Sorry, I Don't Speak French
Confronting the Canadian Crisis That Won't Go Away
By Graham Fraser
(Douglas Gibson Books, Paperback, 9780771047671, 352pp.)
Publication Date: March 13, 2007
Other Editions of This Title: Hardcover
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As the threat of another Quebec referendum on independence looms, this book becomes important for every Canadian — especially as language remains both a barrier and a bridge in our divided country
Canada’s language policy is the only connection between two largely unilingual societies — English-speaking Canada and French-speaking Quebec. The country’s success in staying together depends on making it work.
How well is it working? Graham Fraser, an English-speaking Canadian who became bilingual, decided to take a clear-eyed look at the situation. The results are startling — a blend of good news and bad. The Official Languages Act was passed with the support of every party in the House way back in 1969 — yet Canada’s language policy is still a controversial, red-hot topic; jobs, ideals, and ultimately the country are at stake. And the myth that the whole thing was always a plot to get francophones top jobs continues to live.
Graham Fraser looks at the intentions, the hopes, the fears, the record, the myths, and the unexpected reality of a country that is still grappling with the language challenge that has shaped its history. He finds a paradox: after letting Quebec lawyers run the country for three decades, Canadians keep hoping the next generation will be bilingual — but forty years after learning that the country faced a language crisis, Canada’s universities still treat French as a foreign language. He describes the impact of language on politics and government (not to mention social life in Montreal and Ottawa) in a hard-hitting book that will be discussed everywhere, including the headlines in both languages.
Graham Fraser is a widely respected journalist who has written in both English and French. Now based in Ottawa as a Toronto Star national affairs writer, he has covered politics in Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, and Washington. His books include P.Q.: René Lévesque and the Parti Québécois in Power (nominated for the Governor General’s Award) and Playing for Keeps.
“It’s hard to think of any writer better qualified to write about language than Mr. Fraser. . . . He is informed, balanced, judicious and experienced.”
— Jeffrey Simpson, Globe and Mail
“Those who want to know why and how French became an official language in Canada must read Mr. Fraser’s book. Those who just want to know more about Canada should read it too.”
— Lysiane Gagnon, Globe and Mail