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  • So They Want Us to Learn French: Promoting and Opposing Bilingualism in English-Speaking Canada by Matthew Hayday
  • Bruce Douville
So They Want Us to Learn French: Promoting and Opposing Bilingualism in English-Speaking Canada by, Matthew Hayday. Vancouver, University of British Columbia Press, 2015. xxii, 342 pp. $95.00 Cdn (cloth), $34.95 Cdn (paper or e-book).

In this monograph, Hayday explores how bilingualism was promoted to English-speaking Canadians, and how it was opposed, between the 1960s and the late 1990s. What sets this work apart from earlier studies of bilingualism is threefold. First, it focuses on the role of "civil society actors" (including grassroots activists and their organizations), as opposed to politicians and bureaucrats. Second, it concerns the promotion of individual rather than institutional bilingualism (though Hayday acknowledges that they were connected, for if Canada's language policies were to succeed, more English Canadians would have to learn French). Third, while earlier studies have explored the experience of French minorities living in English Canada, none have addressed the issue of "how to create broad support among the majority population for enhancing bilingualism" (11), and this issue is at the heart of So They Want Us to Learn French. In essence, what Hayday has written is a history of bilingualism and its mirror, anti-bilingualism, as social movements in English Canada since the 1960s.

Most of the book is devoted to pro-bilingualism civil society actors. Chief among these were parents across Canada who advocated for expanded French-language learning opportunities for their children, particularly the establishment of French Immersion beginning in the primary grades. Beginning in 1977, the chief venue for these activists was Canadian Parents for French (cpf), and much of the book centres on the work of cpf: at the national level, to raise greater public awareness, and lobby federal and provincial governments for funding and programs to support children's French-language acquisition; and at the municipal level, to lobby local schoolboard officials for early French Immersion programs. These parent activists received ample support and encouragement from the Commissioner of Official Languages — a quasi-governmental position established to ensure that federal government departments comply with the 1969 Official Languages Act. Hayday shows how the first commissioner, Keith Spicer (1970–77), took an expansive view of his mandate; rather than confining his role to that of a linguistic ombudsman, he used his office to act as a public advocate for bilingualism. To that end, Spicer was instrumental in the founding of cpf. Spicer was also instrumental in the creation and distribution of the "Oh! Canada" kits in the mid seventies — a bilingual multi-media package (including board game, record, and comic book) aimed at elementary-school aged Canadian children. Distributed in the hundred of thousands, and designed to foster positive attitudes toward second-language learning, the "Oh! Canada" kits were wildly successful. [End Page 626] Hayday devotes three chapters to the role of the commissioners between the 1970s and 1990s, including Spicer's successors Max Yalden (1977–1984), D'Iberville Fortier (1984–1991), and Victor Goldbloom (1991–1998), but his particular enthusiasm for Spicer's work as a "creative provocateur" is most palpable.

As Hayday observes in the introduction, social movements can "trigger actions by counter-movements opposed to the new directions taken by the state and society" (14). Consequently, the author explores the history of the anti-bilingualism movement, in tandem with its pro-bilingual counterpart. Much of this history centres on the Alliance for the Preservation of English in Canada (apec), and the movement's most prominent apologists, such as Jock Andrew, author of Bilingual Today, French Tomorrow, and Ronald Leitch, president of apec. These activists found ammunition in the writing of investigative journalists such as Katherine Govier and academics such as Hector Hammerly, whose work cast doubt on the pedagogical efficacy of French Immersion. Hayday argues that the anti-bilingual activists' greatest resources to mobilize were fear and anger, particularly over developments in the late 1980s and early 1990s (including the Meech Lake Accord, and Ontario's French Language Services Act) that were perceived to undermine the language rights of the English-speaking majority outside Quebec. Indeed, it was...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2292-8502
Print ISSN
0008-4107
Pages
pp. 626-628
Launched on MUSE
2017-12-23
Open Access
No
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