Official Language Blues: If I ran the zoo… er country

Maple Leaf that says "Oh! Canada" It is a major failing of our education system that all school children are not offered the “other” official language in school.

Of course the federal politicians can say, “Education is a Provincial responsibility”.

This is nothing but a pure cop-out.

Canada has two Official Languages.

If federal funding was forthcoming the provinces would jump at the chance to introduce education plans to comply. It seems to me that the problem is that the Federal Government is simply not willing to put their money where their mouth is.

Vancouver Olympics 2010 logo

Personally, I am disappointed that the Bloc Quebecois have not pushed for this. In a perfect world, even if the Bloc manages Quebec succession at some point, would it not be easier for a separate Quebec to deal with a Canada where there isn’t this knee-jerk language war?

From everything I have read and heard, when children learn a second language in childhood, it makes learning additional languages later much more attainable. And breaking down barriers to communication is always a good thing.

It is inexcusable that the Olympic Games are not fully accessible in both Official Languages. We should all be ashamed of that.

BON COP BAD COP: A graphic description of the great divide between our official languages.

Canada is known to be a nation rich in resources, but our greatest resource, which is also the one that is most often overlooked is our children.

Both English and French are our official languages as Canada is officially a bilingual country. I’ve just been told that Canada is merely “institutionally” a bilingual country, and that only at the Federal level in a CAPP Facebook discussion group. That may be the way it is, but it should not be.

In a perfect Canada all kids would be bilingual. So that eventually all adults would be bilingual. It is ridiculous that that still has not happened.

Whole School Portrait - 1930's Rural Ontario
English immersion - 1930's Rural Ontario, Whole School Portrait

My father didn’t know a word of English when he started school in the 1930’s. We’ve always teased him about the trace of accent we can still hear, but in retrospect maybe it isn’t a rural Ontario accent but a rural German accent. Our parents made it a point to not teach us German so they could speak privately in front of the kids. So I grew up a monolingual English Canadian, whith parents who were bilingual German/English speakers.

I think that learning French when it suddenly appeared in Grade 7 would have been much easier had we learned German as kids. I know I worked hard at trying to learn French in school, but High School was the end for me. I was crashing and burning by grade nine French thanks to a personality conflict with my ninth grade French Teacher, and it made me give up. Out of self preservation I learned the phrase “Je ne sais pas” which got me out the other side with a bare pass. Given enough time and motive I have been able to muddle through written French. Because Alexandre Dumas is one of my favorite authors, I struggled through his novel The Black Tulip which our High School Library stocked in French.

Two Official Languages

Bon Cop Bad Cop Poster

My niece was enrolled in French Immersion when she began school, so I was thrilled that my child would be able to enter a French immersion program when he started school.

As it turned out, we were not allowed to enroll him in French Immersion because the school district we lived in only offered that option to children with a French speaking parent.

The educational options open to Canadian school children vary from board to board as well as province to province.

The best argument I had heard against French or English Immersion was the fact that the mother-tongue was disadvantaged since all of the education the children receive is in the second language. But I just learned from one of the parents in a CAPP (Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament) discussion thread that his children in Quebec get an alternating curriculum… one week French, the next week English. What an excellent idea. Problem solved.

If all Canadian school children were educated to be bilingual, I think it would help enormously in healing the language rift we have in Canada.

I’m quite sure we’d still find things to fight about, but they would be different things, quite possibly less harmful things. In addition to helping break down the language barriers which cause so much friction between anglophone and francophone Canadians, learning a second language is reputed to make music and mathematical learning easier for students as well.

And if we were all bilingual there would be a lot more great films like Bon Cop Bad Cop, which was great in either/both languages.

If I ran the Zoo er Country…

Canadian Flag

I would provide adequate funding to offer bilingual education to all our children.

Because we are ALL Canadians, whether we speak English or French or Both.
And both would be best for us all.

That’s what I would do if I ran the zoo country.



Write to your Member of Parliament and tell them what you think about premature prorogation or anything else! You can find your MP with this lovely link – it will also help you find out who your MP is if you don’t know. It’s time that Canadians started letting them know what we think about how they represent us.
Find your Member of Parliament

Write to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and tell him too!
Prime Minister/Premier Ministre Stephen Harper <pm@pm.gc.ca>

The government gives more weight to postal mail: you can mail your comments without a stamp!!:

The Right Hon. Stephen Joseph Harper, P.C., B.A., M.A.
1600 90th Avenue Southwest, suite A-203
Calgary, Alberta
T2V 5A8

Canada badly needs electoral reform. Take a peek at the Non-Partisan Fair Vote Canada site to get information some ideas of electoral reform. All Canadians need to join in these non-partisan discussions.

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