The Internet resembled a high-tech sewer last week, as a number of Iqaluit
residents anonymously posted ugly anti-French comments on Nunanet's
Political Discussion Forum (PDF).
Why? The news that 12 years of hard work by the Association Francophone du
Nunavut has resulted in a commitment by the federal government to provide
$3.75 million towards the construction of a French first-language school
It's too easy to dismiss the knee-jerk bigotry on the Nunanet forum as the
intemperate ravings of an unrepresentative minority: the sad fact is that
less extreme versions of the same mindset are in common currency around
town. Some people argue that better support for FAS kids is "more
important" than French-language education -- as if the two needs are
somehow in competition. Others argue that despite what the Charter of
Rights and Freedoms says about minority language rights, it's just "too
much money" for a small minority -- the same argument the Reform Party
uses to attack the creation of Nunavut.
A few points worth noting:
1) Iqaluit's francophone are a vibrant part of our community. Five hundred
or so people (kids included) operate a trilingual daycare, a trilingual
radio station and an active community center at which all are welcome. The
French-speaking population will continue to grow as Iqaluit becomes a
2) Last year's study by the Cornerstone Planning Group recommended that a
French first-language school be built in Iqaluit by 2001. That
recommendation was accepted by the Iqaluit District Education Authority.
Their chairperson, John Thomas, reiterated at Monday night's meeting that
it "definitely wants to see one built."
3) The AFN has never wanted a stand-alone French first-language school. In
fact, Heritage Canada's practice has been to provide funding only for
stand-alone French schools -- but the AFN talked them into making an
exception in this case. The AFN's preference is for a shared facility,
offering both French first-language and Inuktitut first-language programs
as well as strong second- and third-language instruction for all students.
Now it's up to the Iqaluit education authority to decide how, where and
when a French first-language school will be built. The Cornerstone
Planning Group also recommended that an elementary school be built in
Tundra Valley, and the AFN has proposed a shared facility there as an
inclusive, cost-effective option. A shared French-Inuktitut facility would
be a step forward for quality education for all kids in Iqaluit, no matter
which language or languages they speak.
If the IDEA rejects the francophone association's proposal, and insists
instead on a stand-alone French school, then French-speaking children
would be more -- not less -- isolated from the rest of the community. And
wouldn't the bigots on the PDF love that?
Iqaluit's francophones deserve recognition and appreciation -- not
condemnation or segregation -- for what they've accomplished.
When I was working in Western PEI, the French school there received major renovations. People complained. "Why the bloody hell do those French get that school, when friggin' Billy has to go to the same friggin' school I friggin' did. Gary, takes me to the Legion, I needs a Schooner to gets over this."
Well, Gary's friend, the reason is that the French "school" in Western PEI was three portable classrooms joined together, without a gym or library. They got a school because they needed one. They also got more money by adding a community outreach centre. Now go have another drink and wait for lobster season to start so you can get off the pogey. Give me the keys. I mean it, give me those truck keys.
EDITOR'S ASIDE: Yes, I do know that I am an Uncle Tom Islander when I make fun of the intemperate people from the rural ends of the Island... but I've been doing it my whole life. The character of Gary's friend has been around for 15 years, and I'm not giving him up. He has never had a name, he just always asks Gary to take him to the friggin' Legion.
Same problem, different town. People shouldn't be mad when French students get their schools. They should use it as an example of what wonderful things can be accomplished with proper funding.
If people attack every project on the basis that it doesn't help them directly, then we all lose.
Or, like Bender from Futurama says, "That is the worst kind of discrimination, the kind against me."
Same fight, different towns.... somebody takes me to the friggin' Legion.