Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tripped up on official languages

The Harper government's climb down on their official languages negligence occurs: "Tories add linguistic questions to mandatory short-form census." Looks like the court challenge that was fast-tracked today combined with the embarrassing details that have been disclosed as to what Harper staff were doing behind the scenes in their ministerial offices has prompted action from the government. And really, they had no choice. What they had set in motion with their wrong-headed census changes, by no longer making it mandatory to fully take into account french speaking abilities across the country, would have undermined Canada's commitment to official bilingualism. Without accurate numbers, a government can't provide responsive services. That's going to continue to be the problem on a whole host of other issues too.
Stung by francophone anger, the Harper government is adding questions on which languages Canadians speak to the obligatory short-form 2011 census.

It’s a bid to quell the linguistic minority's fears that scrapping a longer mandatory survey will make it harder to measure their presence in Canada.

These questions were part of the 40-page long-form census the Conservatives are making voluntary over the objections of a broad range of economists, statisticians, provincial governments and researchers who warn it will undermine the reliability of Statistics Canada's data.

The decision came the same day a francophone appeal of the government's decision to abandon the obligatory long-form census scored a modest victory. A Federal Court judge agreed to expedite the French-Canadian group's application for an injunction against Ottawa's census changes.
Scrambling to undo their negligence and incompetence. Such basic obligations to protect and they totally missed it. Amazingly, the Prime Minister who has prided himself on speaking French first at news conferences, etc. has succeeded in raising doubt about his government's intentions on official languages. The damage has been done, despite their walk back. The Federation of Francophone and Acadian Communities of Canada who were forced to bring a lawsuit and other groups and citizens have taken note. Similar to the dagger that was thrust into the arts communities when Harper made his remarks in the 2008 election campaign. Trust on the issue is now in question.

As for that lawsuit now, given the government's moves, here's the reaction from the FCFA:
Late this afternoon, the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne (FCFA) du Canada heard about the statement by the Minister of Industry, the Hon. Tony Clement, regarding changes that would be made to the linguistic questions in the short form for the 2011 Census. The FCFA wants to make it clear that neither it nor its legal representatives have received any formal proposal on this matter. Out of respect for the legal procedures currently under way before the Federal Court, the FCFA will not comment this statement from the Minister.

Earlier today, Prothonotary Roza Aronovitch from the Federal Court rendered a decision which will fast-track the application for judicial review submitted by the FCFA on July 26 regarding the elimination of the mandatory long form for the 2011 Census.
Wait and see, good idea with this government.