me understand why something that doesn't actually have any noticeable affect make westerners so angry. What is it about a bit of french as a courtesy (like singing the national anthem in both languages) that offends westerners so damned much? It's no dig at them, it doesn't effect their ability to one day become members of the SCC, it doesn't effect their representation on the court, yet you and they are hitting the roof over this.

I'm not a westerner and I'm angry about it because we are tinkering with a carefully crafted constitutional compromise when there is no obvious benefit and the risk of upsetting the delicate balance that was reached. There was no grass roots outcry for this change at all and in my opinion this is pure political grandstanding. And this isn't about courtesy-this is in the nature of a constitutional change-without any prior debate.

Shiner said...

I noticed you haven't really commented on the fact that I maintain that this is something that the architects of our current policies (e.g., Trudeau) would not have supported. Do you agree? Or are you saying it's time to expand bilingualism?

What's to comment on? I have no idea what Trudeau thought of a proposal that would be brought forward several years after his death. All I can go by is my understanding and interpretation of official bilingualism in Canada. And we're not talking about the Charter either, the right to use your language in a court (let alone The Court) is in the BNA Act.

So the question becomes, how is that right fulfilled. You feel it's good enough to have a translator, fine. Making use of the veil of ignorance, if I were a member of a society where, as a matter of law, my language was protected and given special status within all federal institutions and all courts of law, I would expect a judge that could fulfill that role without the need of outside help. I mean we're not talking about the Ministry of Transport here. Can we honestly say that the person taking your photo for your license must be bilingual, while the judges who are going to decide whether you can marry your loved one don't need to understand a word your lawyer is saying?

Otherwise, why should judges have to speak either official language? How would you feel if you went to the SCC and every judge spoke only Mandarin? Would you serioulsy be okay with that if they pushed a translator foreward and said "go to it"?

Shiner said...

Nice try. ;) You know I'm not saying that.

That's just it. I know that's not what you're saying, but I really can't grasp the other side of this debate otherwise. I understand some people hate Quebeckers, and I understand their views on the issue. I do not understand it when reasonable people talk about this like it's zero-sum, that a pat on the back to francophones is a kick in the nads to anglophones.

Marky Mark said...

Shiner, respectfully, you're moving the goalposts. Have you read the Charter on this issue? What do you make of how it regulates both language and access to the courts? Do you not see the argument that this bill would go beyond what already is contemplated by the Charter?

Shiner said...

I'm not sure which goal posts I'm moving Marky. Section 19 says that Canadians can be heard in either official language in a court. I think it takes for granted that it will be interpreted as "heard and understood". Have I missed something? Please point me in the right direction if I have.

Paul S said...

Bill C-232 is simply a way to ensure the marginalization of large parts of Canada when selecting Supreme Court judges and to favor the legal profession from Central Canada (surprise, surprise!).

It is simply not possible to use French on a daily basis and acquire sufficient proficiency in the language in many parts of the country.

Unless those in the legal profession take several months a year away from work to immerse themselves in French, BC-232 is impractical.

Also, being an interpreter is a career. Interpreters already have a bilingual proficiency higher then 99% of the bilingual population in Canada.

To my mind, the acrimony generated by this unnecessary bill far outweights any benefits.

This is a deceivingly simple issue. A bilingual country should have a bilingual supreme court. -Shiner

If it's such a simple issue, how can you not realize that Canada is, in reality, not a bilingual country?

I say leave the current situation as is. It is effective, workable, tolerant and inclusive already. Why mess with that?

Marky Mark said...

I'm not sure which goal posts I'm moving Marky. Section 19 says that Canadians can be heard in either official language in a court. I think it takes for granted that it will be interpreted as "heard and understood". Have I missed something? Please point me in the right direction if I have.

I disagree. If the framers wanted to add that extra layer they could have but they chose not to. Translators and interpreters fill the gap. Bilingual judges (and perhaps those judged to meet only a loose test) aren't prescribed by the Charter which already speaks to this issue. Note that Section 14 provides for interpreters.

But beyond the legal this is political. If you think we are a bilingual country then you're likely to think that it is long overdue that this law be passed. But if you think that we never decided to be such a country, and the consensus was much narrower, then it doesn't necessarily follow that you think this is a good bill.

