Ask the Hammer

Recently the issue of racism in legal circles was taken up by the Legal Profession’s regulatory body in Ontario.  Moreover, the Law Society of Upper Canada is set to examine measures that would ensure that such systemic racism and discrimination is minimized, if not eradicated.

Of course the racism being referred to concerns African-Canadian lawyers and other visible minorities, but that got me to wondering if here, in Quebec, English attorneys might qualify as a visible minority in need of protection.

Let me first be clear that I am of the belief that all lawyers in Quebec, or minimally all in large urban centers, should be fully bilingual in the practice of law (of course I feel the same way about the ordinary citizenry).

That said, and given the long and arduous war still being waged in Quebec over the language issue and the “protection” of the French language, I have to ponder if English speaking attorneys (i.e. by birth determination or otherwise) aren’t themselves in a similar situation to those in Ontario needing protection from the systemic “color” racism.  Further, from the optic that the French population represents the majority in Quebec, is there not an argument to be made that English/allophone Quebecers need protection from systemic language racism here in the Province?

In other words, does racism define itself only by colour or only by religious adherence (such as the recent political outcries during the U.S. Presidential election indicated)?

Or can racism apply as well to mother tongues and, if so, do the oppressed minorities here not have a basis to make claims of systemic racism used against them?  And if that argument can be made, then why can we not seek to overturn all Provincial laws instituted to stifle English in Quebec, claims which would be based solely on linguistic racism?

Personally, I find it abhorrent that any Government would choose to legislate to create monolinguals.  Having studied French in France in order to be able to become a bilingual lawyer back home, I was privy to numerous examples of citizens from around the globe who also came to study French, not as a 2nd language, but as a 3rd or 4th language.  This is a goal to strive for in schools, and certainly at the Governmental levels of Provinces and countries. While the mathematical dimension of Mother Earth may remain more or less stagnant, our global village has seen itself growing smaller and smaller over time. Then why on earth (pun intended) are we put upon to minimize our potential through reactionary laws seeking to effectively eradicate all languages other than French?

Where does any politician, or citizen for that matter, get off dictating that one should only speak French in the workplace, as in the IGA debacle, or only have French wording on plastic spoons, as was the “threat” in “Spoongate”, or the ever ludicrous “anonymous” complaint filed that became known the world over as “Pastagate”!  If you can’t understand English on the menu (or Italian) go someplace that has menus with photos.

Surely healthcare, infrastructure and education should never be underfunded so that agents can be paid to “investigate” such travesties as the above “gates” demonstrated.

I, for one, since returning from my learning adventure in France, have always believed in 3 fundamental principles which, for decades, I have hoped could be implemented here at home:

  1. Everyone should strive and be taught in schools from the earliest grades to learn, not only French and English, but 3rd and 4th languages as well, at Government expense.
  2. Every grade 10 student (I’m old school), should be sent, at the Government expense, on school trips to 3rd world, poor, underprivileged, devastated countries for 3 weeks during the school year (at a cost of $3000 or less per student) to see exactly how most of the 8 Billion people on this planet actually live; then let them   come home and marvel at and be thankful for all that is this country of ours.
  3. All employees who speak 2 languages (fluently) should either be entitled to a yearly bonus or, better yet, a Federal and Provincial tax credit on tax returns.

A quick Google search tells me there are approximately 180 schools in Quebec. Making an assumption of at least 50 grade 10 students per school, (there are probably more) the total would be 9500 students.

The only annual Budget I easily found for the OQLF was for 2008 and that was $19 Million. So rounding up for 6 years at 1% per year, the Budget should be about $22 Million now. To send all 9500 students to 3rd world countries at $3000 each would cost annually a mere $28 Million per year or only $6 Million more than the Annual OQLF Budget and be money so much better spent on the people here rather than investigating cutlery and menus, wouldn’t you agree?

Me. Hammerschmid has practiced Family Law since 1982; Senior Partner at Hammerschmid & Associates; founding & current member of Family Law Association of Quebec (past Secretary for 28 years). Inquiries treated confidentially: 514-846-1013 or [email protected] © 2016 Linda Hammerschmid 

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