Canadian Constitution so behind the times.

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Struggling
Canadian Constitution so behind the times.

In my last marriage to a trilingual French, English, and Amharic speaker with a bilingual English and Amharic brother (I knew French, English and another language at the time),  Quebec language policy had caused us all kinds of headaches. We'd met in Victoria BC, but due to anonymous threats of violence directed towards her for having married a white non-Ethiopian non-Muslim, we ended up moving to Montreal (closer to my family in Ottawa where I live now). Since we both knew French and English, it was easy for us to find work in Montreal.Then her 17-year old brother came. Her father was going to pay his education out of pocket, but in spite of this, he'd have to reach a certain level of French to graduate from English high school. So her brother being under the age of maturity, I had to accompany him to Ontario where they would recognize Amharic for his high school credit. This cost me much money at a time when I was trying to save for university since I'd married young. Never in my life had I previously imagined that Quebec's language laws would come to bite me in the rear because someone else did not know French. It's not like he was planning to settle there. He just wanted to study in Canada for his last year of high school before university and be with his sister.

Unfortunately that marriage ended in divorce.

Flash forward to today. I've been in a relationship, sometimes together sometimes long-distance, with a Hong Kong Chinese for a while now. She knows Cantonese and Mandarin, traditional and simplified characters, pinyin, and Japanese, but her English is poor.

 

I know English, French, spoken Mandarin, and pinyin, very little Ojibwe, and one other language. Due to Canada's language laws, though she could sell her houses in Hong Kong and Shenzhen and open a restaurant here, Canadian immigration law would make it difficult because she doesn't know English and French. And we don't want to marry till we know each other better. Catch-22. And of course this unjustly favours French and English immigrants. Hong Kong law is far more progressive. We don't have a child yet, but have discussed it. Though we could send our child to school in English in Hong Kong, we could not send him to school in Chinese in Canada, though we could in Sweden, if I were Swedish, according to its school voucher program, according to the market, as long as the school teaches Swedish too and that the student can pass all national exams in Swedish.

As a result of these language laws, if we do marry which is a high probability now,  I will likely have to move to Hong Kong because Canadian language laws just won't welcome her easily even though she could easily succeed as a restauranteur in Canada with Chinese only, and she does want to learn English but not French (my mom knows French but not my dad). But that would take time.

 

Let's not forget that official bilingualism is a throwback to the residential schools era, Engish and French paralleling Protestantism and Catholicism in the separate schools system (which the B&B Commission  in fact explicitly mentions in its Book I, Chapter I) . The B&B Commission concerned itself only with "the two founding races" which it defined as "Canadians of British and French origin" to the explicit exclusion of "the Indians and the Esquimos" in its Book I, General Introduction, Paragraph 21. It should come as no surprise that Jean Chrétien, the primary drafter of the Indian Policy of 1969 aimed at the total assimilation of the indigenous peoples,  was also one of the main writers of both the Official Languages Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Whereas Finnland has an official Sign Language in its Constitution, Canada has no such thing. Indigenous language rights and unofficial language rights are conspicuous by their absences in a  Constitution that devotes paragraphs to Anglo-French privilege 

Given that both the separate school system and official bilingualism are throwbacks to a bygone era, isn't it time to establish a new Royal Commission on Religion and Language to re-examine these Constitutional provisions in the light of not only the residential school era, but also the new modern reality of interlinguistic marriage in Canada along with the fact that ten state Constitutions now recognize an official sign language. Isn't it time we write a new Constitution for the reconciliation era?

 

By the way, it's not like I try to make my life difficult. I never consciously went about looking for foreign partners. In both cases it started as friendship and then evolved from there. If the government does not like this, then don't let people into the country in the first place, but don't let them in and then play games with them afterwards. If you don't intend on letting them stay, then don't let them in. And if you let them in, then let them stay without all these legal and Constitutional hassles.

 

It's time to update our constitution to modern reality.