In fact, the west doesn't think that we are a bilingual country and neither does Quebec, which has unambiguously rejected the Trudeau vision and moved away from bilingualism. I suspect that the 905 and 705 are pretty much in line with the west, as well as much of the 416. So who exactly does think that we are in fact a bilingual country? I'm truly mystified. The Charter reflects the consensus, such as it is. I think it is reckless to reopen this issue.

Shiner said...

Bill C-232 is simply a way to ensure the marginalization of large parts of Canada when selecting Supreme Court judges and to favor the legal profession from Central Canada (surprise, surprise!).

Before commenting you should make the barest of efforts to understand how SCC selection works. There is a regional basis to Court selections. The french speaker would have to be from the west. Good grief...

Shiner said...

Marky, I don't understand your continued focus on official bilingualism vs. demographics. This is an issue of official bilingualism. Heck, it doesn't get more official than the Supreme Court. If a Court of anglophones cannot fulfill their duty for a francophone (as the substance of BCL's post suggests) how can you say that francophones are heard at the SCC? This doesn't even have to be abstract, I'm sure I'm not the only one who has worked through a translator, it isn't pleasant.

Marky Mark said...

Francophones are heard because they're not forced to speak English. That was the point of the changes that were made and I believe that access is there as it is. Their lawyers can speak French (or English) and those judges who don't take it all in will rely on translation services, as they do with all the dramatically more important written materials that are filed with the court.

We're taling a few minutes of oral argument. Everything else in the case up to that point will have been translated from the trial court on.

Paul S said...

There is a regional basis to Court selections. The french speaker would have to be from the west. -Shiner

There is no large pool of French speakers in Western Canada. Nor is there any practical need for one.

So now you would place the onerous burden that our brightest minds take several years off from their careers to acquire a level of proficiency in French equal to professional interpreters.

Beside being wholly unrealistic, it is close to unworkable.

Bill C-232 would ensure that only a small, lower quality pool of applicants would be available to sit on out SC. No thanks.

Marky Mark said...

FYI re: Belgium:

The Court consists of thirty judges (including the first president, a president and six sectional presidents). Half the judges fall within the French, the other half within the Dutch language divisions, six of each being bilingual by law.3 Judges must also provide proof of a knowledge of German. Five judges must be recruited from judges in social courts (labour courts and tribunals, auditorat or auditorat général.

Blair said...

Shiner,

The concern here is that the lack of French in Western Canada would mean that a judge couldn't fully immerse themselves in the language. As such, they would not be able to use French outside of a classroom. The result of this is that a lot of our best legal minds from Western Canada would likely not make the grade. Obviously I don't speak for all Westerners, but I'm pretty politically in tune to what is going on out here.

In the event that this bill is simply symbolic in nature the opposition isn't "to all things French". It's to the idea that we make another move to make Quebec happy. There is a general consensus--obviously with some disagreement--that Quebec takes a lot, demands a lot, and doesn't really give much back. I think that if the bill is symbolic Westerners, including myself, find themselves thinking that we are making another move to appease Quebec that greatly inconveniences us, and for what?

My final issue is this: none of us--who I would assume are engaged and politically astute, for the most part--actually know if this is a symbolic bill or not. Perhaps a little more debate was required; however, standing against this bill is sure to provoke the ire of the Quebecois so it is politically a hand grenade.

dupmar said...

It certainly is curious to note Liberals arguing against the principle of bilingualism for one of the key institutions of the Canadian state – this was supposed to be one of your articles of faith. The blogging tory opposition to the proposal is understandable, they have reverted to their Reform roots on this and every other issue related to Quebec, to national unity, language rights, and so on, letting loose in their blogs with every hateful comment imaginable pertaining to “French language crap”, “ pandering to Quebec”, of how the French language is irrelevant to Canada, of lesser value than Hindi or some Croatian dialect, how they would like to show Quebec the door, not dilly-dally either, and bring to fruition what the Bloc has not been able to achieve to date. We thus apparently have two separatist parties in Parliament, one of which holds the responsibility of governance of this country.

Leaving aside the issue of cultural dominance of one or the other culture in separate regions, we should note we are discussing the responsibilities of the federal state and its bilingual nature, that is the linguistic duality of Canada as a whole, not whether such duality is reflected in each and every region or whether it even should be.

