In all fairness, I’m the first to admit the CBC’s ‘revelations’ about a Facebook account with pictures of recent garduates from the Canada Customs training school drinking in uniform and posting about ‘Frogs’ and ‘French Bastards’ is not actually newsworthy. But I must say, as someone who frequently has to deal with these fine officers of government, I’m quite happy that someone will be taking a closer look at what’s going on in the offices of the protectors of the longest pretend border on earth.
My job takes me to the United States weekly. I usually cross over at the 1000 Islands or at the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor and Detroit. Coming back to Canada I always make it a point to cross at one of the booths with the friendly Français/English sign.
Here’s how bilingualism really works, Tim Horton: 9 times out of 10 the customs officer does not speak a word of French. 6 times out of 10 we have to do it Montreal-style, with me speaking French and him or her English. 2 times out of 10 the officer looks at me like I’m retarded and asks if I’m sure I don’t speak english. Only about 1 in ten times do they actually respect my right to communicate with my government in the language of my choice by getting the token french guy on duty.
As a matter of fact, in the last year, only three customs officers outside Québec have been able to speak to me in french, and one of them was an American Homeland Security officer.
It seems that Canadians have got the impression that because the federal government and some provincial governments put up bilingual signs, bilingualism thriving in this country. As far as they’re concerned the French are doing great: there’s French on road signs in Ontario, cereal boxes and TV. Bilingualism: done. Remember, these are the people who will buy anything red with the word CANADA on it: beer, sweatshirts and corrupt political parties. Perfect consumers who just want the brand and really don’t want to know it’s made in Honduras and that the profits go back to Chicago. With bilingual signs Canada looks bilingual, that’s what it said on the label and that’s all that counts.
Try to imagine how proudly Canadian you would feel if coming back from a business trip the customs officer of your own country would greet you with “Ch’parle pas anglais! Parle donc français!”