It should have remained a simple anecdote: a member, stung, who uses foul language in committee and immediately withdraws his words. But the way in which the Liberals defended their colleague Francis Drouin amplifies the uneasiness, to the point of overshadowing their good moves in terms of official languages.

A man answers questions on camera.

Franco-Ontarian MP Francis Drouin justified himself Wednesday for having treated two witnesses in committee as “full of shit.”

Photo: Radio-United States

The release stunned more than one. In a parliamentary committee on Monday, Franco-Ontarian Liberal MP Francis Drouin called two witnesses “full of crap.” The two guests – a researcher and a CEGEP professor – argued that, when a Francophone or an allophone studies in English in an English-speaking post-secondary institution, their chances of leading their life in English subsequently increase.

The two speakers relied on a Statistics Canada study, but Mr. Drouin judged their remarks extremists.

The matter could have ended if, after retracting his words, the member for Glengarry–Prescott–Russell had immediately apologized, but he only did so the next day, paying lip service.

None of his liberal colleagues wanted to throw stones at him. On the contrary, they tried to defend it, sometimes putting forward arguments that defied logic.

The Minister of Official Languages, Randy Boissonnault, who notably studied in French at the Saint-Jean campus of the University of Alberta, tried to establish a parallel with his own situation.

When we have French speakers studying in Alberta, like I did at the Saint-Jean campus, that doesn’t Frenchify the province. And if we look at the number of students we have in Quebec, that doesn’t anglicize the province eitherhe said upon entering the caucus.

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The statement startled the leader of the Bloc Québécois, Yves-François Blanchet. In his eyes, she reveals the abysmal depth of ignorance that Canada has about Quebec.

A man speaks and points to his right.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had lively exchanges with Pierre Poilievre and Yves-François Blanchet during question period in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

Photo: The U.S. Press / Spencer Colby

The affair animated the debates during question period in the Commons on Wednesday, for a second day in a row. The Prime Minister first pointed out that the word Cambronne has been known for a very long time all over the worldbefore accusing the Bloc members of attack a Franco-Ontarian because, according to Mr. Trudeau, they don’t like French speakers who speak French outside Quebec.

On Wednesday, the Conservatives followed in the footsteps of the Bloc by asking Francis Drouin to resign from his post as president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Francophonie (APF).

Contradictions

With this incident, the Liberals have been losing the battle of the message for two days.

On form: liberals are faced with their own contradictions. Less than two weeks ago, they were upset about decorum in the House when Pierre Poilievre called him a crazy person (wacko”,”text”:”wacko”}}”>wacko) the Prime Minister…

However, a few days later, their MP used much more vulgar words. Mr. Drouin also attacked simple witnesses in committee, rather than politicians who are used to receiving blows in the political contest.

On the merits: the Liberals cannot ignore Statistics Canada data for the purposes of political argument.

In April 2022, a study demonstrated the existence of a link between the language of instruction of the postsecondary institution attended in Quebec and the language of work. According to this study, 23% of French speakers who obtain a diploma from an English-speaking school will then mainly use English at work. For those who studied in French, the proportion is only 4%. The link is even more marked among allophones who study in English.

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Generally speaking, French in the country faces significant challenges. According to the latest census, the proportion of Canadians for whom French is the first official language spoken has decreased, from 22.2% in 2016 to 21.4% in 2021. The trend is also observed in Quebec.

The Liberals are fully aware of this fragility. And they acted to fix it. The Trudeau government recognized the vulnerable status of French in the country and set about the task of modernizing the Official Languages ​​Act.

He amended his bill on daycares to ensure long-term funding for French-speaking daycares outside Quebec. He reinstated the court challenges program, often used by minority language communities. He also set, and achieved, targets for French-speaking immigration outside Quebec.

A boy plays with a wooden train.

Long-term funding for French-language daycares in minority settings is now enshrined in law. (Archive photo)

Photo: Getty Images / Loic Venance/AFP

The handling of the incident involving Francis Drouin is a distraction that could have the damaging effect of making the Liberal troops forget their good moves.

By stumbling in the battle of the message, the Liberals are allowing the Bloc to score points, even though they do not have the luxury of losing support.

What could have been a minor slippage quickly contained now seems to be snowballing.

As it grows, the ball risks taking with it a substantial toll.

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