‘Two Official Languages Are One Too Many’

The problem of having 2 Official Languages – and the different meanings in translation – has long been used by Canadian politicians to send different messages to Canada’s 2 main linguistic groups {‘Playing both sides of the fence’}. Here’s an example of how this becomes an issue in parliamentary legislation — in this case, concerning the potentially-fraudulent mail-in ballot system for the upcoming election…

Ms. Christine Normandin (Saint-Jean, BQ):
“Madam Speaker, on Wednesday, March 10, the member for Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon pointed out that the French version of Bill C-19 at subclause 239(2) does not have the same meaning as the same subclause in the English version.

We agree that, on reading the bill, we see a significant difference between the two versions, because the receipt and counting of the special ballots do not appear to be done by the same body, depending on the language in which one reads the bill. In one, it is the office of the returning officer in the riding, and in the other, it is in the national capital region. That is an anomaly and a significant flaw in the bill, and it has hindered debate in the House because, depending on which version an MP reads, French or English, they will have a different understanding of the special ballot voting process.

“The problem is that, at this point, members have no way of knowing the government’s actual intention with respect to the administration of mail-in ballots.

“As a side note, I would add that this is further evidence of the complexity and challenge of conducting parliamentary proceedings in both official languages. It also demonstrates the importance of paying close attention to this issue so that members can participate effectively and properly in parliamentary proceedings. The ultimate goal is to ensure that all of our constituents, whether francophone or anglophone, are properly represented regardless of the language in which their MP works…

“This raises some important questions. Is the legislator’s intent expressed in French or in English? Does the legislator think in French or in English? Finally, which version—French or English—should take precedence over the other?

“I would ask you, Madam Speaker, to rule on this issue to ensure, at the very least, that the government will recalibrate and that members of the House are all on the same page as we continue to debate Bill C-19.”

–‘Point of Order: Canada Elections Act’,
FRIDAY, MARCH 12, 2021

Feature IMAGE:
Bilingual sign on Parliament Hill, Ottawa.

See also:
More Language Idiocy’{Jan.12, 2020}:
‘Only in Canada’
“A new report from the Official Languages Commissioner claims federal employees are writing too many emails in English…”


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