William Johnson, defender of minority language rights, dies at 88
MONTREAL -- One of the most prolific defenders of minority language rights in Canada has died.
William Johnson died in a Gatineau, Que. hospital on Monday after a brief illness. He was 88.
Johnson was a journalist for The Globe and Mail, writing from Quebec City and Washington, D.C., as well as from Ottawa for The Montreal Gazette.
In 1982, Johnson was made a Member of the Order of Canada with the citation that his reporting had given, “Anglophone readers new insights into the problems and aspirations of francophones (and that it) contributed to Canadian unity.”
However, his opinion columns earned him a reputation of being anti-French -- something his wife Carol Bream says he did not deserve at all.
“He fought for the franco-Ontarians’ rights, for anglo-Quebecers’ rights,” she told CTV News. “He was a great supporter of the Official Languages Act. He just wanted those people to feel they existed.”
Bream noted that Johnson, the son of a francophone mother and an anglophone father, attended one of Montreal’s most well-known French schools, Collège Jean de Brébeuf, earning an MA in French literature from Université de Montreal.
“We only spoke French to each other at home,” added Bream, who has a doctorate in French literature. “He strongly believed in the rule of law and that rights are rights are rights.”
In 1998, Johnson was elected president of the anglophone lobby group Alliance Québec. During his two years in the post he held demonstrations against Quebec’s French Language Charter and supported the election of members of the Equality Party, a political party, to the organization's board.
In protest, most of the Alliance Québec’s staff resigned, saying Johnson was too confrontational.
Johnson also wrote three books, including a novel and a biography of Stephen Harper.
He is survived by his wife Carol, a son, a daughter, two grandchildren, as well as a large, extended family.