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End of the week miscellany

Looks like the congressional elections in the States this fall might prove to be interesting.

With the rise of the über-right-wing-nut Tea Party whack jobs, the GOP nominations are facing ideological splits, and this may harm them mightily at the polls.

It encourages me to see that there is still some sanity within the ranks of the Republicans.


Question – Why doesn’t McDonald’s sell hotdogs? It seems like it would be a no-brainer.


Here at home, Harpy seems to be trying to dare the Opposition into forcing an election through a non-confidence vote over the detainee documents issue.

While the robot was initially all “sure, whatever the Speaker has ruled is something we’ll live with”, he has now backpedalled…

Initially, Harper said he “looks forward to complying” with the ruling, adding that he’ll consider any reasonable suggestion that will give MP’s access to the documents while protecting national security.

But he later said that the government may prevent the release of all of the requested documents.

He also said that the other parties can have a vote of non-confidence on the matter, possibly sending Canadians to the polls.

No big surprise, though.  The politics of cynicism is Harper’s specialty and if he senses a bullying and polarization opportunity, then he will go for the jugular. Don’t take the bait, dudes of the Opposition… it is exactly what the Harperites want!


Question: If you had an envelope that someone told you contained the date of your death, would you open it?


This is interesting.

Bilingualism in Canada’s Public Service has long been a sticking point for unilingual folks.  Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be bilingual to get a job in the PS, but you do have to learn your second language if you want to advance up the food chain.

The latest debate is about whether new Supreme Court Justices should be bilingual.

Bill C-232, a private-members bill, would require that any future Supreme Court justice “understands French and English without the assistance of an interpreter.” It passed the House of Commons last March, with the opposition MPs uniting against Conservative MPs, and is now being considered by the Senate.

As long as we have the English/French duality in this country, we will have debates like these. But as long as Canada is n officially bilingual country, we need to require those in charge of the ship of state to be capable of communicating in both of the founding languages.

Yet, like we can see with the language requirements in the PS, many very well-qualified people would be automatically excluded from the bench of the highest court in the land because they cannot conjugate an irregular French verb. And that to me is a pity. Only 7 per cent of Anglophones outside Quebec speak both official languages, and most of those live close to the Quebec border, meaning that if you are a highly qualified judge who is from somewhere west of the Ottawa valley, your chances of being a Supreme Court Justice are slim unless you are one of the rare ones who speaks both languages.

The fear in this matter is that there is always a danger that language will trump everything – including ability – and that while we may appoint a judge qui peut dire «il faut que je sois bilingue», they may not necessarily be the best person for the job. Me, while I do support the requirement that senior members of the PS and those who interact with the public on a daily basis need to have level of proficiency in both languages, I don’t think the argument that “a unilingual English judge has only limited access to the large body of legal commentary and scholarship written in French” is strong enough.

But that’s just me.


Question: How do you handcuff a one-armed man?


Finally, here’s hoping the Habs make a quick exit from the playoffs! If there is one thing more annoying than Sen fans, it’s a fan of les glorieux (moi, je préfere les pathetiques…)


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  1. I’d vote for a political party that, if they formed the government, would commission a third-party cost-benefit study of official bilingualism over the past 10, 20, and 30 years and release the results to Canadians uncensored.

    I suspect Canadians would be genuinely shocked at how much we’ve spent on bilingualism, how little benefit we’ve received, and how much grief it has caused.

  2. Ken says:

    I’ve been trying for years to get a job with the PS, and I keep getting declined. It’s not because of my skills, it’s because I’m not fluently bilingual. I know it’s because of that.

    Anyway… I’ve been in banking now for 22 years, and the number of times french has been an issue? Maybe three or four. I’ve had francophones tell me that they prefer to speak english when it comes to financial matters, because the terms are easier to understand.

    Hell… when it comes to finances, the next biggest language is Cantonese. Check out any of the major banks – what do you want to bet that in their “contact us” section, Chinese is listed?

  3. trashee says:

    @Evolving Squid
    The thing about you, Squid-dude, is that you are always so fuzzy and indirect…
    Take a stand, dammit!

  4. And I should add… if you’re looking big-picture:

    There are way, way more people who speak Spanish in North America. If you want to do business and interact with people on this continent, Spanish is infinitely more useful than French. In travel to any of North America’s great vacation spots, you could speak Spanish. It’s less useful inside Canada though.

    China is becoming an economic powerhouse. One of the Chinese dialects would make an excellent choice as a second language. In most of Canada’s bigger cities you could speak Chinese every day.

