The basic Canadian problem today is the affirmation of national independence, even indeed of continuing national existence, as virtually every royal commission in recent years has proved. In spite of what the politicians say there is only one clear, well-defined way to achieve and defend that independence. Canada must become a united country, speaking, writing and thinking in a single language — and that language must be French.
Certainly Canada would be at least as well off if we had spent the past two centuries as a French-speaking country. The French have shown as much initiative and technical ingenuity as the English, and as colonizers they have not proved more avaricious. Also, since France has by and large been a weaker country than England since 1815, we would probably have achieved a more extensive independence and achieved it earlier.
But, unfortunately, we are not now a French country and our present situation cannot be reversed overnight. Yet, when one considers the success Israel has had in teaching its polyglot population to speak Hebrew, there are no grounds for despair.
We must begin, of course, in the schools. Starting with grade one in 1963 or 1964 — depending on how quickly the teachers themselves can be taught — all instruction must be in French. English would be taught only from grade six or seven, and to students who had shown complete mastery of French. As for those now at school, they would be given an increasing proportion of their curriculum in French, while each university would be allowed five years
in which to make a total change-over.
A similar approach would be required for parliament and the civil service. We might begin with a law that all ministers must be fluent in French, and that all new senators have to pass an examination in French, including grammar. Existing requirements for bilingualism in the federal civil service could easily be shifted over to unilingualism. As for the provincial governments, these would become obsolete since they exist only as part of the political structure guaranteeing the rights of French-speaking Canada.
Companies that converted their correspondence and operating procedures to French would receive substantial tax advantages. And ultimately the laggards would have to face crippling penalties. Since even fewer Americans than English-Canadians speak French, this would do more to establish Canadian control of our trade and industry than anything anyone has thought of so far.
With the general public, a system of bonuses for passing proficiency examinations should get things moving. Happily, CBC-Radio Canada is an excellent vehicle for teaching and indoctrination.
The project is likely to meet with greatest acclaim in cultural and intellectual circles. Canada has failed so far to establish a strong English-speaking culture or literature. A French-speaking country from sea to sea would offer English-Canadian writers a reinvigorated national market, and a concrete cause to write — and work — for. They would no longer face the appalling problem of how to devise characters and attitudes and situations that were truly Canadian.
There would also be many secondary advantages. The controversy over the flag would be settled immediately. The fleurs-de-lis of Quebec is both distinctive and elegant, and a Union Jack could always be included in one corner for its nostalgic value. There would be an immediate improvement in the national cuisine. All Canadians would benefit from the more sensible Quebec laws regarding the sale of liquor. And. since Quebec is generally in favor of a state lottery, other restrictions imposed by English - speaking North American puritanism might begin to wither away. It is likely, too, that desirable immigrants would be much encouraged to come to Canada, and fewer educated Canadians be tempted by the merely material advantages of U. S. salaries. However, there is no reason why the more picturesque aspects of English-speaking folk life should not be preserved — such as St. Patrick’s Day and the reserve army.
There is one other serious national reason for making Canada a Frenchspeaking country. Think of the result of putting up a language barrier — perhaps the most effective of all barriers — against American control. Our shout of independence would echo round the world, and other countries would at last listen seriously to Canadian statesmen. Incidentally, the whole program would likely have a devastating effect on American confidence in Canada as a reliable place to invest in — and so encourage more effectively than any monetary or budget policies a truly national economy.
What a wonderful way to celebrate Confederation! -MICIIAI t. sut TDON
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.