And again on this score, there is misrepresentation in this discussion on the linguistic character and rights afforded in specific regions, in particular the broadside directed against Quebec worthy of the least informed blogging tory Ann Coulterish mouth foaming diatribe, to the effect the English language has no status, no recognition, and no legal existence in Quebec.

Do we inhabit the same universe? Taking into consideration language laws and policies of cultural protection, English has the same status in Quebec as French does in Ontario and certainly far more rights or recognition than is afforded the French language elsewhere in Western Canada. You can register a birth, get married, divorced, have a funeral, obtain a driver’s license, obtain a license in English as real estate agent, insurance broker or adjuster, communicate with your provincial or municipal government, obtain publications from the provincial government, pursue an education from primary to university level, obtain healthcare services in local clinics and hospitals, all in English, subject of course to restrictions largely prevalent in English Canada as well.

Now are the same services, and levels of service, available to francophones in Regina, Calgary and Vancouver? We see from the discussion of the issue on numerous blogging tory blogs how they are prepared to run francophones out of town should they show their face in Western Canada, how they show up on sovereignist blogs in Quebec to crow about Anglo supremacy, how they French language is doomed, doomed in North America, that resistance is futile, etc., what pleasure they take in crushing and denying French language rights is Saskatchewan, but enough.

dupmar said...

The practical and legal aspects of the proposed legislation have been argued at length.
But here’s the principle argument - if cultural duality and equality in Canada is real, if the bilingual character of the Canadian state is real and not simply a façade and window dressing to confuse and deceive Quebec nationalists, then it must be functional and operational and not simply cosmetic or symbolic. This extends to the highest court in the land.

Here we are discussing the duties and obligations of the ruling elite, not the prejudices of know-nothings and cultural lumpens. If Canada’s ruling elite, and that includes Supreme Court Justices, cannot be convinced of the necessity, of the reality of this cultural equality and duality, that competence in the second language is relevant to their mandate, then how do they expect to communicate this notion and seek to educate the hordes of cultural lumpens who give expression to such bigotry in blogging tory blogs, who take pride in their ignorance and intolerance, their cultural inadequacy and their determination to maintain Anglo supremacy, to eradicate cultural duality , official recognition of the French language and Confederation.

Two diametrically opposing views of Canada, of Confederation are being counterposed in these exchanges and surface with respect to comments on “special status” and “identity politics”, one the Reform Party vision of the Canadian federation as an association of equal provinces, the other a vision held by successive generations of French Canadians of Confederation as a union or equal partnership of respective cultures or nations, not provinces.

Understandably, it may be difficult for the Reform contingent or wannabe Republican contingent of blogging tories to visualize a world beyond the confines of their American mythology, of Davy Crockett defending the Alamo from the Hispanic menace, a struggle for Anglo supremacy in which they are eager to partake to this day, but I did expect less objection to the proposed legislation from Liberals or NDPers who claim, at least in the abstract, to champion the cause of cultural duality and a bilingual state in Canada.

This is hardly anything novel in terms of cultural practice, historical examples and such.
There are numerous examples of multi lingual or cultural states encompassing and accomodating various peoples and cultures throughout history. The Reform/ Republican experience only recognizes one variant, conquest, subjugation , cultural assimilation.

Let’s take the Habsburg dynasty in Europe as an example, from the 13th to the 20th century, extending its reach from Austria to Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, to Belgium, Spain, even Mexico. The Habsburg monarchs during this reign apparently displayed greater wisdom, insight and cultural sensitivity than our current government, or in particular its blogging tory base, seeking to adapt to and embrace the culture, laws and traditions of various subject nations, be they Flemish or Andalusian rather than seek to extend Austrian cultural domination and assimilation. And the same effort at cultural adaptation was expected of their state officials, bureaucrats, functionaries and justices – some lazy cultural reprobate who couldn’t be bothered to master a foreign tongue and familiarize himself with the customs of a subject people could hardly be expected to be assigned office and authority over such people.

Blair said...

Canada is not a bilingual country.

It is a country with two official languages. I believe 15% of the country is bilingual and the majority of it is concentrated in one area.

The reality, Dupmar, is that in the West our judges--and people, my girlfriend speaks French--don't speak French outside of the classroom, much less in the courtroom. Basic bilingualism? Sure. High funtioning legal bilingualism? More difficult.

