March 2, 1927 (16th Parliament, 1st Session)


Paul-Arthur Séguin


Mr. P. A. SEGUIN (L'Assomption-Mont-calm) (Translation) moved:

That, in the opinion of this House, in view of spreading the knowledge of both official languages in the public service and thereby rendering it more effective:
[Mr. C. A. Stewart. 1
The Civil Service Act should be amended so as to give preference in future appointments to candidates knowing the two official languages.
The public employees having a knowledge of both the official languages, should, owing to this qualification, be better remunerated; and the superiority of the employees possessing both languages should be considered in all reclassification.
He said: Mr. Speaker, the purport of the resolution which I have the honour to submit for the consideration of this House is entirely of an administrative character. Strongly impelled by a concern for the welfare of the public weal, I trust that no one will see or seek in this proposal any evidence of narrowmindedness on my part, The wording of the resolution which I have moved, moreover, is so clearly worded that it may seem useless to further comment upon it. This resolution, Sir, rests on the constitution itself of our country which has placed English and French on an equal footing.
Whether we regret or rejoice over it, we are living in a bilingual country. This is the plain truth against which it would be useless to rebel. In fact, Canada is perhaps the only country in the world which is really bilingual and bestows through its constitution the same rights, the same privileges, the same honours to the two best known and widely spread languages in the world. It would be futile to sing the praises here of the English language or the beauties of the French tongue ; on that score we all agree, and I am certain that among us, not a discordant note would be heard.
Since such is the case, Mr. Speaker, we are bound to act accordingly. If English and French are both official languages, it seems to me that we have a right to express ourselves equally in either one or the other, especially when we happen to call at any office of the public service. Since the population is bilingual so must be the administration. There exists in this country a large group whose language is French. These are actual conditions. There also exists another group whose language is English and they are in the majority. This is another state of things. Must we be called upon to choose between the two languages? Shall we subject one to the other?
In the province of Quebec, Sir, the French element, which is in the majority, has always shown its good will and impartiality when it was a question of affording to both official languages the same solicitude and favours, and all the head officials of the provincial government are bilingual; moreover, never have we neglected the occasion of publishing

Civil Service-French Language
in English as well as in French all documents which might interest the two sections of our population. Do we act likewise in other provinces where the French element is as numerously important as the English element is in the province of Quebec?
There are, Sir, no two ways of governing a country, even if it be bilingual-there is but one: We must do our utmost
in order that the administration be as equitable as possible. Is it so difficult a thing? There seems to exist people for whom difficulties crop up when it is a question of being fair to others. People have relied too much, within the last fifteen years, upon the Entente Cordiale between France and England, in order to ask for the same good feeling here, in this country, between English speaking citizens and those speaking French; the entente existing overseas has nothing to do with the good feeling existing among us, for the very reason that a conflict, even an armed one, between France and England might have nothing disloyal in itself, neither for the French nor the English, while on the contrary any conflict between Canadians of French extraction and Canadians of English extraction would be a fratricidal conflict, hindering the general welfare of the country and barring all aspirations towards further progress. We live, Sir, in Canada, under conditions which are not to be found elsewhere. Two races, equally at home, either owing to their origin or through various events or else owing to immigration, speak two languages that are not sufficiently alike to constitute a single vehicle of thought and action, and thereby meet the needs of the people. It is evident, that it is not a question of doing away with one or the other of these two languages, because it would also be doing away with one or the other Of the two principal races that are here at home, and quite ait home. This is not even possible among individuals in either their social or business intercourse. Modem conditions, those that events have framed, especially with regard to us Canadians of English or French extraction force us to adopt bilingualism. And those who forget this or repudiate it, find the wide avenues which lead to wealth, honours or' to easy and agreeable life, closed to them.
Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, there 'is the influx of a foreign element. These people do not all speak English. Only the immigration coming from the British Islands-a large one if you like- speak and will continue to speak the English language. But the other, the one which comes to us from central or
western Europe, the immigration hailing from France, Italy, Belgium, Poland, Japan, Czecho-Slovakia and South America, speak French or have a leaning towards it, because it is largely Latin or Slavonic in its connections. After having invited these people, after having brought them to our shores, by force of money, that has come out, let us not forget it of French as well as English pockets-would it be loyal, and on what grounds would it be loyal, I ask you, to keep them segregated by refusing them the means of communicating with the various services of the state? Nevertheless, Sir, thait is what is done by obliging the whole of this group of our population, and not the least intelligent nor the least active, believe me, of making use of a language of which they know nothing or very little. Some will no doubt say: This is an English country, and English is spoken here-they are wrong: this country is Canadian; one must make the best of it, and the sooner individuals as well as the administration acknowledge this fact, the better.
This much said, Sir, how do we stand as a matter of fact? Are the servants of the state in a position to contribute what is expected of them, are they in a position to fulfil all the exigencies of a bilingual population? I am aware that the government so far as they are directly or immediately concerned are making laudable efforts in that direction. It is but fair to congratulate them, and I know that these congratulations have not been wanting. I may add that the first steps recently undertaken have created, a little everywhere, a feeling of satisfaction which is openly acknowledged. However, the government is not favoured with the gift of ubiquity. There exists an administrative system which, once created, must operate through its own resources. The government cannot be expected to start the wheel moving at each revolution. It must be admitted that friction exists oftener than there is reason for it, and that hinders good administration. It is necessary that this friction should disappear. I hold that it is an easy matter, that the means are within our grasp. This friction is caused by one of the most flagrant, serious and dangerous injustices that I know of: that of placing on the same footing the public officials who speak a single language with those who are bilingual. The Civil Service Commission does not seem to take into consideration whatsoever the fact that our country is bilingual, and therefore, that all candidates aspiring to any position-take note, I state to any position-should possess as the first qualification
Civil Service-French Language
a knowledge of French and English. I must add, however, that the Civil Service Commission cannot be blamed for this state of things, simply because the act seems to have made no provision in this matter. Therefore, the first part of my motion as it is found in the Votes and Proceedings of the House, is as follows:
The Civil Service Act should he amended so as to give preference in future appointments to candidates knowing the two official languages.
I did not wish to be too harsh, I, therefore, made use of the word "preference" for I am aware that if at present, we rigorously stipulated that the two languages were necessary, there would be unavoidably too great a number of Canadians who would not be eligible for positions in the civil service. It is nevertheless certain that if our Civil Service Act did1 stipulate that preference whidh I am discussing now and if the Civil Service Commission undertook to insist as much as possible on this preference, it would not be less certain, I state, that it would have the immediate effect of forcing all candidates to familiarize themselves with both official languages, and, consequently of assuring a more effective service. It has, for ever so long, been acknowledged that "a man possessing perfectly two languages is worth two men," and it i3 a truth, because the study of a language, whether a dead language the usefulness of which is more or less contested, as for instance Latin and Greek, or whether a living language and thereby of an unquestionable usefulness, such as French and English, is the best intellectual exercise that can be given to a young mind. Such gymnastics is equivalent to that which is given to our children for their physical development.
Mr. Speaker, our civil servants constitute, I have no hesitation in stating, an intellectual aristocracy in the midst of our population and the services they render to our country, outside of their office hours, are precious and incalculable. Without entering into useless details, I may at least state that our employees are either medical men, lawyers, notaries, journalists, historians, writers, lecturers, inventors, at all events men given to research work and hard workers. A great number of movements of a national character have had their source in the heads and hearts of public officials and it is but right to congratulate them on that score.
If it is true that perfection is not to be found on this earth, it is equally true that it behooves each of us to do our best. But the best, in the present case, is the aptitude in the employee to interpret with ease the two official languages of this country.

