Richard Cleroux is a first class writer observer of the happenings in Ottawa. And although I spotted his latest column in an Ontario newspaper, it should set off alarm bells in Western Canada.
Writing in the July 3 Cornwall Seaway News, Cleroux’s article Language Issue Heats Up zeroes in on the pre-election debate now taking place in Montreal, specifically whether the city’s mayor should have to be bilingual (the current mayor is, his chief rival is not). And Cleroux points to similar debates taking place over bilingualism in several other Canadian communities.
But Cleroux also points to one attempt to extend bilingualism as an OBLIGATORY REQUIREMENT on the NATIONAL SCENE … in an area that first made my blood run cold … and then start to boil.
Apparently NDP MP Yvon Godin, from New Brunswick, has introduced a Private Member’s Bill that would require SUPREME COURT of CANADA judges to ALL be bilingual .. and not just bilingual enough to order lunch in the second language, but competent to hear Supreme Court cases as well!
Under current rules, lawyers can address the Supreme Court (and many other court bodies and government agencies and departments) in either official language. But the judges need not be bilingual … not all are … because translation is provided.
But Godin’s bill would apparently make unilingual Canadians (English or French) INELIGIBLE for appointment to the Supreme Court.
In the real world, that would ensure few Western Canadians could ever be appointed!
Let’s face it … it is much more likely that, living in a sea of 360 million North Americans speaking English, Francophone professionals aspiring to national positions of any kind (business or law) already have huge incentives and opportunites to learn/work/use English.
But French is just not as common a working language in Western Canada. So chances are there would be very few Anglophone lawyers, or provincial court judges HERE would have sufficient proficiency to hear/understand complex legal issues in French. (That’s why we have translation … to make sure the litigants get a fair opportunity to be fully understood.)
So the real effect of REQUIRING FULLY BILINGUAL judges on the Supreme Court will shut out many, many highly qualified Western Canadian jurists. And slant the Court even more with Central and Eastern Canadians. Maybe that’s the real objective … eliminate the Western perspective or interpretations on national issues?
Now, I know you may be thinking … it’s only a Private Members Bill, Harvey!
Oui, c’est vrai! But Cleroux reports, and I trust his accuracy completely, “The debate picks up in the Fall, with all three Opposition parties in favour of having obligatory bilingual judges.”
With a minority government! With the three Opposition parties holding a majority of the seats in the House of Commons .. this Bill could easily pass.
In fact, only the Conservatives have opposed the idea.
I can understand Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc Quebecois taking that position, but I’ll bet you haven’t heard a peep out HERE from the Liberals’ Michael Ignatieff or the NDP’s Jack Layton about their parties’ intention to support that position … and once more turn their backs on Westerners.
Sound the alarm!
What is YOUR MP doing about this??? As I said, with Westerners holding a minority of seats in the House of Commons … this Bill could easily be rammed through by the Central and Eastern Canada majority.
Clearly, if Cleroux’s article is correct and the Bill will come forward this Fall with Opposition support, the West really doesn’t count for much with the Liberals and NDP, regardless of what they tell you when they “drop in” for a visit.
Action speaks louder than words … something Western Canadians have long learned and suffered under, regardless of the federal party in power.
Maybe the time to speak up (WAKE UP WESTERN MEDIA!!!) is NOW, before the Fall vote takes place.