Friday, August 5, 2011

Language Watchdog Wants Businesses To "Actively Offer" Bilingual Services

This also applies to private businesses that have nothing to do with the federal government or government-owned properties:
Over the weekend, a report came out showing that official languages commissioner Graham Fraser is planning a secret shopping trip through much of downtown Ottawa.

Fraser, who spends his days making sure that there are sufficient French services in the public service, is now turning his eyes towards private businesses. According to the tender put out Fraser's office, he wants to check regions of Ottawa such as the Byward Market. Many of those shops actually rent from the federal government and have requirements to be bilingual in their contract but Fraser also wants to check private businesses renting from a private landlord that have nothing to do with the federal government.
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Go to Fraser's website and look at what he promotes. You'll see that it's about promoting French across Canada. Anglophones in Qu├ębec? They can look after themselves apparently, there's never any problems there. But French in Toronto, Vancouver and straight across Canada these are the issues that concern the Commissioner of Official Languages. Now he's looking to start grading private business.
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But the ability to serve someone in both languages isn't what Fraser will be grading the businesses on, not if we go by past reports. Government departments are graded on whether they provided an "active offer" in both official languages. It can be presumed that businesses will face the same test.

You might be wondering what an "active offer" is. That essentially means that as soon as you walk in the door of my store I must greet you in English and French or I fail the test.
It almost looks as if Quebec's bill 101 has been extended to the Federal level...

My opinion on this (as well as all those other "speak French or else" initiatives) is simple: if the government really wanted Canada to be bilingual - they should have put all their efforts towards teaching children both languages and ensuring that every high-school graduate can communicate freely in both English and French. Those 40 (if not 50) years that the government has spent promoting bilingualism would be enough to have everyone under 55 (or even 60) fluently bilingual. There would have been no need for bilingual signs, bilingual forms, bilingual offers etc, because vast majority of the population could have been able to easily switch from one language to another...

But the government seems to be more interested in all sorts of make-work projects, that have nothing to do with bringing the two linguistic communities together, but that create an illusion of an effort being made and that guarantee grants to their departments and high-paid jobs to thousands of bureaucrats.

1 comment:

Trestin said...

I classic case of government trying to cure a symptom, while ignoring the disease.