By Paul Wells - Thursday, December 20, 2012 - 0 Comments
Four of Jean Chrétien’s six Supreme Court appointees were francophones, including some from outside Quebec; the two anglophones, Fish and Binnie, were Montreal-born McGill graduates who had no trouble in French. At one point Chrétien’s Chief Justice (Antonio Lamer), Clerk of the Privy Council (Jocelyne Bourgon), Chief of Staff (Jean Pelletier), and some large number of his cabinet ministers were francophones. Chrétien’s favourite cabinet minister, Stéphane Dion, introduced an Action Plan for Official Languages in 2003; Paul Martin extended it in 2005.
I belabour all this because Stephen Harper responded to some criticism in a year-end interview with TVA by saying: “As prime minister, I think I’ve given more space to French than any prime minister in the history of the country.” (He began the sentence with a franchement, frankly, that gave me this post’s headline.) Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 9:30 AM - 0 Comments
Although Harper defended his decision to appoint Michael Ferguson auditor general even though he was not bilingual, Harper said he doesn’t want to do it again. “I admit that it is my responsibility to avoid similar circumstances in the future and I hope that Quebecers and francophones don’t doubt my commitment to the French language and our two national languages.” But while Harper said it is important for the head of an organization to be bilingual, he doesn’t feel all senior members of an organization have to speak both languages. For example, Harper said Canada’s prime minister and the chief justice of the Supreme Court should be bilingual but doesn’t believe every Supreme Court justice and every cabinet minister has to speak both English and French.
Harper shied away from commenting on Quebec’s PQ government’s plans to beef up the French Language Charter, Bill 101, saying it is provincial jurisdiction, and he defended his own track record on language. “Honestly, as prime minister, I have given a greater place to French than any other prime minister in the history of this country.”
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 11:51 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Canada’s auditor general ought to be able to speak both English and…
OTTAWA – Canada’s auditor general ought to be able to speak both English and French, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says.
Naming the otherwise qualified, English-only Michael Ferguson to the post last year was — while unavoidable — less than ideal, the prime minister acknowledged in a year-end interview with French broadcaster TVA.
“There was a process, and at the end of that process, I had one name really qualified for the position: I decided to name Mr. Ferguson with his commitment under the circumstances,” Harper said.
“But I admit it’s my responsibility to avoid this type of situation in the future. I hope that francophones, Quebecers, don’t doubt my commitment to the French language and our two official languages.”
Agents of Parliament should be bilingual because they are in charge of offices that are expected to function in English and in French, Harper said in the interview.
Judges, on the other hand, need not be bilingual, except in the case of the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, he said.
“I think that for someone who is at the head of an organization in our system, he should be bilingual, but that shouldn’t be the case for every member of an institution,” Harper said.
“Should the chief justice of the Supreme Court be bilingual? Absolutely. Is it necessary for each judge? I don’t think it’s necessary or right.”
The question of whether the nine judges on Canada’s highest court should be fluent in both official languages has been bitterly divisive.
The Harper government has defended its appointment of two unilingual English judges to the high court, saying that judicial competence should be the overriding factor.
Harper was criticized for appointing unilingual Ontario anglophone Michael Moldaver to the Supreme Court in 2011, and for his appointment of unilingual anglophone Marshall Rothstein five years earlier.
The NDP, meanwhile, which has savaged the Conservative government for naming a unilingual auditor general, has unsuccessfully proposed a mandatory language requirement for new Supreme Court judges.
The NDP has also proposed legislation that calls for 10 senior officers appointed by Parliament to be bilingual, including the auditor general, chief electoral officer, privacy commissioner and commissioner of lobbying.
By John Geddes - Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 10:23 AM - 0 Comments
John Geddes on the NDP leader’s rise through the ruthless world of Quebec politics to become the PM’s toughest opponent yet
Thomas Mulcair grew up in a Montreal suburb as the second-oldest of 10 children in his family, which is noteworthy enough. Even more remarkable, though, at least by today’s standards, is that he remembers his parents hoping for just a few more kids. “When my mother would have a child,” the NDP leader recalled recently, “my father would always bring her 14 roses, because they decided when they were married that they would have 14 children.” His father, Harry, was an insurance man of Irish-Catholic descent, and his mother, Jeanne, a teacher from an old French-Canadian family, was of course Catholic, too. For another public figure, details like these might be mere background colour. In Mulcair’s case, apart from the roses, every bit of it—the many brothers and sisters, the Quebec roots, a Catholicism devout enough to entail mass on weekdays before school, even the Irish streak—is central to his emergence as a formidable political fighter and plausible future prime minister.
