NOTES FOR REMARKS: APPOINTMENT OF GRAHAM FRASER AS OFFICIAL LANGUAGES COMMISSIONER
Senator Munson: Mr. Fraser, first I would like to congratulate you on your appointment. I am very happy for you. You are a good guy.
In my view, you are just another journalistic success story. Contrary to what Senator Prud’homme has said, I too knew the legendary Blair Fraser. I met him when I was 12, in 1958, in Campbellton, New Brunswick where he spoke and made a tremendous impression. I am sure your dad would be very proud that you have moved on and can take the journalistic background and carry it on and serve your country.
In your speech, you talked about 300,000 new Canadians who come here every year. You talked about approaching that issue in a new and innovative way — and you are giving some hints about dealing with new Canadians and the linguistic duality. Can you give us an idea of where you plan to go with this?
Mr. Fraser: Thank you, senator. There is an expression in French, which I think applies to both your situation and mine.
In other words, “Journalism leads to everything, provided you leave it.”
I hesitate to embark on being too specific about what strategies I am considering or what plans I have in mind. I have been spending some time to try to formulate precisely how I might deal with these issues.
The one thing that does strike me, however, is that there is a tendency on the part of the English-speaking majority to look at language requirements as an unfair barrier to immigrants. I think there is a danger that this can be used as an excuse for the reluctance of the English-speaking majority to come to terms with language policies.
There have been studies done on the public service as to whether language requirements were more of a barrier for people who had come from other countries. They discovered that it was not a greater barrier for those who had come from other countries and were learning French as a third language. My own view is that it is actually easier to learn a third language than it is a second language.
The other thing that strikes me is that we have seen the emergence — and there are certainly parliamentarians in both Houses who are a testament to this — of people who have come to this country and have said, “I will join one linguistic community and I want to master the language of the other linguistic community.” I think it is that reflex that led the Chinese community in Vancouver to make a specific demand to the French ambassador that the Alliance Franchise operation be located in a Chinese community centre in Vancouver.
One thing about the immigrant experience is that there is a desire to succeed; there is a desire to understand the nature of the country as a whole. This reflex is something that should be understood by the linguistic majorities in both English-speaking and French-speaking Canada.