While there are many ignorant blogging tories, some of them do raise a very real, very evident fact of western life because there is animosity towards Quebec sometimes. I like to think I'm a little bit less ignorant than a lot of the people who want to crush French rights and would love to vote Quebec out of Canada.

When half Quebec--and the majority of francophones vote to leave a country it tells us there is something wrong there. Can so many people truly be wrong or is there a basis to their feelings? When there is so much deep frustration with the political pandering to Quebec--often at the west's expense--and the amount of demanding Quebec does... then maybe the west has a point as well.

So there is a logical argument against this I think Dupmar. It isn't all vitriol against French and wanting to crush it--I'd argue that, as per usual, the French are being too sensitive about their language but that's besides the point--but there is some animosity there. Most westerner's think Quebec has the best deal in the country and question why they need ANOTHER symbolic move to appease them. Do they really not have enough? Do we really need to make more moves too make them happy?

Marky Mark said...

Just to be clear, this initiative didn't come from Quebec. It is a private member's bill in the federal Parliament and it comes from an NB MP.

What's amazing is the complete insistence that ever dxecided to become a bilingual country when the record is clear that wasn't agreed to at all. We agreed to official bilingualism at the level of federal institutions. And that was meant to decide the issue for Quebec francophones who otherwise might prefer to separate.

The policy may be a good one but it can't really be argued that it has become a complete success. It's pretty clear that most people in Quebec favour a form of sovereignty association with the only issue being how much sovereignty and how much association. And at the same time Quebec has significantly curtailed the rights of non-francophones in Quebec in a way that further erodes the case that Trusdeau's vision has been accepted by francophones in Quebec.

Mandating bilingualism at the SCC will not solve any lingering national unity question.

Shiner said...

What's amazing is the complete insistence that ever dxecided to become a bilingual country when the record is clear that wasn't agreed to at all. We agreed to official bilingualism at the level of federal institutions.

Why do you keep on saying this Marky? Nobody here is claiming that Canada is a bilingual country, for the purposes of this debate it doesn't matter. We get it, they don't speak french in Alberta, that has nothing to do with whether a francophone should be understood by Supreme Court Justices.

Mandating bilingualism at the SCC will not solve any lingering national unity question.

Now who's moving the goal posts?

Marky Mark said...

Shiner,

I think the argument has been made a few times in this thread and in the MSM that "we are a bilingual country."

And as for the national unity point, isn't that what is being said when you and others say that what is wrong with this "symbolism"?

It seems to me that you either can see that a bilingual SCC is part and parcel of the bilingualism policy that we do have (which is debatable, as we've done here) or you can argue that we need to expand that policy because
we are a bilingual country."

What's concerning is that those who don't like the bill tend to be branded as intolerant, anti-French, etc., when there are real substantive and process issues at stake.

Shiner said...

I'm speaking of symbolism on a much lower level, a courtesy to francophones who find themselves before the court, not as a silver bullet to Quebec nationalism.

What's concerning is that those who don't like the bill tend to be branded as intolerant, anti-French, etc., when there are real substantive and process issues at stake.

Which is also far from settled. I don't accept for a second the premise of many of the arguments that it's just too darned hard to learn french if you live in the west or that it's impossible to get to a satisfactory level. Complete hogwash.

As I said before, the venom directed at this is completely over blown. I'm surprised at the energy people are expending on fighting against a franophone's ability to be understood by the Supreme Court. As it so often does, it comes down to the usual Conservative worry that someone somewhere is getting something. yet in this case it's not just the Conservatives.

Marky Mark said...

What's concerning is that those who don't like the bill tend to be branded as intolerant, anti-French, etc., when there are real substantive and process issues at stake.


Which is also far from settled. I don't accept for a second the premise of many of the arguments that it's just too darned hard to learn french if you live in the west or that it's impossible to get to a satisfactory level. Complete hogwash.

As I said before, the venom directed at this is completely over blown. I'm surprised at the energy people are expending on fighting against a francophone's ability to be understood by the Supreme Court. As it so often does, it comes down to the usual Conservative worry that someone somewhere is getting something. yet in this case it's not just the Conservatives.


I'm actually a big supporter of the Trudeau vision, and I'm a Liberal. But I think that vision has been rejected by the Province of Quebec. And I think that western "alienation" is a real issue as well. I just think the change isn't likely to win over hearts and minds in Quebec while it will turn many off elsewhere. Since francophones already have access to all courts under the Charter, I don't see this as a meaningful substantive change that has to be done even if unpopular. And I have a fundamental "process issue" with de facto constitutional change not being debated in the House, let alone by the public.

Shiner said...

I'm actually a big supporter of the Trudeau vision, and I'm a Liberal. But I think that vision has been rejected by the Province of Quebec. And I think that western "alienation" is a real issue as well. I just think the change isn't likely to win over hearts and minds in Quebec while it will turn many off elsewhere. Since francophones already have access to all courts under the Charter, I don't see this as a meaningful substantive change that has to be done even if unpopular.

Which I can accept. For me it seems like common sense that if mid-level clerks in Ottawa are expected to be able to provide services in french and english, the same should go for some of the highest positions in the land. Indeed I was a bit surprised when this came up to learn that you didn't have to be bilingual already.

Blair said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Blair said...

Which is also far from settled. I don't accept for a second the premise of many of the arguments that it's just too darned hard to learn french if you live in the west or that it's impossible to get to a satisfactory level. Complete hogwash.

I guess I forgot how much experience you must have learning French out west. Last I checked you lived in one of our most bilingual cities, no? Tell me how I am supposed to become fluent and comfortable in French--much less legal French--if under 2% of the population speaks it out here. As I've said, there is no opportunity to apply the language outside of a classroom. We can learn it but the point here is that if this bill is more than symbolism (which it could be for all we know) then it really does limit the pool of western judges. Basic bilingualism? Sure. Fluent and comfortable legal bilingualsim over 99%? Too much. Reality is we don't know the degree to which this bill will be enforced.

As it so often does, it comes down to the usual Conservative worry that someone somewhere is getting something. yet in this case it's not just the Conservatives.

No, Shiner, it isn't just a Conservative worry about someone getting something. This is a gross oversimplification of our argument. Our argument is that literally interpreted (har har) this bill could weaken the SCC as it would reduce the pool upon which it could draw from, particularly the western pool. Therefore your argument about someone getting something is actually the absolute opposite. In a symbolic move to pacify Quebec's insatiable need for more, more, more we are actually losing; we are losing out on having the most competent, capable SCC possible because of bullshit language issues.

If it isn't literal interpretation, fine. Our SCC is already possessing of basic bilingualism. It still pisses me off that we are doing something else to make Quebec happy. Just once I'd like to see that province contribute something to Canada. However, the potential ramifications of this bill do not warrant the minor symbolic benefit. It's like our Senate: imperfect, but if we change it we could create far worse issues so lets just leave it the hell alone.

Shiner said...

I guess I forgot how much experience you must have learning French out west.

Give it a rest. I have plenty of friends out west that are fluent in french, simply because they were willing to make the effort. I suspect anyone with aspirations of sitting on the Supreme Court would be willing to put in at least the same amount of effort as these folks who are only doing it for self-improvement.

My girlfriend took German at Carleton U and is fluent in that language. Not much chance to practice that around O-Town, but she managed.

I also lived in rural Ireland where I met many people who became fluent in languages for no other reason than fun. The Irish, for whatever reason, don't have the same phobia of other languages that the English and, apparently, Western Canadians have.

Furthermore, do you really believe that nobody in the United States, or any other unilingual country, outside of a professional capacity, is fluent in any language other than english?

Everyday exposure to a language makes things easier, no doubt, but lack of it is no real excuse for not learning, especially in the information age.

dupmar said...

The issue pertains to the state - not the country. We have a bilingual state, the judiciary is part of this federal state, and the expectation is that state officials - not the uneducated masses at large - reflect this reality.

There was a time when elected public officials and statesmen in our Republic to the South, who had far less opportunity and educational resources available than lawyers and law students in Western Canada, nonetheless found the wherewithal to master foreign languages such as French, as it was then deemed essential to the pursuit of their interests in the international arena.

The objections raised largely reflect intellectual laziness and indifference to the affairs of the federal state, but more than that, an attitude of opposition to the cultural duality at the core of our Confederation.

