When Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed Angelo Persichilli as his director of communications, he showed the Conservatives contempt of Quebec and the French language. The Toronto native can’t speak French.
Last Thursday’s appointment of Michael Ferguson as Canada’s next auditor general takes the contempt beyond Quebec. It betrays the Conservatives’ contempt of Canada’s celebrated bilingualism.
Mr. Ferguson, the former Auditor General of the New Brunswick, is a unilingual anglophone. His appointment is oversight? I don’t think so. The job posting called for a bilingual candidate. Bilingualism is a must for Ottawa’s financial watchdog. And other key positions in the Federal government.
Canadians made that point crystal clear 42 years ago, when bilingualism was enacted into law. They committed to building a bilingual nation. To protect the rights of both minority English and French-speaking communities.
That day, Bilingualism became a Canadian value. Requiring key federal public servants to be able to speak both official languages is one way of upholding this value. Of nurturing bilingualism across the country.
The Conservatives have unassailable majorities in both the House of Commons and Senate. We get it. But, for them to use that advantage to trample on yet another Canadian value!?
Kudos to Michel Dorais, a veteran public servant who resigned in protest yesterday. And to the NDP caucus for voting against the appointment.
I don’t expect the Conservatives to uphold the principles of the Official Languages Act and annual Mr. Ferguson’s appointment. The PM doesn’t exactly believe in our bilingualism. In 2001, he told the Calgary Sun: “Canada is not a bilingual country. In fact it’s less bilingual today than it has ever been. … As a religion, bilingualism is the god that failed.”
It’s up to Mr. Ferguson to do the right thing before he begins his 10-year term on November 28. His commitment to “be proficient in French within a year” isn’t enough. After all, he served more than a decade in senior government roles in New Brunswick, a bilingual province, without bothering to learn French.
He must resign.