Letters to the Editor: The Montreal Gazette

Bilingualism an asset in Canada (Not directly related to the Unity Flag) June 28, 1997

One of our most serious problems is basic communications between linguistic groups within our nation. As a result, many walls have been erected to protect oneself from perceived and often real threats of assimilation.

It is time for our national government to take the necessary steps to encourage and promote the continuing development of both of our official languages right across Canada. If mostly everyone had at least the basic skills of each language then it will go a long way to bridge the gap between the linguistic groups, break down the myths and perceptions, demolish the walls with the assurance that one's language is no longer in danger of disappearing and generally making us better prepared to accept the challenges in our worldwide economy.

I propose that we make all elementary schools across Canada bilingual. No one would become experts but at least the bare minimum for communication would have been established. Further education in French and English should then be established where numbers and the will, warrants it.

We shouldn't fool ourselves to think that everyone will be able to cope with this policy but if we accomplish a 70% success rate I believe we will have come a long way to making our country a more comfortable place for travel within, while promoting a sense of belonging and well-being.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(Article ended here, the following is the remainder of the letter originally submitted.)

Being welcomed with a "bonjour" in Vancouver and a "hello" in Jonquière can only help solidify our strength as a nation.

Since education is under provincial jurisdiction, the federal government cannot simply legislate to provide bilingual education, however it can create a program that financially rewards provinces that institute such a program. It would be next to impossible to do this all at once, so maybe the best approach would be to start with major cities for the first generation and branch out to the rural communities in the second generation. After two generations we would have established a network of mutual respect and mutual appreciation of each others' cultures and linguistic values keeping Canada the strong, beautiful and prosperous country we want to pass on to our future generations.