Justin Trudeau is probably the nearest thing Canadians have to some home-grown royalty of their own (as opposed to the Germano-English variety). The photogenic son of the influential former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, who led an English Canada kicking and screaming into the policy of official bilingualism in the late 1960s, he became the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada in April of this year with much fanfare and hoo-hah. A federalist with a strong Francophone background he has balanced precariously on the related issues of language rights and Québec’s demands for greater autonomy versus the wishes of Canada’s predominantly anglophone population and federalist (or as we would say here, “Unionist”) political culture. So it is interesting to see his recent comments on the necessity of a strong monolingual Francophone population (principally in Québec itself) to make official bilingualism a successful reality across the continent.
From the Canadian Jewish News:
“Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said Quebec must be French “first and foremost” and that can be achieved without diminishing anglophone rights.
Speaking at an appearance at Le Mood, The Festival of Unexpected Jewish Learning, Arts and Culture, held Nov. 3, Trudeau said his point of view differs from that of his late father, who envisioned a bilingual Canada from coast to coast.
“Like my father, I believe in a bilingual Canada, but over the years, after living in Quebec and being an MP… I’ve come to understand… that in order for Canada to be bilingual, Quebec has to be French first and foremost, and that doesn’t mean taking away from many or any of the rights of English speakers,” he said.
Trudeau said there is a “mainstream culture” in Quebec that has to be protected and can’t be compared to the culture of English Canada, which he feels is too much under the sway of the United States.
Trudeau drew a standing-room only audience at the day-long event, and he received repeated applause and shouts of approval from the mainly young crowd. Afterward, he was besieged for photographs.”
Could you imagine the leader of a major political party in Ireland pledging unambiguously to implement official bilingualism in this nation by protecting and increasing the nation’s monolingual Hibernophone population? Could you imagine the leader of a major political party in Ireland declaring that regions of the country must be Irish-speaking first and foremost?
No, neither could I.
I once innocently asked a group of professionals involved in Irish language development whether it would be possible to raise children to adulthood as monoglot Irish speakers. After all, Irish was once supposed to be the first language of the state. I was met with astonishment and laughter. It seems that none of them had ever considered such a proposition. They thought it was outlandish, but without a monoglot community minority languages are consigned to a lingering death IMHO.