CBC Digital Archives

Bilingualism: Manitoba's French minority

"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.

It's a struggle for francophones in the mainly English-speaking province of Manitoba. The small French community of St. Boniface feels inundated by English radio, television and advertising. English is also the language of instruction. And educators are allowed to teach only one hour of French a day. For this reason, one French teacher in this CBC Television clip says: "If you want to preserve the French language and French culture, you've got to take a heretic attitude most of the time."
. In 1992 the Canada Post office in another small French-speaking town refused to hire a postmaster that wasn't bilingual. The outlet in Coderre, Sask., - population 50 - told part-time employee Kevin Marchessault that he couldn't be postmaster because he didn't speak French. Canada Post made the job bilingual, claiming it was a necessity for the mainly French-speaking community. The previous postmaster retired in 1992, and since then, Marchessault has applied for the job numerous times.

. Marchessault took his fight to the Federal Court of Canada, which ruled in favour of Canada Post in 2002.
. Saskatchewan is almost entirely an anglophone province. In 2002, about two per cent of residents spoke French.
. In 1890, Manitoba enacted a law that did away with official bilingualism in the province. Funding for Roman Catholic schools was also cut. It wasn't until July 1970 that Manitoba reintroduced French classes in government-funded schools.
Medium: Television
Program: CBC Newsmagazine
Broadcast Date: June 3, 1964
Guest(s): Raymond Bernier, Rene Prefontaine
Host: Ken Mason
Duration: 3:11

Last updated: April 30, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

A Lost Heritage: Residential Schools extra cl...

In 1928, a government official predicted Canada would end its "Indian problem" within two gene...

A Lost Heritage: Canada's Residential Schools

In 1928, a government official predicted Canada would end its "Indian problem" within two gene...

Rethinking Riel

Who was Louis Riel? The Métis leader commanded two rebellions in western Canada and was tried,...

1985: 4,000 Manitoba laws declared invalid

The Supreme Court rules that the province's English-only laws must be translated into French.

1990: Graduation for Canada's oldest universi...

University of Toronto bestows 100-year-old Selma Plaut with an honorary degree.

Religion in the Classroom

Canada has struggled with the role of religion in public schools throughout the past half-cent...