If, Sir, in all countries, in France where they have set their soul and heart, in a very characteristic French manner, to the study of English, in England, where the French tutor is lodged as one of the household in the most exclusive families of the old aristocracy as well as among the middle classes; in the United States, where, especially since the war, French is spoken fluently among the political element as among people of social standing; if, in brief, people all over the world have set their hearts with enthusiasm to the study of languages, and here, I mean the French and English languages, I question if it be logical that, in a country essentially bilingual, and therefore must remain such-let us not forget -a large portion of the administrative staff should be deficient in one or the other of these two languages? I fail to see what reasons, what plea, what excuse can be invoked to persist in a state which, it is generally conceded, looking at it under various angles, constitutes an inferiority.
Mr. Speaker, French speaking candidates must be able to speak English if they wish to be admitted to our public offices. And what I have stated in connection with the rank and file, I state it more emphatically again as regards the heads of departments, the higher officials, those who have to meet the public at large, the educated people, the upper classes. This also applies to the English speaking officials. Let not the latter imagine that it is beneath their dignity to qualify in the use of French in their dealings with the public. Let them take their cue from the Mackenzie Kings, the Fosters, the Fieldings, the Meighens, the Draytons, the Manions and many others who at forty, fifty or sixty years of age buckled down to learn French. Let them inquire from the latter if they would consent to give up to-morrow what they have learned of this language.
How many talented men-we are all acquainted [DOT] with some-who have been a total loss to the nation, and have not amounted to anything simply becauses they had neglected the study of languages and deemed it too late to make a start.
In the interest, Sir, of the whole country, it is indispensable that our public servants should know the two official languages. That is why the first part of my motion requests that the Civil Service Act be amended in order to give preference in future appointments to candidates possessing these two languages.
How are we to establish this preference? It is a simple matter: give the position applied for to the candidate who knows both languages, and should there be a number of

