Little Fish in a Giant pond

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Big Victory for Franco-Albertans(?)

As if the Russell Township debate in Ontario hadn't stirred up enough debate about linguistic rights in this country, the Queen's Bench of Alberta has decided that a Francophone truck driver's rights were violated by a speeding ticket that was issued to him in English only! (Click here for the Full Story) This battle of course, is far from over, because the Alberta government has announced that it will take the fight to the Alberta Court of Appeal.

From the article, it appears that the accused, Mr. Gilles Caron, was challenging the constitutionality of the Province's traffic and language legislation. I haven't got a lot of time, so at least for today, I'm not going to discuss the legal merits of the case, and instead I'm going to focus more on what seems fair to me.

I'm a strong believer in coast to coast to coast bilingualism in Canada. I think that if our country is bilingual, that means a Canadian should have the right to be served by his or her government in the official language of his or her choice no matter where they are in Canada. Having said that, like all rights we have to have reasonable limits. For example, it makes no sense that every single person behind the counter of a post office in Red Deer, Alberta should be bilingual, since there is probably not a lot of demand for French services in that part of the country.

The matter becomes even more tricky when it comes to provincial services, since with the exception of New Brunswick, there are no other officially bilingual provinces. Still, the provinces are constitutionally bound to provide certain services in both French and English.

Here in Ontario, the province is not officially bilingual, but the reality of the matter is that most services from the provincial government are available in French, and most of the province's laws are available online, and have been translated into French. Most of our Court decisions are only available in English, but French and English are both recognized as the official languages of the Ontario Courts, and people do have the right to require that trials and other matters be done in French.

But getting back to the traffic ticket in Alberta. Is it really that unreasonable to ask that the ticket be made out in both of Canada's official languages? I've never gotten a ticket in Ontario (or any other province for that matter), but I believe that they are bilingual here. I think it's pretty fair to say that it's unreasonable to expect police officers throughout the country to be able to speak and write in both languages, but there's no reason why they could not fill out a bilingual traffic ticket. If they have to write extra information on the ticket in the language of their choice, then so be it, that's fair, but the form itself can easily be produced in both languages.

On a side note, my father is a veteran of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), and unlike myself, he does not speak French. He tells me that whenever he is arresting someone and they demand that they be cautioned (the Canadian equivalent to reading them their rights) in French, that this too is not a problem, since the OPP issues them a standard card with the caution pre-written in French. After that, it's up to the accused to request a bilingual trial if he or she so desires.

It's little things like this can be done to ensure that bilingualism functions in Canada. Bilingualism does not mean that we all have to speak both languages (at least not for me anyways), it just means that all we have to do is treat each other with a little respect and show some effort to make sure that services are provided in both languages within reason. This should be applied as much to French outside of Québec as it should be to English inside Québec.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Race to the White House

I don't often write posts that are exclusively about American politics because quite frankly, it's something I do not know a lot about. But I just can't help but join the discussion about this new, young senator for Illinois that has inspired so many people.

To be perfectly honest, I know very little about his political platform, other than the fact that he has announced that he intends to pull out of Iraq. What I do know is that race and religion, whether he likes it or not, are two major issues during this presidential campaign, because of course, Mr. Obama is black.

I think it's fair to say that Obama has done a pretty good job of handling criticism based on the fact that his former pastor has publicly made anti-American and anti-white comments. Obama has openly condemned such comments and then even left the church.

He has had a little more difficulty with cheap shots from some supporters of his opponents suggesting that he is not in fact a Christian, but a Muslim. First and foremost, it is absolutely shameful that his opponents would think that being a Muslim is a bad thing and that they could ever profit from this. Yes, the American voter has given us reasons to have our doubts in the past, but can't we give them just a little bit of credit?! I'm waiting for these same neanderthals to start suggesting that he is actually the love-child of Osama Ben Laden, because "Obama" rhymes with "Osama". It's ridiculous!

While the Obama camp has officially condemned the recent illustration on the cover of the New Yorker, I have to say that I rather enjoyed it, simply because you would have to be a lunatic to believe that Mr. Obama and his wife are terrorists. I'd say that the illustration did a pretty good job of ridiculing any such notion.

I'm also a little bit bothered by all of the references to his racial identity. For some people he's just "not black enough". If elected, Mr. Obama would be the first ever black president in the history of the United States, but of course, only his father was black, while his mother was white. Come on people! No one has the right to decide whether Barack Obama is white or black except for Barack Obama. I'm rather troubled by the notion that for many people of mixed race/cultures there seems to be an awful lot of pressure to "choose a side". Is it not possible for Mr. Obama (or anyone else for that matter) to be both 100% black AND 100% white if he wants to? It would be great of we could all just simplify and say "hey, that's the way it is in the U.S.", but somehow I doubt it is any different up here.

At any rate, I love watching the man speak and I just can't get over the fact that he seems to have electrified what was once the most powerful nation in the world (some would argue it still is). Our fiends to the south are in dire need of some fresh ideas and a new face in the oval office, and from what I've seen, Barack Obama will bring about the necessary changes. Hey a guy can hope!

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