Vancouver Zeitgeist
Reflections on Vancouver, British Columbia and other topics, related or not


Maîtres chez tous

Canadian bilingualism remains an
abject failure, much to Quebec’s benefit

January 21, 2017

A suitable symbol for Canada’s elite


Returned from Luxembourg and France (where all Anglo-Canadians should visit, if only to experience good-natured French-speaking people) in time to see the media sniping at Conservative leadership candidates for their imperfect French. (Here’s a predictably trite example.) So why, after more than half a century of official bilingualism, has Canada failed to create a society fluent in both languages? Countries like Switzerland and Luxembourg instil multilingualism early and universally through their schooling.

Maybe Canada’s failure is deliberate. If everyone were bilingual, the skill wouldn’t give anyone any particular advantage over anyone else. In that respect, all Canadians would have an equal shot at top jobs in federal politics and the bureaucracy, not to mention a great many positions in Crown corporations, as well as companies and organizations hoping to curry favour with Ottawa. But if fluent bilingualism remains difficult to acquire outside Quebec, that province maintains its status as birthplace of Canada’s elite and beneficiary of countless job set-asides.

That’s been the case for generations now. If it needed to be explained, Peter Brimelow did so in his 1986 book The Patriot Game. Yet after all these years, Canadian public discourse has little to say about how a policy that’s been implemented so badly—and maybe on purpose—benefits a minority elite.

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