As for constant comments and reference to Quebec, keep in mind this is about French Canada, not simply Quebec. Notwithstanding all the criticisms of protectionist cultural policies in Quebec, keep in mind the current government in Quebec is a Liberal government, not the Bloc or PQ, that criticisms such as you wish to adddress on language and cultural issues should be directed to them.
But all told, I believe Levesque and Bourassa were correct not to place their trust in Trudeau and the federal state with respect to language protections but to seek their own protections, and nothing exemplified this more than the unilateral repatriation of the constitution despite Quebec's objections and Trudeau's subsequent confrontation with Quebec Premier Bourassa and the then existing Progressive Conservative federal government over proposed constitutional amendments as incorporated in the Meech Lake Accord.

Marky Mark said...

dupmar,

You say we have a "bilingual state" but don't really define what that means. MP's aren't universally bilingual and we rely on translation. National media aren't bilingual and instead we have parallel services. It's not self evident to me that a "bilingual state" means that each and every SCC judge must be bilingual at the highest possible level.

keep in mind the current government in Quebec is a Liberal government, not the Bloc or PQ, that criticisms such as you wish to address on language and cultural issues should be directed to them.

Exactly. This is a private member's bill in the federal House and not one that even came from a Quebec MP. But more substantively what we have here is a Quebec state that is not bilingual with a federal state that is bilingual, this despite a population of anglos in excess of seven figures in Quebec-a population that helped build Quebec but which is now second class.

Not only is Quebec as a "state" unilingual but anglos moving to Quebec cannot educate their children in English and anglos cannot carry on business primarily in English even when their customers are predominantly English.

This strikes many as oppressive. Quebec reached a decision to maximize the "collective" rights of the French people and culture at the expense of any collective or individual rights of the English minority.

Among the many consequences of this policy has been the replacement of Montreal as the economic capital of Canada by Toronto and an overall shift of wealth and influence westward along the 401 and beyond. Quebec gave aw3ay many of its best and brightest without even bargaining for future considerations or "draft picks."

I would have thought that what I've described as the reality in the current Quebec was enough to placate the nationalists and that we don't now need to piss off western Canadians who already have figured out that adding yet another piece of bilingualism to the federal state will not appease Quebec nationalists.

dupmar said...

Is that what this is about, failing to introduce any changes into the existing status quo, cowering in fear of provoking an outpouring of anti-Quebec bigotry in Western Canada.

If such is the state of affairs in this Confederation, better to bring it forth into the open into the light of day, not to engage in some pretence of unity and cross cultural pan-Canadian solidarity - which you argue does not exist. If such is the state of affairs, better not to hide behind deceptions but to concede the ground to Duceppe on the issue and start constitutional negociations.

As for the rest, given all the recriminations against Quebec I fail to understand why someone like Marky Mark doesn't simply cross over to the blogging tories - he would be more comfortable sharing cultural grievances and pandering to anti-Quebec bigotry with them.

My ancestors who hailed from New France had a direct vested interest in the cultural rivalry between the two founding cultures in this Confederation, and in defending their cultural interests, yet saw their rights denied, crushed, eradicated when they sought to expand the cultural boundaries of French Canada to Western Canada in the days of Riel. And what's Marky Mark's complaint, he doesn't hail from Anglo-Saxon stock but rather are championing the cause of an adopted culture and complaining that it has not extended its supremacy and dominance over the totality of Canada's boundaries, so sad, too bad, if the remaining pockets of French Canadian culture, those which survived the aggressive drive for Anglo assimilation prevalent throughout the rest of Canada are wiped out in pursuit of what he claims is a policy of linguistic equity and fairness.

Marky Mark said...

And what's Marky Mark's complaint, he doesn't hail from Anglo-Saxon stock but rather are championing the cause of an adopted culture

This requires an explanation. I think I know what you're saying, but please be clearer.

You're also missing my point. Canada moved to a long overdo policy of accommodation and fairness. I support that movement-but the response of Quebec has been as if this never occurred. Why?

dupmar said...

Quite simply that some of the most outspoken advocates of English language rights in Quebec hold no historic interest in this cultural conflict but hail from completely different cultural backgrounds yet chose to adopt English as their preferred culture and to champion its cause.

Given the supremacy and dominance of English everywhere else on the North American continent, outside of Quebec, I fail to comprehend the obstinacy of such persons in campaigning against Quebec's existing policies seeking to protect its own culture, when their own anglophone cultural preference is so easily accomodated anywhere else within Canada's boundaries.