    It never hurts to speak German if you have to deal with Europe. Speaking French will get you set apart from Americans, which is nice, but that’s about it.

    Of course, speaking English is the most universal. If you have that covered, you are golden except in Canada.

  5. I think it is long past time we accept the simple reality: Canada is not now, nor has it been for hundreds of years and is not likely to ever become, a bilingual country.

    In the beginning, Lower Canada was French, not bilingual. Upper Canada was English, not bilingual. Eventually, France ceded Quebec to England, but LC was still French, and UC was still English.

    When Canada was formed from the 4 provinces, government was conducted in English.

    Then in the late 60’s a Francophone prime minister, acting on a personal agenda to stave off a band of separatists who differ little from the American Tea Party, declared Canada bilingual… and immediately began forcing the overwhelming majority of Canadians to learn and accommodate French. This move costs Canada billions of dollars every year.

    Meanwhile, those same people for whom this great accommodation was made have gone out of their way in the last 40 years to make themselves unilingual. That truly is an insult to all those who have paid in taxes, efforts, and lost opportunities to accommodate some politician’s dream of a bilingual country.

    Yes, an educated person should have at least a passing familiarity with another language. In parts of Canada, there might even be some advantage to that language being French, although other than my time in Ottawa, French has been a complete waste of time and effort to learn. I grew up in places where I could have spoken Italian, Japanese, Chinese, or an east-Indian language EVERY DAY. I didn’t meet a francophone who wasn’t a French teacher outside of Quebec until I joined the army. German would have been more useful to me at work. So would Chinese.

    And more to the point, most people in Canada have essentially zero opportunity to become proficient in French. They get a smattering in public school, can’t realistically speak it on the streets, and won’t use it in work unless they happen to be going for a senior government position. It is manifestly unfair to reserve all senior government positions for what amounts to people from the Ottawa Valley, Quebec, and New Brunswick

    If French is your mother tongue, of course, you have a different issue. The world, like it or not, conducts business in English. If you are a native speaker living pretty much anywhere except France, you also need to speak English. That’s the way it goes. You can be unilingual, of course, but you cut off your opportunities. More importantly, if you are a Canadian francophone, the reality of your situation is that you are surrounded by 24 million other people in your country, plus about 280 million just off your border who really have little interest in learning your language – it is useless to them. As a francophone in Canada, you will have opportunities to learn and speak English nearly every day.

    In the interest of fairness, the government should be run in English, with provision for french services where numbers warrant – and that means at the pointy end, not the senior end. Few Canadian citizens give a shit what language the Director General of Widgets speaks, but when they call the Widget Control Office, the person on the phone better be able to deal with the public.

    We have to stop wasting time, effort, and money on official bilingualism. It was a pipe dream (probably quite literally so). If Quebec decided to separate over this, so be it. When they’re a sovereign country they’ll have to speak a fuckload more English than they do now because if they’re separate, nobody has to put up with their crap.

    I agree with XUP about teaching it too. If bilingualism is so damned important, why aren’t all students across Canada taught English and French equally? It’s been more than 40 years. In theory all of us chatting about this now should have been brought up bilingual, all of our kids (if we have any) should also have been brought up bilingual, and their kids should be getting brought up bilingual right now. That didn’t happen, so isn’t it time to stop screwing over English people in government for having the terrible misfortune of being born in the majority population?

  6. Dave 1949 says:

    Although I am not bilingual I have always thought of that as a failing rather than a matter of pride. It is impossible to graduate high school in virtually all of Europe without a second language and I agree with XUP, if we are bi then both languages should be taught throughout school. I had to tke english till grade 13 but didn’t have to take french at all.
    AS for overlooking qualified judges it is a bit of a canard,( a french word by the way). Only 9 on the court so all you have to find is 1 good judge in each province and you have one spare to wait their turn. As it is now there is almost no possibility of any judge making the all star team. GOod grief even a troll like Harper managed to get bilingual. Any judge or ambitious little lawyer can just pick up the second language to polish his resume.

  7. XUP says:

    I always think it’s a good thing for people to be proficient in more than one language. However, this sort of thing needs to be part of the educational system from day one. So that all kids get French and English and maybe even Spanish and German instruction all the way through school — mandatory. If we’re a bilingual country why don’t we teach our kids in French and English equally. None of this English school/French school thing with a smattering of the other language for a few years. Why does the Ottawa school system only require ONE French credit to graduate high school? And then 40 years from now they’re going to try and teach some 60-year-old judge enough French so he can understand legal intricacies in that language? It’s ridiculous.

    And yes, I would open that envelope.

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