Wednesday, June 18, 2008

No action taken for bilingual Timmins

Timmins city council has shown no indication that it will act on a suggestion that the city become officially bilingual.
The suggestion was put to city council Monday by a group of students from Ecole Secondaire catholique Theriault. Their idea comes from a youth forum and mock parliament held for local high school students in April.
At Monday’s meeting the students argued that “embracing” the concept of bilingualism would lead to a drop in the problem of out-migration where too many young people leave the city. The students also argued that by declaring itself bilingual, Timmins would become a linguistic and economic hub in the North and eventually give itself an economic boost with increased tourism and government services.
At the end of the presentation, city councillor Jack Slattery commended the students for their presentation and for taking the time to argue their case so well.
Councillor Pat Bamford also thanked the students but told them he represents citizens who don’t share their views.
He said bilingualism is one of those issues where people have “strong feelings” on either side of the issue, so much so that many families choose not to discuss the issue “because no one ever wins.”
“You put a lot of thought into this,” he told the students,” and you deserve a thoughtful response.”
Bamford said that while he wasn’t condoning some of the views of some city residents, there is a strong feeling that bilingualism is not helpful. Bamford said a lot of the “hard feelings” stem from Canada’s Official Language’s Act.
“There are parts of Canada where there are very few Francophones, if any, and the Official Languages Act has been implemented like a sledgehammer in those areas,” said Bamford. “And there are people in those regions who have not been able to get work or who have been refused promotions,” he continued.
“When we or any group advertises a job as ‘bilingualism is an asset or essential’ rightly or wrongly the impression is it’s a good chance that a Francophone will get that job. I’m not saying that’s true. I’m talking about feelings now. There’s a certain amount of resentment that is there,” Bamford added.
“I think it will complicate the day-today internal operations of the city. It will adversely affect the careers and future job opportunities of unilingual Anglophones and I don’t believe it’s necessary to achieve what you’re trying to accomplish - - that is the advancement of French culture,” he said.
Bamford said he would prefer to go with the example of the province of Ontario, which is to not officially bilingual, but still strive to provide essential services in both official languages.
Mayor Tom Laughren thanked the students for their time and effort and for giving council “a lot of food for thought”.
There was no indication from any councillor to move a motion for any further discussion.

No comments: