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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - February 27, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta 40 LETHBRIDQE HERALD Wmfnwdiy, February 27, 1974 Bilingualism still is controversial subject more than 100 years after Confederation OTTAWA (CP) More than 100 years after Con- federation, bilingualism con- tinues to be one of the most controversial topics in Can- ada. There has been a royal commission and numerous other studies on the subject, yet almost five years after passage of the Official Lan- guages Act, arguments pro and con can be found in all parts of the country. This week, two federal poli- ticians made speeches on the subject Communications Minister Gerard Pelletier in Montreal, and Conservative MP Tom Cossitt, of Leeds rid- ing, in Smith Falls, Ont. The following excerpts from their speeches show some of the differences of opinion on bilingualism policy and how it is being implemented. Mr. Pelletier: The Official Languages Act is a juridical instrument of prime importance to achieve two fundamental objectives: That of establishing the equal- ity of French and English in all areas of federal govern- ment action and, secondly, that of ensuring that all Cana- dian citizens may deal with the federal government and receive service in the official language of their choice. We know the consequences that flow from this policy, for example in the public service. We are also aware of the dif- ficulties encountered in the application of the law. CHANGES SLOW But we knew from the start what had grown up over a century could not be changed overnight, and we put our- selves to the task. Soon the law will be five years old. Al- ready there has been notable progress and more is coming each day. Policy, as you know, is not made of miracle solutions, but rather of a great amount of imagination, great tenacity and enduring patience. The efforts of the fed- eral government in linguistic matters have always been subjected to the most absurd interpretations, the most frequent being that the ulti- mate objective of the Official Languages Act is to make each and every Canadian citi- zen bilingual. The facts are diametrically opposed to this fable: One of the effects of this law is to permit anyone to remain unilmgual, if that is bis wish, in all his relations with the Canadian govern- ment. I would like to say in pass- ing that it would be absurd for a Quebecer to neglect the study of English or, for an Ontarian, the study of French. In every country of the world, from the strongest to the weakest, it is recognized that knowledge of a second language is not only a personal enrichment but an indispensable tool for living in the latter part of the 20th cen- tury- Mr. Cossitt: The biggest sacred cow in the entire retinue of govern- ment oddities is its method of implementing bilingualism in Canada. The government has sought to mesmerize the Ca- nadian people into some kind of hypnotic trance in which all persons will become con- vinced that legitimate, sen- sible and justifiable criticism on this subject is something to be categorized at once as a form of sacrilege. I have yet to bear one really valid reason as to why this subject should be placed in some kind of untouchable it's because the government has partially succeeded in placing it there that the program has in turn become in so many ways a mismanaged and misdirected monstrosity. Recently, for example, Ca- nadians learned that about of their tax money is being spent annually for a number of wives of senior government employees to study the French language. RATIONALIZED This absolute abuse of public funds is rationalized by Paul Tellier, the coordinator of the government's bilingual hi these ridiculous as cuoted ihe press: essential for social oc- casions for the wife of a civil servant or MP to be as bili- ngual as he is." The governor of the Bank of GETS UN POST UNITED NATIONS