By his own account in an interview with Maclean’s, backed up by the observations of some who have worked closely with him, Mulcair’s upbringing in such a large, tightly knit, complex household remains the template for his important relationships. Aides and allies say he maintains unusually close contact with family and old friends, cultivating an intensely personal network and leaning on time-tested loyalties more than most top politicians. While he is no longer an observant churchgoer, Mulcair’s brand of left-leaning politics flows directly out of his home province’s distinctive and deep well of progressive Catholicism—a powerful influence on seminal Quebec politicians of the past, including Pierre Trudeau. As for Mulcair’s Irishness, Graham Carpenter, an old family friend and long-time aide, alludes to his “Irish world view,” and not jokingly, as an explanation for Mulcair’s storied scrappiness and more. “There’s mystique to it,” Carpenter says, “that’s for sure.”
By the editors - Monday, November 14, 2011 at 9:40 AM - 18 Comments
Despite his inability to speak French, Ferguson was the best available candidate for the Auditor-General’s job
Most Canadians consider themselves to be reasonable people, and rightly so. In fact, the term “reasonable” and its variants appear a dozen times throughout Canada’s Constitution. So when it comes to hiring for Ottawa’s most senior jobs, we ought to consider the meaning of “reasonable.” Is it reasonable to make the ability to speak both official languages the single most important qualification for all such positions?
The appointment of Michael Ferguson as Canada’s next auditor general has become an unusually contentious affair. Ferguson served as auditor general of New Brunswick from 2005 to 2010 and was noted for his blunt criticism of provincial spending and debt. He also has experience as the provincial deputy minister of finance. So there’s no question of his ability to scrutinize the federal government’s books or hold Ottawa to account. The only real complaint is that he admits he cannot speak French fluently.
Response to this admission has been vitriolic. Liberal MPs boycotted the appointment vote in Parliament because they claimed Ferguson’s unilingualism made the entire process “illegitimate.” The Edmonton Journal editorialized that “Ferguson cannot possibly be the best man for the job because he does not speak both official languages.” Graham Fraser, the commissioner of official languages, claimed the Harper government had “humiliated” Ferguson by nominating him for a position he was unqualified to fill.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, November 10, 2011 at 9:30 AM - 10 Comments
Later, when The Globe asked for an interview with the minister over his concerns with the appointment, Mr. French emailed this edited version of his previous statement: “Minister Bernier has complete confidence that Mr. Ferguson will respect his engagement to learn French this year. The Minister believes he is fully qualified and the best man for the job.”
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 9, 2011 at 3:25 PM - 8 Comments
Through a spokesman, Maxime Bernier kind of sort of says something that might be considered a mild indication of some kind of dissent.
“While Minister Bernier would have preferred that the candidate chosen for the position of auditor general was already bilingual, the minister has complete confidence that Mr. Ferguson will respect his engagement to learn French this year,” said Bernier’s spokesman, Scott French, in a statement sent to Postmedia News.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, November 3, 2011 at 12:30 PM - 46 Comments
For those of you scoring at home, Liberal MPs boycotted this morning’s vote to ratify the appointment of Michael Ferguson as auditor general. In a news release, the Liberal side deemed the vote “illegitimate.” In a blog post, Bob Rae explains.
How can an Auditor General — who’s job it is to protect Canadian tax payers — do his job effectively if he does not speak French? And how can this government — that initially stated bilingualism was a requirement for the job — change the rules on Canadians at the 11th hour just to get their way? Liberals agree: they cannot.
That’s why this morning, Liberal MPs boycotted the House of Commons vote on the appointment of Michael Ferguson, a unilingual anglophone, as Canada’s Auditor General.
By Martin Patriquin - Wednesday, July 27, 2011 at 10:30 AM - 72 Comments
The Ottawa resident who won against the airline in federal court explains what really set him off
Michel Thibodeau admits it: he is probably the loudest of the roughly one million French Canadians living outside Quebec. Over the last decade, the Ottawa resident and his wife have filed some 100 complaints over the dearth of French language services against the federal, provincial and Ottawa municipal governments—everyone, he says, except the police. The 43-year-old father of two may look about as threatening as a folded newspaper, but he has chalked up a number of victories: his complaints to the City of Ottawa are the main reason you’ll hear French announcements when riding the bus in the nation’s capital. Fluently bilingual, he’s been called unreasonable (among many other things) and ﬁelded the occasional death threat for his efforts.
