Let me start by saying that I’m not against bilingualism per se and I think it is wonderful to be able to speak more than one language – whatever languages they might be. I am, however, getting more and more concerned about the cost. Can we really afford this?
The recent report from the Fraser Institute states that the provinces spend more than $900-million PER YEAR offering services and education in both official languages and Ottawa spends an additional $1.5-billion PER YEAR offering federal services in french and english…….a total of $2.4-billion annually – and that doesn’t take into account the monies spent in a very large number of municipalities, businesses and organizations.
According to the latest (2006) census, only 300,000 people in Canada are minority language speakers who are unable to communicate in the language of the majority that surrounds them. That is less than 1% of the population.
ONLY IN CANADA would this kind of money (our money, by the way) be spent on such a small group of people – and – what has it done for us? Has it made the country “more unified”? Is Quebec happy? Are Albertans delighted to be spending this amount of effort and money to offer bilingual print-media and services in their province? Have a larger number of people become truly bilingual? Apparently, after more than 40 years spent promoting official bilingualism, 97% of people in Ontario still work almost entirely in english (down from 98% 4 decades ago) and exactly the same percentage of Quebecers (23%) work daily in English as there was when the grand experiment began.
This takes me back to an earlier blog about the demise of Common Sense. After all these years, and all this money, we are no more bilingual nor any more unified than we were when we began the bilingualism journey. So – why continue??
It is time to take a look at priorities. Would you rather bilingualism than good health care? It may come down to just that!!