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Letter: Bilingualism and regional representation offer benefits

To say that Justin Trudeau should not ask for bilingual candidates for the Supreme Court of Canada is to lower the “bar” and discount the progress made in official languages policy over the past 50 years. While this characteristic may have dimmed our province’s prospects of having a justice named to this august body, of greater angst to the whole Atlantic region should be the removal of regional representation as a qualifier.

Canada is a collective of regions and the Maritimes will become less relevant without a sitting judge to offer expertise in future rulings.

French Immersion programs have been established in Newfoundland and Labrador for approximately 45 years — enough time for serious students, educators and parents to have trimmed their lamps and readied for second language capacity in the profession of law. With recent study of the advantages coming from bilingual brains, why shouldn’t the justice system reap such benefits in deliberations?

To suggest that unilingualism is satisfactory is to throw in with those who would build walls and restrict global influences. Imagine European or Asian citizens content to speak one language and ignore the smorgasbord of cultures ready at hand!

In spite of our extra geographical challenges, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, indeed all Canadians, should aim to represent their country in two official languages. Bilingual court judges; why stop there? Bilingual talents should be demanded and celebrated in career positions in our university, government departments, the health-care system and in industry.  

To prevent students from parking their carefully honed bilingual skills after high school, graduates need motivation and impetus to grow and maintain them. Bilingual jobs in tourist chalets or call centres are not careers. Most provinces have French language universities; we have one university, giving it and our provincial government a duty of care to prepare our young people to meet the challenges of a Pan-Canadian workplace and beyond. To place our students on a level playing field with those living in the National Capital Region, higher education should be more readily available in French. Thus jobs in the RCMP and the federal public service and yes, the federal judiciary, would be more readily within their reach. University courses at Memorial University, available across disciplines, delivered in French, study stages in a French milieu, and interaction with the local francophone community would act as a springboard to students entering a variety of professions, such as business, law, journalism and medicine through keeping their second language skills current and “vivante.” Who knows when the bridegroom of opportunity cometh?

Kudos to Mr. Trudeau for taking his father’s legacy one step further! Bilingualism is not heavy to carry around and is never a barrier.

Marie-Beth Wright

St. John’s

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