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Quebecers split on bilingualism

"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.

"What does Quebec want?" It is the question most asked by anglophones at the open discussions of the Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism. The inquiry, which is touring the country, completes its 18th public discussion in June 1964. When CBC reporter Ken Mason poses the same question to a Quebecer in this TV clip, he responds, "To be Canadian first, but to be French, too, from Vancouver to Halifax." But another francophone doesn't feel bilingualism is so achievable.

He believes that in 20 or 30 years, there will be no more French-Canadian nation. And he's not sure how to solve this problem, short of separatism. Making Canada bilingual will be "very, very difficult because the English people do not want to have equality and true bilingualism," he explains.
• Commission business was conducted in both French and English.
• New Brunswick became Canada's only officially bilingual province in 1969.
• In 1927, Canada Post made stamps bilingual.
• In 2001, English and French were Canada's most commonly spoken languages. Chinese was third. In Quebec, Italian ranked third after French and English.

• The 2001 census reported an increase in the number of languages spoken in Canada. There are over 100 different "mother tongues" - one's native language that is still understood.
• According to the 2001 census, bilingualism also increased. There were 8.1 per cent more Canadians who spoke both French and English fluently compared to five years earlier. In total, 5.2 million people were bilingual.
• The census also found that 5.3 million were allophones - one whose first language is neither French nor English.
Medium: Television
Program: CBC Newsmagazine
Broadcast Date: June 3, 1964
Host: Ken Mason
Duration: 4:55

Last updated: February 14, 2014

Page consulted on February 14, 2014

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