Volume 92, Issue 64

Thursday, January 21, 1999


The end of an incredible journey

Stating the success of the city's year

Lawsuit brings financial burden

Sexuality could find its way into course calendar

Bilingualism slipping

Food scarcity a problem with homeless


Bilingualism slipping

By Nina Chiarelli
Gazette Staff

A recent study, commissioned by federal Treasury Board president Marcel Masse, indicates a weakening in the enforcement of bilingualism by the Canadian government.

Under control of the provincial government, enforcement is no longer under the authority of law, but rather by negotiations and agreements made between the government and the individual service agencies. The report, recently issued by an eight-member panel, was commissioned in response to complaints made by Victor Goldbloom, federal commissioner of official languages, in his annual report released in March of 1998.

The report, which has pointed out many shortcomings, also lists several recommendations to improve the situation.

"Downsizing and the restructuring of services has shifted the responsibility of enforcing bilingualism from federal to provincial governments in many cases," Goldbloom said. "Because it is in the provincial domain now, we have to find provincial recourse methods. The report indicates that the same obligations to serve language concerns must be met, regardless of who is enforcing them."

"Unlike other countries, bilingualism in Canada is not academic but rather political," explained Heinz-Joachim Klatt, associate professor of psychology at King's College. "It is everywhere and is not limited to certain geographical areas. It refers to people rather than places and is attached to people and services not territories."

Although this restructuring may be a major problem for Canadians who rely on bilingual service from the government, Gene Long, communications coordinator with the office of the ombudsperson of Ontario, was quick to point out he has received little feedback from the community.

"We haven't received any complaints against the office of francophone affairs. That's not to say it hasn't happened, but we can only comment on issues tabled in the legislature and there have been none to date."

Long could offer no further comments because of a policy which prohibits him from commenting on trends and limits discussion to actual legislature minutes.

Bilingualism in Canada has always been a touchy affair according to Regna Darnell, professor of anthropology at Western. "Many people resent bilingualism," she explained. "There are areas in Canada where there isn't a francophone community. That there is a commitment to bilingualism is what brings us together as a nation."

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Copyright The Gazette 1999