Tag Archives: government

Quebec’s Field of Dreams a Potential Nightmare

By Jason Menard

If you build it, they will come.

No, it’s not the premise of a hokey, corn-fed baseball film. It’s the divining principle behind various levels of government willing to bet big on a prospect that is only guaranteed of doing one thing – taxing an already taxed province. Continue reading

An Engaging Way to Shine a Light on a Forgettable Monarchy

By Jason Menard,

For many, yesterday’s announcement of an engagement between Prince William and his girlfriend Kate Middleton was an unforgettable moment; for me, it was a reminder of just how forgettable the monarchy is in our modern Canadian lives.

You see, Canada’s a part of the Commonwealth, a group of independent member states (54 in all), most of whom were part of the British Empire. Queen Elizabeth is head of that organization and is also Canada’s Head of State. So the monarchy is a pretty big deal for many Canucks – and royal watching is a spectator sport.
Continue reading

Our Empty Words Are Only Spoken in English

By Jason Menard

For an allegedly bilingual country, we do a horrible job of showing it. And it’s time that we, as a country, literally put our money where our mouths are.

The Canadian government has set the goal of having half of its students graduate bilingual by 2013. It’s a lofty goal, but one that will never happen unless changes are made to the curriculum. French language instruction in this country, from coast to coast, must be mandatory for the duration of our students schooling.

Forget the fact that a significant number of students in Canada drop French as soon as its no longer compulsory – the quality of French that’s being taught is deplorable. Not to condemn our hard-working teachers, but they’re just not equipped to handle the demands that teaching a second language requires.

Simply put, our French teachers can’t speak French.

Oh sure, they have the rudimentary knowledge and they’ve got the basic accreditation required to do a passable job. But they don’t have the skill or expertise to help our children succeed. A building is only as strong as its foundation, and the quality and level of French that’s being taught in the elementary school system is deplorable.

My wife, whose first language is French, and I (functionally bilingual) have had the displeasure of reviewing our bilingual son’s French homework since he switched to English school. We could accept the rudimentary level being taught, as one would assume that everyone’s starting from zero. What we couldn’t accept were the mistakes: glaring errors, wrong words being used, incorrect grammar, and poor agreements. And then we wonder why our kids can’t speak French. There’s a problem when, in the past, our son’s French teacher has refused to speak to my wife and I in that language.

And it gets no better. Coming out of high school, our students may think they can speak French. But when they come face to face with an actual francophone, they’re unable to carry on a conversation. Having come through the Ontario high school system and taking two French OACs, I know first-hand that the majority of my fellow students were capable of conjugating a verb – but putting it into practice in anything more than a basic conversation was beyond their scope and capabilities.

Compounding the problem is that there’s really no perceived need for Anglophone students to take French if they’re not living in Quebec. I’d hazard a guess that, other than the remote getting stuck on the French CBC channel, their exposure to the language of Molière is fairly limited. As such, there’s no impetus for our students to take the learning of a second language seriously.

Unfortunately, all this does is further fracture our country. Many English speakers can’t understand the frustration that Quebecers feel when travelling outside of la belle province. They don’t understand the anger, resentment, and feeling of a lack of respect that comes from living in a country that, on one hand, professes to be bilingual, while on the other hand doesn’t practice what it preaches.

Now living in Ontario, I find it embarrassing that when my Francophone in-laws come to visit, they’re unable to find anyone to converse in their own language. They are forced to converse in English, whereas my experience has been that the opposite is rarely true. That’s Ontario! A neighbouring province to Quebec! Is there any wonder why some Quebecers don’t feel Canadian when their own country makes little to no effort – and places no premium – on being able to communicate with a significant segment of our society.

Due to the fact that they’re living in a region surrounded by over 300 million English speakers, most Quebecers will have a rudimentary understanding of English, and – unless you’re extremely rude – will make an effort to find common grounds for communications. Yet we treat French as an afterthought in the rest of our country.

The more rampant xenophobes will cling to the argument that we don’t make the same accommodations for other ethnicities, but that misses the point that this country was founded and flourished as a bilingual nation – an amalgamation of English and French to create a new Canada. Just as my expectation for living in Japan would be that I would be required to learn Japanese, so too is there an expectation that immigrants to this country be able to converse in English or French. But woe be to the person who chooses French thinking that knowledge of that language will open any doors outside of Quebec.

If we’re truly committed to being a bilingual country – and the reasons and benefits are numerous, while the counter-arguments are non-existent – then we need to invest in our future. French must be mandatory until high school graduation. And the quality must improve. We must either hire native speakers, or require more than a couple of courses for French instruction certification.

Otherwise, we’re just paying lip service to the cause of bilingualism — and our empty words are only intelligible in English.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

A Secular Society Means No Sharia

By Jason Menard

In our attempt to be good Canadians, we have gone too far in Ontario by considering the incorporation of Shariah tribunals to settle family disputes in Muslim relationships.

One of the sacred cows we have in this country is that everyone should be allowed the freedom of religion. We encourage all who come to this great land of ours to retain their individuality and we welcome the cultural mosaic that is woven from this inclusionary belief. However, that acceptance of others’ cultures, religions, and beliefs stops at the moment it contravenes the accepted law of the land.

As we have seen with the same-sex marriage debate, marriage is a secular institution, no matter how much religious groups wish to believe otherwise. As such, the institution of marriage is bound and governed by the laws of our land, and its moral compass is guided by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

So if that’s the case, why should the dissolution of marriage fall under a different set of circumstances? If marriage is secular at its root, why should divorce be any different?

