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Mocking their French

"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.

A politician will soon have to know more French than "a Diefenbaker or a Pearson." That's what one Torontonian predicts in a speech about the Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism in 1965. In this CBC Radio skit, Max Ferguson mocks Opposition leader John Diefenbaker and Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson attempting to speak French. Diefenbaker, played by Ferguson, insists he and Pearson are perfectly capable of speaking Canada's two languages: "Toutes les deux langues parlent bienmont, er, just bien."
. Pierre Elliott Trudeau replaced Pearson as prime minister in 1968. Trudeau was completely bilingual.
. It was Pearson's government (1963-1968) that announced the B & B Commission. The declaration was in response to the emerging separatist movement in Quebec. The movement's extremists were associated with the Quiet Revolution. The revolution lasted the duration of Quebec Premier Jean Lesage's term from 1960 to 1966.

• During that time Quebecers developed a new sense of independence with Lesage's economic and educational reforms. Laws were enacted that helped francophones take control of their institutions.
. The catch phrase of the Quiet Revolution was "masters in our own house."
. Max Ferguson was famous at CBC Radio for creating characters. He invented his most popular one, Rawhide, while hosting an early CBC country and western radio show.

. One morning, CBC Halifax asked him to play country music - a genre he despised. What came of it was a "low, aged, hard, flat, sloppily sibilant voice" that surprised even him. The broadcast drew 3,000 fan letters.
Medium: Radio
Program: Saturday A.M.
Broadcast Date: Oct. 30, 1965
Host: Pat Patterson, Bob Wilson
Performer: Max Ferguson
Duration: 6:47

Last updated: February 9, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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