Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A little thing called section 23

I nearly fell off my chair this morning when I read this story that Justin Trudeau had criticized the education system in New Brunswick which has separate systems for anglophones and francophones. Now, I recognize that Justin would only have been about 10 years old when his father fervently fought for the creation of Section 23 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which specifically mandates the protection of official language minority education rights. He might not remember the fact that his father specifically ensured that this section of the Charter could not be overruled by the notwithstanding clause. Maybe he didn't watch the CBC miniseries about his father starring Colm Feore which featured this as a plot point...

He clearly hasn't paid a lick of attention to the past twenty years of activism by French Canadian and Acadian communities that have used this section of the Charter to fight for the right to their own school boards. Perhaps he didn't read about how these communities were upset by the cancellaton of the Court Challenges program, which provided them with financial assistance in their legal battles to have the provinces recognize their educational rights. Perhaps he is unaware that the federal government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars since the 1970s, under the aegis of the Official Languages in Education Program, to help provinces provide official language minority education. Maybe he didn't notice that Stéphane Dion helped relaunch that effort to promote official language acquisition with a major infusion of new federal money in 2003 when he was intergovernmental affairs minister.

I suppose this is one way for Justin to distance himself from criticisms that he's running on his father's name - he clearly doesn't seem to have a great sense of what that legacy implies in francophone minority communities. To be fair, he has apologized for his statements. I rather like the quote from Stéphane Dion in the Globe article: "He is new." It calls to mind a phrase that my friends used to express shock at someone's ignorance or naivete about a subject - "Are you new?!" As one of his first gaffes as a candidate for federal office, this one's a doozy!

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1 Comments:

At 7:02 pm, Blogger adawn said...

Yeah, that was one of those moments you read about and the groan. If this is any indication of how he will handle himself, it'll be like a lamb to the slaughter.

 

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