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Canada Made A Big Announcement In English Only & The Language Watchdog Got 10 Complaints

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser got called out by a French-speaking journalist at the press conference.

Associate Editor
Canada Made A Big Announcement In English Only & The Language Watchdog Got 10 Complaints

During a press conference on Monday to announce new measures aimed at speeding up immigration processing, federal Immigration Minister Sean Fraser spoke pretty much only in English — and folks have taken notice, some going so far as to file complaints with the government's official languages watchdog.

The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages confirmed to MTL Blog that it received 10 complaints regarding Fraser's January 31 announcement, which contained just two French phrases — "Excellent, merci" and "Merci de me vous rejoindre" — throughout the course of his 15-minute statement.

During the media question period following the announcement, Le Journal de Montréal's Francis Halin called out Fraser for speaking "entirely in English."

"Is the French language important to you?" Halin asked.

Fraser responded in French, saying, "I started my French studies back in 2015 and sometimes [...] it's a little bit fast for me so I didn't catch your question entirely. Would you be able to ask the question in English? I assure you that I am taking French lessons and it is something that's important to me."

Halin refused to repeat his question in English, noting that "we're in Canada," though he rephrased the question in French, asking whether Fraser thinks his inability to understand French sends a positive message to Canadian Francophones.

"No. It's essential for the government to provide services in both official languages. I will be pursuing my studies of the French language," Fraser said. "I think it's important to not only speak French but ensure we're creating new immigration spots for immigrants who do speak French whether they're coming to Quebec or elsewhere."

Fraser also said Canada's policies need to reflect the "linguistic duality that we're so proud of in Canada."

Writing about the incident in an opinion piece for Le Journal on Thursday, Richard Martineau said, "This was no ordinary press briefing. This was a very important announcement."

He continued, "Can you imagine the message we're sending to our future immigrants? Canada is a country with only one official language: English."

The incident comes on the heels of multiple controversies surrounding unilingual English-speaking corporate and government leaders in the country. Air Canada's CEO, Canadian National Railway's newly appointed CEO, and the Conservative Party of Canada's interim leader all made headlines recently due to their lack of French.

Meanwhile, despite skepticism arising from his English name, the Montreal Canadiens' new general manager Kent Hughes has been in the news for proving himself as a bilingual Quebecer.

This article’s cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.

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