We all like to quote the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and say that the State has no business in the bedrooms of the nation. But the State has every right to assert its presence in its boardrooms and courthouses. Unfortunately, the government has painted itself in a corner with past precedent. Since 1991, the Province of Ontario has allowed Christian and Jewish families to practice religious arbitration. To deny the use of Sharia tribunals would reek of discrimination.

The answer to all of this is to eliminate all faith-based resolutions from our mediation practices.

We have a separation of Church and State in this country and we need to reinforce that belief by eliminating the existence of religious influence in its practices. This is not to denigrate any one religion, but rather to ensure fairness and equality for all, as is defined by the Canadian Constitution and Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We need to assert that being Canadian comes with a set of expectations for all. Being Canadian means adhering to the laws and conventions of the land.

Being respectful of other people’s faith does not mean we have to compromise the integrity of our Church/State divide. This is not a country that is ruled by Islamic, Jewish, or Christian law, so we are under no obligations to accommodate those practices in our legal and governmental systems.

By adhering to our Constitution and our Charter, we are not denying rights to anyone. We are defining what it means to be Canadian. If a person wants to live in a place where Sharia law is enforced, then that is their prerogative. But nowhere does it say that, to avoid the spectre of discrimination, Canada has to be that place.

The fact of the matter is that we have, as a society, shown a preference to Christian and Jewish institutions. But with the rise of a Muslim population and an increasing understanding and sensitivity to their needs, we have to understand that our past practices just don’t cut it in today’s reality. That’s why the practice religious arbitration, established by the NDP government, must be abolished. We can still support these services as a society, but without the decisions being binding upon our Court of Laws. Should a family choose to go to faith-based arbitration on their own as a part of the dispute resolution process, then that is their prerogative. But in our secular society there is no place for religious decisions to supersede the laws of the land.

There are many Canadians who are religious, but religion does not define Canada. We need to accept that the matters and teachings of faith are welcome in the homes, churches, synagogues, and mosques of this country, but we must draw the line at their presence in our courthouses.

The rhetoric spouted by some of the issue’s opponents goes too far. Aligning Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty with the Taliban is inflammatory at best and obstructionist at its worst. This idea of incorporating Sharia mediation is not an error borne of malice – it’s an error on the side of being inclusionary, especially when past precedent is factored in.

But it’s an error nonetheless, and one that should be put to rest. Whether or not you believe that, in the end, we answer to a higher power, when it comes to the governance of our country, the laws of Canada should be the final word.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Right or Left?

By Jason Menard

What’s this country coming to? Lately our country’s political map displays all the form and reason of an Escher print! Like an ambidextrous drunkard, we’re having trouble differentiating our rights from our lefts.

On the one hand we’ve got Belinda Stronach throwing support behind gay marriage, while our Liberal party continues to waffle on the subject. Who knows what phoenix will arise from the ashes of Sir John A. MacDonald’s PC party, and is that really Ed Broadbent back on the radar?

Buckle up Canada – with an expected election just around the corner, we could be in for a wild ride.

Whatever happened to the days when you could define people by the colour of the electoral signs on their yard? Blue meant right, Red meant left, and Yellow meant you were probably out hugging a tree! But now, we’ve encouraged and fostered a hyphen-obsessed political landscape that can leave your head speaking.

We’ve got Liberals jumping to the right, Tories dancing to the left, and other parties desperately singing their own tunes trying desperately to be heard over the din of the allegedly different, but vaguely similar song played by the big two. Candidates no longer define themselves by party focus – because most parties don’t have a defined focus. You have your social-conservative candidates on one side mingling with the fiscal-liberal hopefuls – their party colours only separated by the slightest shades of gray.

On the other hand, you’ve got those on the other end of the spectrum, either proclaiming themselves true blue and longing for a return to a more conservative past, or lamenting the loss of social concern and caring that was the hallmark of Liberal parties of days of yore.

So where does that leave the voter? More and more we’re finding our electorate swinging faster than Benny Goodman on uppers. And for a country that has long identified its political leanings based on party politics, this new dynamic can be frightening. But, believe it or not, this new reality can – and will – work out in our favour.

Perhaps we are now entering a time when political upheavals won’t be the grand tidal waves of the past, washing one party out of power just to return that party to prominence years down the road when that initial tide ebbs. While the party system is too strong at this time to do away with, we seem to be now entering a time when our elected Members of Parliament will have to be accountable to their own ridings – a shocking concept!

What politics should be about is electing the person who most effective combines the wants and needs of his or her constituents with the greater good of the country as a whole. I once was a party voter, believing that my ideals meshed with the philosophy espoused by one or another federal party. But due to the changing dynamic of our political landscape, that type of thinking is outdated – and adjusting to the new reality requires effort on all our parts.

No longer should we ignore the election process and simply vote for our traditional party. Now it behooves us to go out and learn about each candidate in our riding, and vote for the one who best fits our needs. On a macro level, the party differences are so insignificant for the most part that it’s at the micro level – the constituency – where the greater variance takes place. And it’s on that variance from which we should determine our vote.

Now, obviously it would help encourage this new voting dynamic if we had a strong alternative party – either from the left or the right – to provide a legitimate alternative to the Liberal juggernaut and to combat voter apathy. Many choose not to vote if the conclusion seems foregone.

Yet this upcoming could be the most exciting yet! In addition to the new faces in new places, we’ve got a chance to truly effect change on our own level. We’re arriving at the dawn of a new era in Canadian politics — but just don’t try to follow the traditional maps to get there!

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved