Postscript: I can't forgive Trudeau for this language gaffe
Published Friday, January 20, 2017 11:44AM EST
Last Updated Friday, January 20, 2017 4:32PM EST
When did the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau stop being the prime minister of all Canadians?
The son of the man who staked everything on a bilingual country has shamed his father’s legacy. Why is it that Quebec’s English-speaking minority never seems to matter? Our votes are taken for granted. Our services are always threatened particularly in the regions where we exist but seem invisible.
You would think that the prime minister of all Canadians would answer a question in English in a part of the country settled by the English and Scots centuries ago.
Why would he not answer a question in English on a subject so important to Quebec’s English-speaking community? A question of access to health care in English – in particular to mental health care.
“Of particular concern in this area are services to minority populations. Most of the public services in this area are available in French only,” Judy Ross asked the prime minister.
Instead of a thoughtful answer, this is what we got: “On est au Québec, donc je vais répondre en français.” – “We are in Quebec, so we speak French.” Ouch.
The next day, he made a halfhearted attempt at damage control.
He said, “I will always defend official bilingualism, I believe deeply in it but I understand the importance of speaking French and of defending the French language in Quebec and that is something I will continue to do.”
It was a moment to be prime ministerial; instead, he shamed us.
But his words go so much further. They will have so much impact. They give licence to language hardliners everywhere in Quebec: that store clerk, that metro ticket taker, that functionary behind the counter can all refuse to answer you in English because Justin Trudeau says it’s ok.
Thank you Mr. Prime Minister. Are you that blind to our community?
If this was a calculated political play to win nationalist votes in Quebec, double shame.
I can forgive Justin Trudeau for his bad judgment in granting access to the rich and powerful at expensive fundraising dinners.
I can forgive Justin Trudeau for taking his family to a private island for a Christmas vacation hosted by a man who lobbies and is granted millions of dollars by the federal government for his foundation
I can forgive Justin Trudeau for many things because he brought Canadians some hope and reason for optimism in a world which increasingly is looking inward.
But I cannot forgive him for this.
As one Townshipper said, it felt like a punch in the gut.
We matter. Our language matters. Our battered community is still here after years of linguistic assault from governments and we won’t be so easily tossed aside.
Remember that, Mr. Prime Minister, the next time an English-speaking citizen living in Quebec asks you a question in the official language of your father.
Remember what he said about bilingualism all those years ago: "It is absolutely essential if Canadians wish to live together in our country," he said.