A nation that can never stand upright, but is required by its constitution to keep hopping from one foot to the other

Carol Iannone writes:

I’m listening to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper with Obama in the Oval Office and Harper has to repeat everything he says in English in French. Is this now a requirement for the Canadian PM?

Also, although he’s pretty good, he doesn’t speak French like a native, so Anglophone politicians probably have to take intensive courses in order to be able to do this. This must be new. I don’t remember this in the past. I never even heard Trudeau speak French, and he was French Canadian.

LA replies:

That rule came about after Trudeau’s time, though of course he was the leader who turned Canada into an officially bi-lingual, bicultural country. Every public statement by the PM and members of parliament—and, I suppose, every federal official—must be in English and French. It makes them seem like a joke in my eyes.

Carol Iannone replies:

This is absurd and awful. He even did it at D-Day, everyone had to hear his whole spiel in both languages. There are many countries with more than one major language and I’ve never heard their leaders do this. If any of the leaders speaks English, they are proud to show that off, even if it isn’t a language of their country, like the Israelis.

LA replies:

It’s been that way for decades. To me (no disrespect meant to Canadian readers) it makes Canadian politicians seem like clowns, impossible to respect. They can never simply SAY something. Every moment of their public lives they are obeying this unnatural linguistic regulation which has them all tied up in knots. It turns them into the embodiment of craven PC. It makes it impossible for them to be strong leaders.

Carol Iannone replies:

Decades? Really! I don’t think there’s any other nation that does this. It makes Canada look ridiculous, not just the politicians. But I truly never noticed this before. Maybe my not having cable and CSPAN until a couple of years ago explains it. Or could it be the news programs were not bothering to show the French and now to be more PC they show a bit before they break away.

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Alan M. writes:

As a Canadian living in the U.S., I think it would be instructive for American readers to know that Federal employees make more if they are bilingual, and promotions often require achieving a certain level of proficiency in both languages. Most French Canadians speak decent English (it is part of survival in the global economy). As a result of the first two points, most of the federal civil service is of French Canadian background.

What started out as equality ended up in inequality. Does this sound familiar?

LA replies:

Thank you.

May I ask, are you offended by the post?

Alan M. replies:

Not at all. If my writing implied that, it wasn’t intended. [LA replies: You hadn’t implied it, but naturally given the tough nature of the post I was concerned.]

I don’t think the requirement to speak both languages as a public official in every speech is a constitutional issue—it is more one of political correctness and political calculus. [LA replies: Really? It is so ubiquitous and routine, I just assumed it was a requirement.]

Every time you talk about the importance of a unified culture, I remember the “Two Solitudes” of Canada that makes reaching a semblance of one voice on anything a practical impossibility (unless it is denigrating the US)

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 17, 2009 11:19 PM | Send

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