Yet Thibodeau scored his biggest success last week, when a federal court ruled against Air Canada, his foil in an 11-year case marked by the tension (and occasional absurdity) of the typical made-in-Canada language battle. As a former Crown corporation, the airline must, as a condition of its 1988 sale, conduct a language survey every 10 years and make French services mandatory at airports and on flights where there is at least a five per cent demand. According to the court, the company has repeatedly failed throughout the years to provide adequate services in French, and must pay the self-described soccer dad nearly $19,000 in costs and restitution.
“Air Canada must be able to provide services in both languages,” Thibodeau, who works as a computer technician in the House of Commons, told Maclean’s. “My rights are compromised if it doesn’t, and I have two choices. I can let it be, and my rights become non-existent, or I can do something. I decided to do something.”
By Mitchel Raphael - Monday, July 4, 2011 at 9:10 AM - 5 Comments
Security, the royals and the parade
The Canadian tour of Prince William and Kate…
Security, the royals and the parade
The Canadian tour of Prince William and Kate includes a stop at the Calgary Stampede. One MP said local officials hoped the couple would actually be in the Stampede parade, but that doesn’t look like a possibility because the security costs would be too high with so many tall buildings along the route. Ever since Stephen Harper became PM, Conservatives have been hoping to get him into the parade. But, according to the MP, the security costs for that to happen were estimated a few years ago at $300,000. The Windsors would likely cost a lot more. So instead crowds will see the royal couple do the route in reverse (a 20-minute car trip as opposed to the hours-long parade), ending up at Bow Valley College, where they will officially start the parade.
MacKay knows if you have served
At Party Under the Stars, a fundraiser to help purchase electronic and other recreational equipment for troops in Afghanistan, Defence Minister Peter MacKay told the crowd that whenever anyone sees a member of the Canadian Forces they should go up and thank them. When Capital Diary asked MacKay’s aide if the minister practises what he preaches, the aide confirmed that he did and added that his boss can spot armed forces personnel even when they are out of uniform, by looking for certain bags or signs. One time in Frankfurt’s airport he went up to an out-of-uniform Canadian soldier and thanked him. The shocked soldier asked, “How did you know I was in the military?” MacKay just smiled.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, February 7, 2011 at 10:59 AM - 41 Comments
Maxime Bernier doubles down on his criticism of Bill 101.
Some people say I am not a “real Quebecer” and are accusing me of “attacking Quebec” simply because I want to be more popular in the rest of Canada. They seem unable to conceive that it’s possible to have a different position than theirs on the basis of fundamental principles.
My position is this: Yes, it’s important that Quebec remain a predominantly French-language society. And ideally, everyone in Quebec should be able to speak French. But we should not try to reach this goal by restricting people’s rights and freedom of choice.
By macleans.ca - Friday, February 4, 2011 at 1:24 PM - 96 Comments
Alberta man should have received ticket in both official languages
The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed with an Alberta man that his ticket for an illegal left turn should be thrown out because it wasn’t offered in both official languages. The judges also said he deserves to have his legal costs reimbursed for raising an “important constitutional issue.” In a similar case last week, a New Brunswick judge acquitted a man of drunk driving after he claimed he wasn’t offered the option to be arrested in English. That’s despite the fact that the man, Donat Robichaud, is a francophone who lives in a predominantly French-speaking area of the province and he understood the police’s instructions.
By Jean-François Lisée - Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 10:20 AM - 0 Comments
A veteran Quebec sovereignist accuses Maclean’s of ‘constructive xenophobia’
I was more amused than shocked by Maclean’s cover naming Quebec “the most corrupt province in Canada.” It certainly feels that way these days, and Martin Patriquin’s only challenge was to cram in a single story all the strands of allegations and shady shenanigans surrounding Quebec’s current Jean Charest government. All the facts in the story are public knowledge, and for the most part brought to light by an aggressive Quebec media and no less insistent opposition parties.
Granted, the blow—being named most corrupt province—was not as painful for me to take as for most of my brethren, since I am aware of Maclean’s penchant for take-no-prisoners covers. Thanks to the weekly’s headline writers, I have been informed these past few months that Lawyers are Rats, Hitler is Back, Toronto Sucks, New York is a Land of Constant Terror, Hillary Adopted an Alien Baby, and Bush was a new Saddam.
No wait! Maybe one of those titles came from another magazine. No matter. Having been a journalist for a couple of decades, I did try to find in last week’s issue the methodology used to grant Quebec its number one spot on the corruption scale. I was curious to know who was number two, and how wide the margin was—as in Maclean’s yearly university rankings. Did the writers use the number of corruption convictions of elected officials in each province since 2000? The cash amount proven to have changed hands illegally? Or, since no conviction is to be found in Quebec (yet?), the number of police inquiries in play? I was disappointed. Maclean’s has no comparison metrics whatsoever. The whole cover is based on opinion and perception alone. Hopes for a Pulitzer on this one are dim.
