Last updated March 10, 2014
My statement regarding French-first bilingualism in the City of Gatineau
As the "anglophone" city councillor in Gatineau's municipal government, I am occasionally approached on language issues. This is what I have to say on the matter.
French is the most commonly spoken language in Québec, and those who seek to participate in the mainstream of our economic, social, political, and cultural life cannot do so without some capacity to understand and communicate in "la belle langue". Since 1977, Québec's Charter of the French Language (Bill 101) has provided the legal context for Québec to be officially unilingual in French. However, English-first education remains available under certain conditions as described in the Charter, and certain functions of Gatineau's administration do provide services in English. It is also important to mention that our older residents, which came of age before the Charter, must be cherished and assisted in their native language (whether English or French), particularly in the domain of health services.
While the federal government follows the Official Languages Act, the City of Gatineau, a provincial construct, is not officially bilingual. Whether or not you agree with this situation, the reality is that mastery of French is of growing importance to a resident's inclusion and prosperity within the City of Gatineau. This places the onus on unilingual English residents to develop strategies to help them and their children to live and prosper in a French-first environment. In my opinion, insisting on 'English-only bilingualism' is neither reasonable nor feasible – Gatineau, Québec's fourth largest city, is a French city and if you want to be part of civic life, you are well-advised to keep planning and investing in learning French. We can all work together to encourage our fellow residents to engage, learn, adapt and enjoy the vibrancy, flavour, and complexity of modern Québecois language and culture.
This being said, we do exist in a global economy that operates in English, on a continent dominated by English, and in a “bilingual” country where the majority speak English as their native language. But as parents with school-age children are aware, Québec French schools provide English instruction after a French base is established. Essentially, it functions as a French-first bilingual system, which I think is entirely appropriate for this region and helps to prepare our citizens for a competitive and prosperous future.
As for my communications, when operating as a city councillor, I work almost entirely in French, responding in English only when a resident addresses me in English. My personal political website www.LaVieEnsemble.ca is completely in French, but I also maintain a fully English parallel site at www.e-living.org. My city councillor facebook page “DugganDistrict2” is mostly bilingual. My personal political Twitter “DugganDistrict2” is completely in French, though I will re-post material in English if requested, on a case-by-case basis. These are my choices, for better or for worse.
-Mike Duggan, conseiller de Lucerne
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