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Friday, February 10, 2006

The Franco-Phoney

What do these countries have in common?

That's right!  These overwhelmingly non-French speaking nations are all members of the Francophonie.

What I like to call the Franco-Phoney.

The last two, Moldova and Bulgaria, are full members.


Why should we care? Because Stephen Harper is taking heat for appointing an MP who is only just learning French to assist the minister of La Francophonie.

From AFP (via Bourque):

Canada's new prime minister, Stephen Harper, has sparked outrage with his appointment of a lawmaker who speaks only English to help represent Canada at the international organization La Francophonie, according to a newspaper report.

Ted Menzies, a member of Parliament from the western province Alberta, was given the nod by Harper to assist Josee Verner, the new minister of La Francophonie, in her portfolio on Monday when his Conservative government was sworn in after winning a recent general election.

The pair will likely attend a meeting of the international cultural and linguistic organization in Romania later this year, the Ottawa Citizen reported Friday.

Romania.  Official languages are Romanian, Hungarian, and German.  French doesn't make the cut.

The fact is that the Francophonie is a nasty piece of business:

Several of the member states have a poor record when it comes to the protection of human rights and the practice of democracy. A proposed measure to sanction such countries was debated at least twice, but was not approved.

Today, the Francophonie is an important forum for discussions of world-wide cultural and linguistic diversity.

The last sentence captures the true essence of the Francophonie. Linguistic diversity is a code-phrase for "anything but English". Cultural diversity is a code-phrase for "anything but American".

Sending a linguistically diverse team to represent Canada seems to be more in line with the stated goals of the Francophonie, but we all know what the real goal is, so we know hearing English spoken at the Francophonie rather defeats the purpose of the whole exercise, doesn't it?

Stephen Harper took a half-step here. He could have made it clear that the Francophonie serves no legitimate purpose, and is dangerously exclusionary. In fact, Canada's membership in an organization devoted to pushing back on the dominance of English only exacerbates the tensions we have here at home by putting the linguistic communities at odds with each other.

Sort of like what it's doing right now.

We should just drop out of the silly business altogether. But I suppose that might be too big a pill to swallow. Right now, anyway.

Posted by Steve Janke on February 10, 2006 | Permalink


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Harper ran a brilliant campaign - one element of which was courting the federalist vote in Quebec. In that context, this was a phenominally stupid appointment in a week of stupid appointments. Maybe Harper will turn it around and the voters will forget the worst.start.ever, but this isn't the way to win a majority next time.

Posted by: woland | 2006-02-10 8:38:48 PM

Let's get real here. Ted Menzies was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to Josee Verner who is the CIDA Minister. It is more than appropriate that a Quebec-based Minister in charge of controlling aid contracts have a Parliamentary Secretary from another part of Canada. Too often in the past the CIDA Minister used this portfolio to favour exporters from one of our main provinces.

In reporting this story, the media has again missed the point. It is only incidental that Verner also happens to be the Minister in charge of La Francophonie. This is not Verner's main job. Nor is it Menzies' main job.

No doubt several weeks from now there will be a quiet shuffle of Parliamentary Secretary responsibilities in which the Parliamentary Secretary duties for this very small part of Verner's Ministerial responsibilities will be quietly given to someone else. In the meantime, Menzies will been given a higher profile for assisting the Minister on aid projects in Asia and LAtin America.

Everyone wins except the whiners looking for dirt on Harper.

Posted by: Two Cents | 2006-02-10 9:14:33 PM

Just want to give you a note folks, that this whole thing is a fabrication. Just because you read something on wikipedia (especially politics on wikipedia)- it doesn't mean it is true. Please at least correct your pronounciation on those country names. I know they're far away but give them this fairness if you brought them up. Cheers.

Posted by: tee | 2006-02-10 9:55:31 PM

I know Ted, so he doesn't know french, big deal where is the tolerance from these pathetic three time divorced alcholic losers called newspaper editorialists. Ted will learn french, like thats so important, Cretien couldn't speak English but the same morons swooned over his every buggered word. Get a grip you losers in the press you have no balls, only a nutless man can straddle the fence like you people do all day and not scream in pain. Go back to apoligizing for the great cartoons in Europe and sucking on your gin and tonic with Fife and Mansbridge and leave Harper and Menzies alone.

Posted by: bartinsky | 2006-02-10 10:44:54 PM

From: Ron Bezant
Sent: Thursday, February 09, 2006 12:28 PM
Subject: LETTER

Re: "Top brass told to be bilingual by next year," Feb 09.

When the Commissioner of Official Languages says that the Department of National Defence must stop using military requirements as an excuse to avoid meeting bilingualism requirements, she reveals a lack of intimacy with military priorities, as well as her usual obsession with la langue officielle that would do credit to the most contemptible practices of Quebec's language police. To carry the woman's attitude to extremes, in the event of a war, Canadian submarines would be forced to fire two torpedoes when one would suffice, just so the command to fire could be issued in both official languages.

It is exceedingly tragic for this country that Ms. Adams' mother had to send a note to school explaining her absence on the day that military history was taught. However, she does seem to have obtained a good grounding in the informal fallacy known as Argumentum ad Populum or, to give an example in the vernacular, "I am right because everybody knows it."

Oh, that someone would either break out the duct tape or send her to Afghanistan for some on-the-job training before any more ruined careers are added to the thousands that have gone before.

Captain (retired) Ron Bezant

Posted by: Western Canadian | 2006-02-10 11:07:51 PM

DND using military requirements as excuse for not training staff at headquarters, language audit finds

Dave Rogers The Ottawa Citizen

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Department of National Defence must stop using military requirements as an excuse to avoid meeting bilingual requirements, Canada's Commissioner of Official Languages said yesterday, recommending that all officers with the rank of colonel or navy captain and above be bilingual by next year.

Dyane Adam said yesterday that more supervisors at Department of National Defence headquarters should be bilingual in order to respect the language rights of employees. In her latest audit, focused exclusively on management at DND, she criticized military supervisors at the headquarters on Colonel By Drive for failing to provide a truly bilingual environment.

Ms. Adam's audit, released this week, shows that 42 per cent of military officers in bilingual positions speak French and English, compared with 82 per cent throughout the federal public service. Almost 75 per cent of civilian employees are in bilingual positions at headquarters.

Ms. Adam said defence officials have to stop using military requirements as an excuse to avoid language training for headquarters staff. "Operational requirements has been the reason given by the Defence Department over time.

"After 35 years of official bilingualism, most institutions have increased their bilingual capacity because they have invested in training, but we do not see that progress at National Defence.

"This is where the Defence Department has to be serious. It is not enough to say that the positions are bilingual -- the department has to ensure that the incumbents in those jobs have the skills."

The official languages report recommends that by 2007, bilingualism be a requirement for promotion for all officers who rise to the rank of colonel or naval captain. Ms. Adam said the requirement for promotion already exists, but DND has set no deadline.

Military officials, however, fired back, saying they cannot accept Ms. Adam's methods of measuring bilingual levels or the conclusions she reaches on the basis of those methods.

"We do not measure bilingualism or any other qualification by position -- we measure them by each military unit," said Lt.-Col. Brigid Dooley-Tremblay, the officer in charge of official languages at DND, arguing that it is unfair to apply the standards used to measure civilian departments to National Defence.

"We recruit people from all 10 provinces and three territories," she said. "We rotate these people through our national headquarters, but don't recruit bilingual people to spend their whole careers there.

"We do not manage our units by each position, so it is fallacious to argue that only 40 per cent of positions at headquarters are staffed by bilingual people."

The audit report is based on a survey of 1,883 of 3,450 defence employees at the headquarters between November 2004 and June 2005.

The official languages commissioner's office conducted the audit after receiving more than 40 complaints from employees about DND's failure to provide a bilingual work environment.

Ms. Adam said DND employees complained about not being supervised in their own language and a lack of French software and computer keyboards that provide French accents.

"We are telling people who are recruited that they can work in the language of their choice, but we are not delivering on that promise," she said. "The linguistic rights of young francophones are not being fully respected."

The report quotes one unnamed French-speaking employee as saying: "Bilingualism exists only for francophones and a minority of anglophones."

An English-speaking worker told investigators that French is seldom used and English always seems to predominate.

Official languages officials said middle managers and supervisors at DND headquarters do not always respect the language rights of employees or encourage them to communicate in the language of their choice. "Moreover, some managers that we interviewed stated that operational requirements took precedence over linguistic responsibilities," the report said.

"The studies we conducted at National Defence show that English is used most of the time as the operational and administrative language and that francophones have little opportunity to work in French, except in bilingual locations where their proportion is quite high."

For her part, Lt.-Col. Dooley-Tremblay said official languages measurements that count bilingual positions in the public service don't accurately measure bilingualism in the Canadian Forces. She said commanding officers are given the resources they require -- including bilingual personnel -- considered necessary to accomplish their missions.

"What we should be measuring is whether bilingual service is provided when and where required. We are adopting a new way of measuring performance that will post a percentage of bilingual personnel into units.

"It makes no sense to count up the number of bilingual people in bilingual positions in the military and use that as a measure of whether you are providing bilingual service at the counter."

Lt.-Col. Dooley-Tremblay said supervisory employees require only intermediate French. She added all officers of the rank of lieutenant-general and higher are bilingual and 70 per cent of newly- promoted colonels and naval captains are bilingual.

