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Supriya Dwivedi Headshot

En Français, S.V.P.!

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SUPREME COURT
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Harper and the Conservatives were elected to a majority government with next to no help from Quebec. As a result, the Tories have decided to rub it in Quebec's face. There is a long list of exemplifications of this, however, the most egregious of all the offences is the federal government's systematic disregard for the second official language of this country.

Since coming into power, the Tories have been stacking federal positions with Anglophones who can't speak French. First, there was Harper's communications director then there was the nomination of Michael Moldaver to the Supreme Court, and now there is the appointment of Michael Ferguson, a unilingual auditor general. Which is particularly odd, considering that Mr. Ferguson was the Deputy Finance Minister for New Brunswick, the country's only officially bilingual province, so one would have figured Mr. Ferguson would have needed to be bilingual for the provincial position he held.

All of the resolutely Anglophone speakers have vowed to learn French, but is that really enough? With a recession looming, and many people looking for jobs, shouldn't the government only be hiring truly qualified candidates? After all, the job description for the auditor general explicitly stated that proficiency in both languages was a requirement.

Moreover, on somewhat of a tangential aside, it is rather unfortunate that being a judge in the country's highest tribunal does not call for mandatory bilingualism. It only seems fair that someone getting paid over $300 000 until the age of 75 on the tax dollar of French-speaking Canadians should be able to understand those Canadians instead of wasting more of their tax dollars on further interpretation and translation services.

English-speaking Canada is often guilty of painting Quebec as a temper tantrum-throwing child, who must be appeased to keep the family peace. Now, I'm not one to deny that my province can be quite vocal and even unreasonable at times, but asking for important federal positions to be filled with bilingual candidates is not unreasonable.

It is imperative to note here that the Quebecers and French Canadians who find this kind of treatment from the federal government appalling should not be relegated to the usual Franco supremacist faction of the province, whose habitual pastimes include harassing English mom-and-pop shop owners, and trying to extend Bill 101 to CEGEPs and universities.

In reality, this is not the usual gratuitous paranoia that Quebec often harbours towards the federal government. Right now in Quebec our panties, or rather, our culottes, are in a bunch for good reason. Harper's appointment of all these people, who are incapable of communicating with over seven million Canadians, or roughly a little over 20 per cent of Canada's population, is a slap in the face to French Canadians.

It sends the already long-harboured message that Quebec is treated as an outsider; akin to that uncle nobody likes at Thanksgiving. (You know, your family invites him because he married your dad's sister, but nobody really wants to talk him, so everyone tries avoiding him instead.)

Undoubtedly, it is a sad reality that the relationship between French and English Canada has been a fragile one since 1763. I guess I just figured that in 2011, the federal government wouldn't be trying to make it worse.

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