The Right to Be Anglo: In Defense of Vic Toews
It’ ok not to speak French. Really. Some very smart – if uncool – people will never get to experience the brain candy that are the lyrics of Serge Gainsbourg and Loco Locass. Some very useful members of society will never experience just how satisfying it is to call someone an ‘estie de con’.
Vic Toews is one of those people. The Conservative minister of the Treasury – who speaks English, Spanish and German – was criticized by the Montréal Liberal MP Pablo Rodrigez for not speaking French last week.
“It’s clear”, snapped the Minister, “that the Liberal Party considers those of us who speak one official language to be less Canadian.”
The objective of the Official Languages Act has never been to force everyone to learn both French and English. In fact it’s the exact opposite. The law dictates that the federal government, Parliament and all it’s associated agencies shall function and give services in the two official languages precisely so that Canadians won’t have to learn a second language to communicate with their government.
This only applies to the Federal administration, by the way. Provinces, which are sovereign when it come to issues of culture and education, can have different policies, as do Québec, Ontario and New-Brunswick. That is what federalism is.
That means many jobs in the federal public service will require people to speak both French and English. Is the position of minister one of those jobs?
Not necessarily. We assume the Treasury Department has plenty of staff that is perfectly able to communicate in both French and English to reporters and citizens. But a minister wants to go beyond that. He wants to sell the government’s program and convince the population that they want more and that they should re-elect the Conservatives.
If Stephen Harper in comfortable with people like Vic Toews and James Moore selling the Conservative agenda to French speakers, that’s his problem.
It’s important to point out that, contrary to the many elements of the United Empire Loyalist Caucus of the Conservative party who consider any requirement of bilingualism to be discrimination against unilingual Anglos (disrimination against unilingual Francos is apparently not a problem), Mr. Toews defended his right to be a unilingual in any official language:
“I should feel free to be able to speak the language of my choice, and for you to even ask that question is an insult.”
That is the point of the Official Languages Act. That is how our shared federal administration should work.
Mr. Toews gets it. The Liberals don’t.