After my last column I was surprised to find that people actually read what I write. I have an audience. Cool! I shouldn’t take all the credit though. I did get to ride on the coattails of SEXtravaganza and an awesome headline after all. Seriously, though. Thanks for reading.
This article isn’t about my incredulity. It’s about the elephant in the room. Since people actually read me, I should address it.
Before I do that, I want to make it clear that I also support the revival and protection of native languages but will refrain from appropriating the struggle of native peoples and will use this space to concentrate solely on how linguistic policy applies to francophones.
Without further ado, I have decided to pen an open letter to the Facebook group “New Brunswick Referendum on Bilingualism 2014.”
Recently a Facebook group was created calling for a referendum on bilingualism in New Brunswick. Officially, the group says that it is about “standing up for equality for all New Brunswickers,” that it is not anti-French, and that it is “against stupid policies and language laws that are bankrupting our province” (emphasis theirs).
Let me take a strong stance by calling this out as the tired, bigoted, entitled bullshit that it is.
On a calmer note, allow me to address some key failures of their argument and how they betray their true bigotry.
First off, the policy that is bothering these people is not bilingualism. Please strike that word from your policy vocabulary. New Brunswick practices linsguistic duality and equal status for English and French. These are the notions that English and French are of equal value, and that each community has different needs and priorities which the government must address in an equal manner. It is categorically not the result of a policy decision to make our population bilingual. See the difference?
Take for example our education system, where both cultures are maîtres chez eux. Here, the entire department is split down linguistic lines. This way both peoples may govern the educational futures of their own students. Makes sense, no?
Allow me to directly address the referenders: You are mind-bogglingly entitled. Especially when you talk about the injustice of the government hiring francophones and bilingual people. Believe it or not, there are some jobs which require bilingualism. That’s because in that job, you will need to use both official languages. It’s like being a manager: You need plenty of skills, including leadership and numeracy. If you’re a leader but can’t do finances, you simply aren’t qualified.
Further, it’s not your employer’s responsibility to educate you. If you want to learn French, do it on your own time. Francophones across Canada have been learning English on their own for decades. If you don’t put in the effort and practice your French (maybe by making francophone friends?), you’re not going to have the skills to work in both official languages. If you want better programs to learn French, ask for them or create them, don’t try to strip the rights of francophones.
You referenders have made some good points, most notably on French immersion. I took French immersion for a while and I can attest that, in my experience, New Brunswick’s French immersion is seriously deficient. The problem with your argument is that French immersion is administered by the anglophone sector. This means that you, as parents, get to decide if French immersion is a priority. Your sector, your choice. Duality in action.
Your complete misunderstanding of how duality works in New Brunswick and your heaping of the responsibility for your shortcomings on the government betrays your true intentions. What you’re fighting isn’t a failed policy; it’s the persistence of francophones in New Brunswick.
As a francophone, let me clear it up for you: you’re fighting the survival of our culture, history and identity. You’re fighting services that we can access and understand. You’re fighting the recognition of our language as being equal to yours. You’re fighting our ability to raise our children in a province where they are treated with as much value as yours.
Our having these things takes nothing away from your ability to have them too, so why fight?