Civil Service-French Language
candidates having a knowledge of the two languages, the position much necessarily be allotted to the one who seems most qualified to fill it. The knowledge of both languages has naturally required a greater effort on the part of the one who possesses them and this puts him in a better position to render greater services to the state.
The arguments which I have put forth sets me at ease in broaching the other part of my motion which reads as follows, as you will find in the Votes and Proceedings of the House:
The public employees having knowledge of both the official languages, should, owing to this qualification, be better remunerated; and the superiority of the employees possessing both languages should be considered in all reclassification.
In fact, Sir, it is but fair and logical to give a more substantial remuneration to the bilingual employee, than to the one who unwillingly or purposely confines himself to the use of one language, and expects a whole population or at least a good portion of the country to bow to his intolerance or ignorance, the two, after all, go hand in hand.
First is an official who makes use of the two languages of this country-I shall not say with equal facility but nevertheless with ease-in both cases-better situated to render more effective service to the state? The answer goes without saying. A bilingual official like a person forewarned is forearmed. In his dealings with the public, no time is lost, no waiting in vain, no quid pro quo, no uneasiness of the kind which forces, as a last resort, the ratepayer to prefer anything rather than knock at the door of a government office. This breeds discontent against the government itself which is charged with harbouring, at very high salaries, individuals whose greatest merit is arrogance and chief virtue idleness. Wherever there is but a narrow margin between the former and the latter and this is soon filled in. We, the members know something about it, we, that have very often to cover up mistakes of officials speaking but one language and furnish explanations which we must invent, thanks to an imagination well trained beforehand. If this be a fact-and it is so-is it necessary for me to argue that ten bilingual employees are worth twenty who speak a single language? I only request for the former, whosever they may be, and they are to be found among the English as among the French, a remuneration in keeping with the services rendered. All things equal, I consider that it is a formal duty to appoint to the higher positions, bilingual citizens.
Should it be found too difficult to grant them the salarj'' to which they are entitled, let them at least be granted, in their present occupation. a salary in keeping with the services they render or may render, and I insist on that point. Furthermore, Sir, I wonder by virtue of what logic, the heads of departments, those responsible are released from the obligations which are imposed upon the humble, the lower grades? Does the salary they receive exempt them from such obligations, and does the fact of their being placed on the civil list constitute a right to neglect learning a language, an ignorance which would not be tolerated in a second class clerk, nay, not even in the third division? I understand that, at present, the work of reclassification of the salaries in the various departments is in full swing. The work is a serious and important one.
Let there be no haste, for once you have arrived at conclusions, there the matter will rest. And wrongs committed against certain classes of employees or certain officials, individually, will with great difficulty be redressed. On the other hand, I am aware that the government, which has already introduced reforms when the occasion demanded it, is anxious to deal fairly with everybody. That is the reason I ask that there should be no haste, that nothing should be done with full steam ahead, especially in such matters, because the government will naturally be forced to follow the recommendations made by its advisers, and it will necessarily shoulder all responsibilities, if I may express myself thus. The officials who will have prepared these lists will be cleared from all responsibilities towards the employees and the people. The scape-goat, as always, will be the government.
Now, Mr. Speaker, after having followed as closely as possible the line of argument which I had thought out, having been cautious to discuss the subject in a genial way, after having endeavoured to prove that it is more logical and fairer to be a bilinguist than to remain, in spite of everything, a man speaking but one language, may I ask you to glance over the situation existing outside the service; we may find there, perhaps, matter for edification. To-day, and ever since the war, nations that had isolated themselves within their boundaries, voluntarily or not, who only knew of other countries through what the press agents had allowed to leak out; in whose ears no sound unfamiliar to their surroundings ever penetrated, have now established commercial intercourse with people and corporations whose language previously was entirely unknown. Moreover, leaders of thought
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paved the way. Statesmen who never dreamed that some day they might have to express themselves in a tongue foreign to theirs, were carried away by events and forced to study English or French, so as to foe ready for all eventualities.
Let us now see what is taking place in commercial life, where is, to-day, the business house, the shop, or the agency, even the most humble one, that makes use of one language only? I do not believe there is one. Furthermore, business houses go to considerable expense in order to retain the services of competent translators, previous to scattering to the four winds of publicity their prospectuses, price lists and catalogues. And this outside practice is also adopted indoors, in offices and behind the counters. One realizes that it is a matter of justice, and the making of large fortunes.
Bearing witness to a few of these facts, are we not aware that at a meeting of the Liberal Association of East Toronto, last year, I think, Mr. A. E. Kirkpatrick stated that the Canadian business men, in general, would be in a better position, if, like the business men of the province of Quebec, they could speak both English and French. On all sides the necessity and importance of bilingualism is felt. Did not Sir George Foster himself state on the occasion of the "bonne entente" between the two races in this country, that the use of the two languages would be the infallible means of bringing the two races to know and appreciate one another better. Should we not also congratulate General J. H. MacBrien, Chief of the Canadian Military Staff, who stated, some months ago, that lieutenants in the Canadian army in order to receive promotion must be bilinguists. As it is seen. Bilingualism imposes itself everywhere. These surveys of the commercial and political life are evidence of this. Would it therefore be logical to reject bilingualism in the administration of public affairs? I leave it to those who have listened to me, to examine the question and answer it, and I have no doubt that the answer will be in perfect accord with all that I have said in this honourable House.
I therefore venture to count on the sympathy of the House in favour of the resolution that I have the honour to move.

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