Plenty of support for bilingualism: poll

A new CROP poll shows 81 per cent of those surveyed support official bilingualism in Canada and 91 per cent said the prime minister should speak both English and French.

It has taken four decades and sometimesa lot of argument and bitter feelings, butaccording to a new poll commissioned by Radio-Canada, official bilingualism is finally a hit in Canada.

The CROP poll shows 81 per cent of those surveyed support the idea that Canada is abilingual country.

An evenlarger majority, 91 per cent, said the prime ministershould be able to speak both English and French.

However,56 per cent said if Canadiansare not bilingual,it's because it'snot reallynecessary — or easy.

  • Seventy-six per cent said there's alack of interest to learn the other language.
  • Seventy per centcitedthe lack of opportunity to speakthat language.
  • Fifty per cent said there weren't enough courses available to learn the other language.

Despite finding reasons not to learn French or English,80 per cent said they believed that beingbilingual could help them find a job. Seventy-eight per cent said it could help with travel and personaldevelopment.

Canada's Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser, said thepoll makes it clear Canadians now have definite expectations of the language abilities of their elected officials, even if they don't have those same expectations of themselves.

"They are saying that if you want to participate in the national conversation, you ought to be able to do it in both languages. And we wouldn'thave heard that 20 years ago."

Harper an example

Fraser points to Prime Minister Stephen Harper as a good example of an elected official whomakesa point of speaking French, whether he's in Canada or not.

"He's sending the message to English Canadians that you don't have to grow up in Quebec,you don't have to have gone to [French] immersion. This is something that anybody who applies himself can achieve."

Back in the 1960s, only about seven per cent ofCanadians outside Quebec were bilingual. The new poll suggests that figure has risen to 16 per cent. Fifty-six per cent of those surveyed in Quebec described themselves as bilingual.

The polling firm CROPquestioned 2,000 Canadians between Oct. 23 and Nov. 19.

Itspoll, witha margin of error of three per cent,was commissioned to mark the 40th anniversary of the Royal Commissionreportthat opened the door for official bilingualism in Canada.

The report was released two years before the1969 Official Languages Act report, which stated that all federal services should be available in both English and French everywhere in the country.