"We are targeting the people who have to be bilingual. Right now we are going through an extensive transformation in the Canadian Forces and are not in a position to simply send all of our brigadier generals on language training."

© The Ottawa Citizen 2006

Posted by: Western Canadian | 2006-02-10 11:11:13 PM

C'est la vie ! Let's hope that this Conservative gov't. will get rid of any quotas for french in the military as well as stop trying to recruit women into the forces...what a waste of time and money that has been...women by their nature don't like to kill, leave that to the men. Gasp ! I'm sorry, I forgot, we're a nation of peacekeepers...as Roseanna Roseanna danna once said, "Never mind."

Posted by: MarkAlta | 2006-02-10 11:57:27 PM

Well now

I have been harping on Bill S-3 - an amendment to the Official Languages Act & given royal assent 4 days before the election writ with all party approval. There had to be a hidden agenda here somewhere and it has taken only a few days for it to start surfacing.

I,too, was puzzled with the appointment of Don Menzies and am curious how this will play. Particularly after Harper's courting of Quebec during the campaign. With S-3 having gone though now, and with absolutely no part of this above the radar - perhaps it makes a lot of sense to put in an English speaking p/secretary.

Two things:
The pressure is likely to be put on this person (either by himself or his peers) to show what a good federal politician he is because he will enrol in the French Speaking Program. If he can do it, anybody can do it - like a person is only competent to serve Canada if they are fluent in French!!!!!!!! Give me a break.

If Harper thinks he only has to answer to Quebec for the appointment of an English speaking p/secretary - he is at sometime going to have to answer to the ROC for the conservatives being a big part in the passing of Bill S-3 while keeping it very much under wraps during the process. Could this appointment have something to do with trying to address the ROC???????

I am also puzzled by this Francophonie thing and why we should even be in it. How is Verner in English??? If the Francophonie Conference is basically in English, I suppose it makes sense to have an English speaking person at the table.

I guess the francophones feel that they can supply all the recruits for the armed services, RCMP, civil service, diplomatic corps, etc. from the 30% of those fluently bilingual in French/English. Since this is patent nonsense - the next thing may be to fast track French speaking immigrants to come on board - regardless of the competence of their English or how much money has to be spent on ESL programs in the school systemsfor their children.

One of the next dollar figures that might be of interest is the total cost of the last 35 years for baby-assed bilingual training in the gov't system - the cost of French Emersion school programs in Central Canada, not to mention the probable cost in the ROC when this same kind of press release comes out saying that the entire ROC must move on this bilingual thing.

Posted by: calgary clipper | 2006-02-11 6:45:13 AM

I suggest we might look into the Swiss way to accomodate many languages in one federation of states (provinces).

Posted by: Rémi houle | 2006-02-11 7:17:32 AM

This was a "made in Canada" situation and it will have to be one that is solved in Canada.

I would be interested in looking at any other country in the world where that country is Officially Bilingual when one of the bilingual partners represent something like 30% (and this is being on the generous side) of the total population.

Posted by: calgary clipper | 2006-02-11 7:31:24 AM

What I am saying is that the Wikipedia link (Francophonie) this article referred to is probably a fabrication by a French person to give false credit to the ubiquity of French language. While France is a prestigious member of the EU, the spoken language of the EU is English. Neither French or German could gain general acceptance in the Europian region. I give you credit for the country names, but I think you've mispelled 'Croatian'. Anyway, the Wikipedia entry (which I think is fake) says the following:
"and ten additional states (Armenia, Austria, Croatia, Georgia, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia) are invited observers of its Summits".
Invited observers - got it? IF I want to make a crowd I invite people. It doesn't matter who these people are; they'll make the crowd. So, later I can refer to them simply as part of that crowd. From that distance, it doesn't matter if they'd answered my invitation or not. I've invited them as observers - so they are. The mentioned 'observer' states has nothing to do with the French language. These states could have been invited to the 'Eskimo Summit' each year if there were such an event. (Let's suppose people of Iqualuit would be happy to meet them).
Let's continue. You quote from wikipedia:
"Several of the member states have a poor record when it comes to the protection of human rights ".
Yes they could have - but again - you gave some of that 'discredit' to the observers.
About the member states: they indeed have something to do with French: I know that Romanian language is in the same linguistic group as French and yes Romanians actually have problems with human rights.
I am not a big fan of Francophonie either (I have my reasons too, but that is not public). However, being a European I would say many of these 'observers' would feel pretty much offended by your statment, namely, that they have anything in common with the Francophonie.

Posted by: tee | 2006-02-11 12:54:34 PM

that's ok buddy; cool down and take your pills;
you gonna feel much better after that

Posted by: tee | 2006-02-13 12:11:12 PM

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