NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 15, 2005

Canadian laws that seek to protect the French language are outdated and are costing businesses and taxpayers billions of dollars, says Andrea Mrozek writing in the Western Standard.

  • The laws mandate both English and French on everything from packaging to store signs.
  • They also require bilingualism in certain jobs, yet in most Canadian communities, when two languages are spoken, it is more likely to be English and Chinese, or French and Arabic.

The policy is increasingly dividing Canadians, rather than uniting them. Businesses are struggling with language compliance costs and otherwise qualified employees are being fired because they can't speak French. Overall, the province of Quebec is becoming more French and the rest of the country is becoming less French.

Nevertheless, the federal government continues to promulgate bilingualism regardless of its cost or effectiveness:

  • Canada will spend $750 million over the next 5 years to promote the French language.
  • Despite 35 years of government policy, only 43 percent of French-speakers are bilingual, and for Anglophones, just 9 percent.
  • The regulatory burden of bilingualism is estimated to cost taxpayers about $1.8 billion annually.

Ultimately, Canadians, who aren't exposed to Canada's two official languages at an early age or who don't have a cultural attachment to them will not value bilingualism regardless of how hard the government tries to convince them otherwise.

Source: Andrea Mrozek, "Canada's Language Barrier," Western Standard, February 14, 2005.


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