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Bilingualism: a thousand and one opinions

"Canada is now in the greatest crisis of its history," reported the Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism. In 1963, the commission known as B&B began touring the country, asking Canadians if it was important to speak both French and English. Many francophones who felt they were losing their language saw separatism as their only recourse. The co-chairs of the commission would have a big duty: to figure out how to give Canada bilingualism and to prevent its two solitudes from splitting apart.

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"Canada is not a bilingual country," one man sternly tells the Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism as it tours across the country for opinions. Commission members have been on the road for six weeks in 1964. They visit nearly every corner of the nation, including Yarmouth, N.S., Sherbrooke, Que., and Regina. Crowds of up to 700 come out for the discussion. One woman from the West exemplifies how that region is mostly against bilingualism.

"I don't see why there's such a terrible emphasis put on French. I can't see what good it is to us," she proudly explains. "I think this whole thing can be settled quite easily if they [the French] would teach their children English in schools in Quebec."
. According to Canadian Heritage, a recent government study found 75 per cent of anglophones think it's important for children to learn French in school.
. Canadian Heritage also notes that Montreal educators were the first to develop French immersion programs - education classes in which anglophones are taught entirely in French. They are now a model for immersion courses around the world.
. The number of Canadian French immersion students in 2000 was 286,000.
Medium: Television
Program: CBC Newsmagazine
Broadcast Date: May 6, 1964
Host: Ken Mason
Duration: 6:11

Last updated: February 28, 2013

Page consulted on December 12, 2014

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