Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Are bilingual Olympics the federal government's responsibility?

Representatives of the Vancouver Olympics organizing committee were hauled before Parliament's official languages committee this week, following Official Languages commissioner Graham Fraser's report last week that the Vancouver Olympics are falling far short of their obligations to provide bilingual services.

Before anyone starts railing against Canadian bilingualism, and arguing that Vancouver doesn't need bilingual signage, etc., let's look at this squarely in the context of the Olympics. The modern Olympics are the brainchild of Frenchman Baron Pierre de Coubertin. English and French are the two official languages of the Olympics - no matter what country they are held in - and when you watch the seemingly endless parade of nations, you will hear the names of countries said in both of those languages. This is not a "made in Canada" bilingualism issue - it is international and Olympic in nature. But even from a domestic vantagepoint, it would be extremely short-sighted not to think that there would be thousands of Canadian francophones descending on Vancouver for the Olympics, many of whom will only speak French (particularly if they are from Quebec, where it is quite possible and common to be a unilingual francophone). Moreover, a sizeable component of Canada's own Olympic contingent will be French-speaking.

The question for me that prompted this post relates to the first article that I linked to. VANOC is apparently going to ask the federal government for help with the estimated $1.7 million cost of providing bilingual services at the Games. I'm not completely convinced that the federal government should cover these costs, and I hold that opinion despite being an advocate of bilingualism. If the federal government has already refused to cover other funding shortfalls of the Games, I don't think that language services are necessarily in a different category. $1.7 million dollars could cover a heck of a lot of university students on second language exchanges, could train a lot of teachers, or could help support minority language schools, to name but a few alternative uses of this funding. The federal government should hold VANOC to its obligations to provide bilingual services, but I'm not convinced that it should have to bear the financial implications of this - particularly as this is not a "made in Canada" requirement of the games.

Labels: , ,

Recommend this Post

Canadian Nationalism /or/ There are some things you just don't outsource

Canadian nationalism is rather subtle. It explodes into view occasionally - visit Ottawa on July 1st to see patriotism as you rarely see it - but for the most part it is a quiet and polite beast. Still, there are some areas where you're bound to get a nationalistic rise out of Canadians, and it's just not worth the headache.

A case in point is NDP MP Charlie Angus' outrage about the fact that the Canadian government's Canadian flag pins are made in China. Personally, I find Angus' rhetoric to be a bit shrill: "The maple leaf pin was manufactured by Canadian companies for decades. Now those jobs have been shipped overseas." But it was entirely predictable that this issue was going to come up. Angus raised it a few years ago with the Liberal government of the day. Indeed, just a few weeks ago, Ontario NDP MPP Peter Kormos raked the Ontario government over the coals for its Made in China provincial flags.

Is this a petty little nationalistic press release over what amounts to very few jobs and very small purchase orders, in light of the insane volumes of overseas-produced merchandise that Canadians purchase every day? Yes. But it's also an issue that a civil servant (or his overseeing minister) with the tiniest bit of political acumen could and perhaps should have circumvented.

Labels: , ,

Recommend this Post

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Maybe the Dominion Institute is right after all

I usually take the dire warnings of the Dominion Institute about the declining state of knowledge of Canadian history with a pound of salt. Although I consider myself to be a political historian, I generally do not subscribe to the "sky is falling" mantra that knowledge of my country's political history has all but disappeared.

But every so often, I wonder. I'm in the midst of reading a book for possible teaching purposes. I'm not going to name the author, because it's someone I consider a colleague, and it's not my purpose to engage in ridicule. But I am flabbergasted not only that someone with a PhD in Canadian history could not know that it was the Conservatives, not the Liberals, who formed the federal government at the outset of the First World War, but that this egregious error somehow made it past two expert reviewers and the copy editors at a reputable academic press!

Clearly, some people haven't been subjected to marking dozens of papers on the 1911 federal election - considered by many to be one of the most significant of this country's history!

Labels: , ,

Recommend this Post

Mid-April Blogging Bits

I've been on the road and busy with end-of-term exams, which is my latest excuse for the light blogging this month. Rather than a comprehensive new post, a few quick observations.

1) After the horrendous setback in California with Prop 8, I'm thrilled to see gay rights on the march in the US. Vermont legislators overturned their governor's short-sighted veto of legislation to permit gay marriage. Washington state has just passed legislation giving gay couples pretty much everything shy of actual marriage. Iowa's Supreme Court has ruled in favour of gay marriage. New York's governor has announced that he will sponsor gay marriage legislation. I guess that feeling of optimism that I tasted in the air when I landed in Newark last week was well-founded! Now if only Obama thought that repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell was as important as striking a task force on pirates...

2) BC is giving electoral reform a second shot. Regardless of what happens with the election, I hope that BC voters - who cast a majority (but just short of the 60% threshold) of their votes in favour of reform last time - will resoundingly endorse Single-Transferable-Vote this time around.

3) Richard Florida, rider of the "Creative Class" hobby horse, is revising his list of best Canadian cities to live in. Details of this list are here if you want to know the top ranked cities in each category, but I'm posting because my new hometown of Guelph is faring quite respectably on the list, placing 6th or 7th for a number of younger and mid-career demographics.

Exams wrap up next week - and regular blogging might resume then. I'm looking for recommendations of new "Canadiana" books to read and review, if anyone has suggestions.

Labels: , , , ,

Recommend this Post