Make Bilingualism a Requirement for Everyone

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Views expressed by individuals in these letters are not necessarily the views of the Anglo Society of New Brunswick

by Gary Robichaud

A few years ago, a French woman driving through Woodstock was pulled over and ticketed by an RCMP officer. Nothing unusual there except for the fact that the officer was English and could not speak French. This infuriated the woman to the point where she ended up taking the matter to court.

As a result of the court decision from that case, a judge has decided that all RCMP officers working in New Brunswick must be bilingual by January, 2007.

All the English officers will have to be transferred out, probably to Nunavut or the B.C. interior where the chance of running into a French person is slim to none. In about a year, all RCMP in New Brunswick will be French. Let’s not kid ourselves here; when bilingualism is turned into a job requirement, 99.9% of the time a French person will fill the position.

I’ve spent the last five years of my life trying to reform our country’s position on official bilingualism, I’ve been to the courts, I’ve brought the subject to forefront of the Public Service Alliance of Canada and lobbied countless politicians and bureaucrats at the federal, provincial and municipal levels.

Throughout those five years I’ve simply presented the facts, but during my crusade I discovered that even discussing the facts is now considered politically incorrect. In fact, my use of the term “French people” throughout this letter is considered a big no no; I should be using the term “Francophones”.

I’ve followed closely the absurdity of public service hiring over the years, everything from the bilingual potato picker at the research facility in Fredericton to the bilingual head cook at the Renous prison. At first I was enraged at the limits my Liberal government were willing to go to, to spread bilingualism throughout the land.

However, I now realize that I was wrong, the problem was, I wasn’t looking at the big picture. For years I was focusing too much on the impact that official bilingualism was having on my own job opportunities and the impact that official bilingualism would have on my unilingual daughter’s future in the province of New Brunswick.

However, the reality is that French people are the minority in Canada and thus must be given special treatment, even if it means we English people must pack up and move to find meaningful employment, this is the least that we can do to make the minority feel welcome and give them some purpose in their lives.

I now feel that there should be a monumental movement towards making all jobs bilingual, and I think the perfect place to start would be with our local member of parliament and his executive assistant.

Approximately 5% of Fredericton’s population is French speaking, but our current MP, Andy Scott and his assistant cannot speak, read or write French. This must change immediately, this is an officially bilingual province and all of our MPs and MLAs, not just Scott, must be able to pass a public service French language test. (Coincidentally, there were no French people in the region until 35 years ago when our provincial and federal governments began making bilingualism a job requirement).

If they are unable to communicate with their French constituents in their first official language, these unilingual MPs and their EA’a should be transferred to Nunavut or the B.C. interior as soon as possible.

Let’s not forget the Mayor of Fredericton and his councillors, again, all should be bilingual immediately, if not, ship them out of town.

Now I know that making every job bilingual from coast to coast would result in massive unemployment for English speakers on a scale not seen since the great depression, but it’s our own fault for not being able to speak French. As a French person once told me, “it’s not our fault that we’re all bilingual”.

Don’t get me wrong, there will still be jobs for we English people, there will be ditch digging to be done, taxi driving, the cleaning of hotel rooms, and of course there will always be the annual FREX where we’ll be able to get a solid weeks work spinning the Crown & Anchor wheel.

All English New Brunswickers should stop whining and accept the fact that we must preserve and promote the French language and culture at any cost. If that means we must move to Fort McMurray, Alberta to find employment, then so be it, it’s the least we can do.

In closing, I’d like all English New Brunswickers to continue writing their MPs and express their perception that bilingual hiring discriminates against them.
In doing so, please be assured that when months go by and you still haven’t received a response, it’s not because your MP is ignoring you, it’s because you’ve got it all wrong and you’re not looking at the big picture.

Gary Robichaud
Oromocto, NB

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