Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Canada's Saddest Day

Whether you're English or French and in Canada, you should be able to settle anywhere in this country, feel welcome and at home. Whether you're English or French and in Canada, your culture should be reflected in the street signs and community organizations around you. Whether you're English or French and in Canada, your children should be able to attend school in the language of their choice. Whether you're English or French and in Canada, you should be eager and willing to help protect and promote the rights of the official language minority.

Instead of building fences and shutting themselves in, Quebecers should be knocking down fences and kicking down doors across Canada, demanding the rights of francophones be respected in PEI, or Manitoba, or BC. That way, they and their children can have access to the best Canada has to offer, whether it's a specific academic program at a west coast university, or the most fertile potato-growing land in the country on the east coast. Anglophone Nova Scotians looking to excel in the aerospace industry should be able to move here and be comfortable, just as Quebec francophones looking to conquer the recreational resort business, should be able to move to Whistler and feel welcome.

Why would Quebec francophones not support the efforts of the French-speaking community in St-Boniface as it fought for bilingual store signs in 1996? Why would Quebec francophones not support Acadian parents as they battled, in 1999, to have PEI build them a French-language school? It's about opening doors and new opportunities for all Canadians.

After all, it's not just Quebec that belongs to Quebecers; all of Canada belongs to Quebecers, just as all of Canada belongs to every Canadian from any part of this great country. It is a country that, for so many reasons, is the envy of the entire world.

A poll published in 2008 by the Association for Canadian Studies, showed Quebecers lead the bilingualism effort. A year later, the same association published another poll showing Quebec City francophones are more bilingual than Ottawa anglos. Modern Quebecers know the many benefits of bilingualism. In many cases, we live them. Modern Quebecers understand that 2010 is about opening doors and I like to think we're setting the example for the rest of Canada. We can speak English and French and, on a day-to-day basis, we get along with each other and look out for each other. This happens in spite of the Quebec government's unilingual signs, restricted access to English schools and various other narrow-minded policies.

More bilingualism in more communities across Canada means more opportunities for bilingual Canadians and a concrete reason for anglo Canadians to learn another official language.

Given the right inspiration, Canada could one day set an example for the rest of the world; a bilingual, bicultural, open-minded, respectful nation. A just society.

That's my dream; a dream handed to me by this country's greatest visionary.

Thank-you, Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

This day ten years ago was a terribly sad one for his family but, with the fire behind the dream fading still, it was a much sadder day for Canada.

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