A bilingual Ottawa, a 150th anniversary infrastructure project
Here’s infrastructure, but not of bricks and pavement -- a cultural infrastructure project. Antoine L. Normand has proposed (see page 5) marking Canada’s 150th anniversary next year by creating a bilingual capital. This would celebrate our anniversary in a non-trivial way, with results that affect our lives, and it would finally give two of our three founding peoples a capital they can feel proud to visit.
Turning the capital into a bilingual city would be a significant step toward national unity, as well as promoting national pride. It’s a no-brainer that should have happened long ago. Ottawa sits between our two largest populations, serves both, employs both, and should reflect our well-used mantra of bilingualism. The people of both linguistic populations in Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec use Ottawa as their metropolitan centre.
Tying this change to our 150th anniversary is fortuitous because it brings the possibility of funding from the federal government. Such a significant shift in Ottawa’s character will require more than municipal and provincial money, but the feds have often stayed outside such requests. The feds channel their attention to Ottawa through the NCC; but on this subject, the federal doors must open easier than to a monument, say, to communism’s sins. The monument would divide Canadians; bilingualism helps unite us.
The Liberal government has raised our hopes for major change, and those changes include just about every subject under the sun. Shouldn’t our capital city’s personality and spirit be part of those projects?
Mr Normand sees the positives: the change need not be sudden but can be initiated in the anniversary year, with a three- to five-year completion date. The former government’s attacks on the civil service mean there are a lot of bilingual people, many translators, who could be recruited, some as volunteers to support the anniversary project.
Mr Normand points to studies and opinions which need not be repeated. The door is already open for this change.
The question is, can we see past old concepts of infrastructure? All those planners, translators, and detailers will be paid; money will go into the economy even if it’s not for pavement. We anglophones feel discriminated against in our officially-unilingual province – doesn’t that help us realize how our franophone neighbours feel when they drive over to Ottawa? And Ottawa’s long refusal to implement a municipal bilingual policy has been a scab picked by Quebec nationalists for decades. Time to resolve these old, smelly disputes; our Prime Minister should see that “It’s 2017” is a sufficient reason to go ahead with a project which his father, in a sense, began.
Check out Mr Normand’s letter. His arguments are clear, fair and reasonable. (Last week had his English version.) With the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s final report, murdered and missing investigations about to launch, isn’t this the time to become more fair and reasonable all around? Doesn’t a bilingual country deserve a bilingual capital?