So, what is the fuss about? A screaming headline loosely based on facts? They’re a dime a dozen. They sell. And Maclean’s is in the selling business. So all would be forgiven, if it were not for Andrew Coyne’s scoop that Quebecer’s are impervious to “constructive criticism.” Let’s try. Continue…
By macleans.ca - Monday, April 26, 2010 at 2:44 PM - 55 Comments
By Paul Wells - Sunday, February 14, 2010 at 5:36 PM - 271 Comments
The Minister of Canadian Heritage is one of many people doing a good job of pointing out the simple fact that, for a public event in Canada, and especially for the games of an international association whose official languages are French and English, there simply wasn’t enough French at the Olympic Opening Ceremony on Friday. “Period,” as James Moore puts it. “Full stop.”
So I would have no particular interest in piling on if it weren’t for the transparently ridiculous excuses VANOC spokeswoman Renée Smith-Valade gave at a news conference this afternoon. There was plenty of French at the event, she said, in effect. You just didn’t hear it.
“Let me give you a bit of background on the French content at the opening ceremonies,” she said, before listing dance choreographers Jean Grand-Maître and Jacques Lemay; flag-bearers Julie Payette, Jacques Villeneuve and Roméo Dallaire; and acrobats from the École Nationale du Cirque.
Now, choreographers, flag-bearers and contortionists aren’t normally thought to have much in common, but one thing that does connect them is that they don’t speak.
I read the excuses offered by Smith-Valade, who is perfectly bilingual, to Graham Fraser, Canada’s Commissioner of Official Languages, and over the phone I could hear him sigh. “That speaks to an idea that people will tolerate French as long as it’s not actually heard. And that francophones are part of Canada, but not the French language.”
Fraser wrote his first report warning about serious limitations in the amount of French at the Olympics in December, 2008. He had meetings with 20 federal departments and agencies to encourage them to make French part of the experience of francophone visitors to the Olympics. “And a lot of them really stepped up to the plate,” he said. “I fully recognize that VANOC put a lot of effort into improving the infrastructure.” Cable companies put “a huge effort” into ensuring that coverage is available coast-to-coast through CPAC, Fraser said. “And that deserves to be recognized.”
But at the opening ceremonies, organizers “seemed to believe it would be an imposition on the audience to hear French spoken,” Fraser said. “So much so that they took a quotation by François-Xavier Garneau and translated it into English to read it to the audience.”
Garneau asked, “En quel autre climat la Reine du Silence montre-t-elle plus de splendeur?” In the circumstance, it seems an apt question.
By John Geddes - Wednesday, May 6, 2009 at 12:28 PM - 37 Comments
I wonder if Pablo Rodriguez and Jean-Claude D’Amours have any idea how many English-speaking Canadians pride themselves on being strong supporters of French in Canada even though they haven’t mastered the language?
The two Liberal MPs tag-teamed an assault on Treasury Board President Vic Toews yesterday at a House committee, challenging him on his suitability for his cabinet post because he doesn’t speak French. “Don’t you think,” Rodriguez said to Toews at a House committee, ”someone who has responsibility such as yours should be bilingual?”
D’Amours suggested that because Toews has some responsibility for bilingualism in the public service, he “should be a bilingual person to better be able to serve the people.”
By Martin Patriquin - Wednesday, July 9, 2008 at 1:23 PM - 0 Comments
Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Liberals. (Image courtesy cbc.ca)
Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Liberals. (Image courtesy cbc.ca)
Good golly and heavens to Betsy. Nearly 40 years after it was enshrined, it seems official bilingualism is being dragged kicking and screaming through the western hinterland of this fine country. La Presse’s Martin Croteau lets us know today that thanks to a $54 traffic ticket, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories may actually have to recognize the constitutional status of French.
In 2003, Gilles Caron made an illegal left turn in Edmonton. His ticket was entirely in English, as was his court appearance. Caron, a native of Quebec, said he should be allowed to face justice in his langue maternelle. After five years (justice is slow in both languages, it seems) the Provincial Court of Alberta agreed. This, as Croteau notes, “could force the governments [of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and NWT] to translate all their laws and allow its citizens the right to a trial in French.”
I can practically smell the mouth breathers across the country choking back the foam in rage. To paraphrase their favourite boogeyman, all I can say is, go on and choke. History, as much as Trudeau, tells us this country is as French as it is English.