Monday, May 17, 2010

Vive the Difference

One advantage to writing a blog read by only a few is that anything I say can have a large impact and little consequence. So, here goes.

Recently, there has been an uproar about Supreme Court judges having to be bilingual. This precludes 80% of Anglophone Canadian lawyers from consideration; but it also demands that Francophone judges be professionally adept in English, which is not so limiting only because they have had to learn English to survive in a North American world.

A generation ago, as an academic critic, long before I began writing mysteries, I was on the founding executive of The Association for Canadian and Quebecois Literatures, an academic group that de facto supported cultural difference, although it seemed horrified by the idea of political separation. I’ve always been surprised by the petulant silence in the ROC during the sovereignty debates, but surely we’ve reached a point of maturity in our parallel histories where silence is demeaning and an insult. Quebec is a nation with a National Assembly and a distinct culture which springs from our common heritage and overlaps with Canadian culture and history as a whole. Surely it deserves political autonomy. The rest of Canada will not dwindle into a cultural wasteland and Franco Canadians in the ROC will benefit from having both a Canadian homeland and a motherland in Quebec.

We have been a cereal box country long enough. Let’s join forces, Canada and Quebec, recognize each other’s autonomy, celebrate out differences, honour what we have in common, and stop fretting about RenĂ© Levesque’s sad brave eloquent admonition to seize the future, whether in reference to the Habs or the Quebecois nation. This little essay is not about separatism, a word which has no meaning in the context of mutual sovereignty. It is not about independence, which begs to know who and from what. It is about common sense and co-operation, and a future where we cease to be a burden to each other and instead become allies.

1 comment:

  1. I found your blog through the link you posted in Crimespace. Thanks for the info.

    The issue of bilingualism in national courts never occurred to me, as a resident of Baja Canada. I can see why the requirement exists, though I also see how it can make it difficult for jurists from the western provinces to move up, as I don't expect they have much need to speak French day-to-day.

    A question: Is there a proficiency test for judges in each language? bad as it might be for a judge not to speak French (or English) at all, it could be even worse if their understanding isn't as good as he thinks it is.