Marky Mark said...

Quite simply that some of the most outspoken advocates of English language rights in Quebec hold no historic interest in this cultural conflict but hail from completely different cultural backgrounds yet chose to adopt English as their preferred culture and to champion its cause.

Given the supremacy and dominance of English everywhere else on the North American continent, outside of Quebec, I fail to comprehend the obstinacy of such persons in campaigning against Quebec's existing policies seeking to protect its own culture, when their own anglophone cultural preference is so easily accommodated anywhere else within Canada's boundaries.


1. And what group affiliation are you assigning to me?

2. Is the argument you're making that Quebec as a state should be the homeland of the French People of North America, with limited legal minority rights, but that Canada as a state should be fully bilingual? I think that's what you're saying, and I think that is what generations of Quebec politicians at the federal and provincial level have been saying. Fine, but why would you call opposition to that view bigotry?

Blair said...

This is slightly off topic, but I had to respond to this comment:

Is that what this is about, failing to introduce any changes into the existing status quo, cowering in fear of provoking an outpouring of anti-Quebec bigotry in Western Canada.

Anti-Quebec bigotry? Cowering in fear to the West?

First of all, being opposed to the constant demands of Quebec does not constitute bigotry.
Second of all, name ONE thing the federal government has given western Canada other than a temporary hold on enacting climate change reform--which is necessary for the record, I do believe that strongly. Name one, please.

Imagine this situation: the government of Canada enacts strong climate change reform and cripples the economies of the west, particularly AB and SK. To try to lessen the blow, the federal government siphons some money out of Quebec to soften the economic shock felt in the energy producing countries or, at the least, changes equalization so that 13% of Quebec's budget doesn't come out of another province (notably Alberta). Imagine how well that would go over before you talk about anti-Quebec bigotry in the west. There is a reason there is some anti-Quebec sentiment, but referring to it as bigotry is ignorant as all hell.

As far as cowering in fear goes, are you honestly going to tell me, a western Canadian, that Canadian governments are more concerned with upsetting the west than they are with upsetting Quebec? Bullshit.

The reason (sorry if I'm putting words in your mouth, Marky Mark) that some of us don't go over to blogging tories is because unlike Quebec (I use Quebec to say French Canada), a lot of us vote for something other than regional concerns. I'm a westerner who believes in a strong federal government with a national presence, and social justice within a free-market system. That's why I vote Liberal. That's why I'm not a Tory.

What difference does this bill make to the French people? Nothing. All it does is create something symbolic that inconveniences Western Canadians and potentially weakens the quality of our highest court. But I guess a few people can feel safe that their language won't die.

I think there is a misconception in Quebec that their language and culture is under constant assault; there is a misconception that Anglos make more money than Francos in Quebec as well. Doesn't make it right, by the way.

One thing I take from this that interests me is the difference in how the two sides are thinking. If you've done the good old MBTI before, you know the difference between Thinking vs. Feeling. The Francophones appear to be using, for the most part, feeling--they want the change for emotional reasons and equality. The Anglos appear to be looking at the potential implications of it from a logical perspective--unsurprising considering a lack of emotional attachment to the language. Just an observation.

Sorry if this is gibberish, I'm at a terrible conference right now and am typing sporadically. As a consequence this whole argument is probably very disjointed.

Marky Mark said...

OK I'll say what I think you meant--non "pure laine" francophones aren't really welcome in Quebec, which is really reserved as the homeland for the French People of North America. Others have no need to be there as they can be at home everywhere else in Canada. Their presence as a minority is tolerated but not really welcomed and they must now live in a certain way so as not to in any way "threaten" the collective rights of the French majority.

And at the same time the federal Canadian state must be bilingual and welcome French as a "founding" people (ignoring the First Nations who were conquered, colonized, massacred and forcibly assimilated by armies from France. (And I know what you REALLY meant but are unwilling to say directly.)

This can be debated on its merits, but there is a parallel that is so striking that it must be pointed out: if a Jewish Israeli said that there is no need for Arabs to live west of the Jordan River and that they are at home in two dozen countries elsewhere in "Arabia", that view would be called racism, apartheid, etc. It would be viewed as rightwing nonsense. Yet in Canada this type of thinking vis a vis Quebec is meant to be welcome on the left with criticism of it labelled as rightwing nutbar bigotry.