Archive for July, 2010

O Québec

July 28, 2010

by Jack Locke

a.k.a. The Language Police

What are the lengths to which the government of Quebec spits vengeance upon the English language?

“English and French are the official languages of Canada and have equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all institutions of the Parliament and government of Canada,” reads section 16 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

René Lévesque's government introduced the French Charter

Yet, in Quebec, the Charter of the French Language defiantly proclaims that French is the official language. Moreover, it goes far beyond asserting that French is the official language of the provincial legislature, the National Assembly. The government spells out its intentions quite clearly in the Charter’s preamble.

“Whereas the National Assembly of Québec recognizes that Quebecers wish to see the quality and influence of the French language assured, and is resolved therefore to make of French the language of Government and the Law, as well as the normal and everyday language of work, instruction, communication, commerce and business.”

Now, this poses a problem for me. I am a poet, an English-language poet, living in Quebec. For me, my everyday language of work, communication, and instruction is English. In essence, I am a living contravention of the Charter of the French Language.

It gets worse. If I seek to promote my work, I could become public enemy numéro un.

If I advertise a poetry reading on a poster in English, and if I put the poster in a store window or on a public bulletin board, I am facing a fine of between $250 to $700. Subsequent convictions would increase the fines from $500 to $1,400 per offense.

“Public signs and posters and commercial advertising must be in French,” states the language law. Obviously, one poetry reading advertised in English threatens the entire French language in the entire province. The offense so heinous, hanging might be a more effective penalty.

Yet, ironically, the Charter of the French Language quite clearly insists that other languages are to be respected.

“Whereas the National Assembly intends to pursue this objective(French-language domination) in a spirit of fairness and open-mindedness, respectful of the institutions of the English-speaking community of Québec, and respectful of the ethnic minorities, whose valuable contribution to the development of Québec it readily acknowledges;

However, soon after the Parti Quebecois took power in 1976, with a stroke of a pen they wiped out one of Canada’s official languages. It is one thing for a government to promote French—in fact all governments in Canada should—however, it is quite another thing to cannon-ball one language over another.

Recently, I wrote Premier Jean Charest asking that he appoint a Commissioner of English to ensure the protection and preservation of the English language in Quebec. I was not requesting that English be made an official language. I just believe there needs a balancing of the application of the Charter of the French Language.

His reply was standard, government issue.

“Rest assured that we have taken your comments into account,” Charest’s letter concluded.

But why am I not convinced of his sincerity?

His salutation was demonstrative of why an English ombudsman is required in Quebec. The letter was addressed to “Mr. Jacques Locke.”

As for Quebec’s continued place in Canada, I say cooperate or separate, but don’t continue to denigrate.


Green warrior Lemieux seeks leadership

July 24, 2010

by Jack Locke

Sylvie Lemieux seeks Green leadership

In the Canadian military she rose to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, but in the Green Party of Canada Sylvie Lemieux is just a brave foot soldier trying to ensure the party’s constitution is respected.

“I believe that a leadership contest is necessary because the GPC constitution calls for it and we should respect our constitution at all times,” says Lemieux in an online statement.

An engineer by profession, Lemieux, 49, is right about respecting a constitution–but in politics, being right is only helpful when you have a party behind you. Elizabeth May has her party behind her, at least for now.

Come the Green party’s annual convention in Toronto starting Aug 20, there’s liable to be a few Persing missiles launched during what promises to be an explosive debate.

The fully bilingual Lemieux is also criticizing current leader, Elizabeth May, for resting on her laurels. But without a seat in Parliament, there aren’t many political laurels for May, former executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada.

May may or may not respect Green constitution

“The Green Party has stalled and is in need of renewal and a new approach,” says Lemieux.

The approach May is taking is to amend the party’s constitution, so that a leadership contest does not need to be held. Currently, their constitution is very explicit, not particularly well thought out, but clear as day.

“The Leader shall be elected in 2006 and every four (4) years thereafter,” the Green Party constitution states.

According to Lemieux, 2006 plus four equals 2010. She wants to persuade the party poobahs to hold to the constitution, and not do a last-minute, end-run around a constitutionally-binding rule.

As a leadership contest often requires at least a year of planning, you have to wonder whether the Green party federal council was asleep at the wheel, or had hatched an ill-conceived plan for May’s extended leadership?

The former military leader, Lemieux, who has had significant experience in the federal department of Foreign Affairs and Public Works, isn’t asleep at the wheel and obviously knows how to read constitutional documents.

During her tenure with various government departments she oversaw a staff of 300 persons and kept order of billions of dollars of government assets, according to her press kit.

“You can’t govern effectively without trust. And there can be no trust without integrity and transparency,” said Stephen Harper in 2006.

It’s hard to trust a party that cannot abide by its own constitution.


Should I change my name to Jacques?

July 16, 2010

Premier Charest and Prime Minister Harper appear to agree.

Premier Charest thinks I should – Click Here

The suggestion has started a constitutional crisis.

Quebec Commissioner of the English Language Needed

July 5, 2010

by Jack Locke

It is time for Québec to appoint a Commissioner of proper English.

I have no problem with the Government of Québec setting forth an official language, but other venerable languages should not be butchered mercilessly.

The Quebec Charter of the French Language is a beautiful document. However, its official translation into English is bloody awful. Take for example, the translation of the first paragraph in the Charter’s preamble:

WHEREAS the French language, the distinctive language of a people that is in the majority French-speaking, is the instrument by which that people has articulated its identity;” (more…)