French Should Be An Official Language in the Province of Ontario
Debate Rounds (5)
Please note that the debate will be organized in the following way:
Round 1: Acceptance
Round 2: Initial Argument
Round 3: First Rebuttal
Round 4: Second Rebuttal
Round 5: Concluding Remarks and Acknowledgements
However, designating a second official language in Ontario would be an almost entirely symbolic gesture, as the French Language Services Act already caters to the needs of specific communities in which French is a dominant language. While there are some concentrated pockets of French-speaking citizens in Ontario, in a broader context, a mere 0.3% of the population speaks French only; 11% speak both languages.  Additional legislation should serve a meaningful purpose and benefit. Generally speaking, designating a second official language carries requirements of bilingualism in government offices, services and communications (road signs etc.) across the province. Any of these implementations would result in considerable costs. Are these costs necessary to service the 0.3% of the population who speak French exclusively?
The French Language Services Act designates areas in which Ontarians may receive services in French. 81% live in these areas though forcing some to travel long distances to receive services in French. The Office of the French Language Services Commission, established in 2007, publishes an annual report on the status of French language services in Ontario. The 2014-2015 report found that French speakers have experienced complications in judicial matters ranging from long wait times to ignorance of litigants' rights under the act. Healthcare issues include sub-par services and problems diagnosing and treating problems such as dyslexia in Francophone children. The report also cites issues in education.
Having demonstrated the failings of the French Language Services Act I now hope to show the economic viability of implementing the motion of this debate. I will start by looking at the benefits experienced by New Brunswick, Canada's only officially bilingual province since 1969.
Pierre-Marcel Desjardins and David Campbell of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick conducted a study regarding the economic implications of official bilingualism in New Brunswick. They found that bilingualism was "good for business". The study found that New Brunswick had "attracted big corporate players including ExxonMobil, Xerox, ...". The study also found that insurance carriers "expanded their employment in the province by 55% between 2006 and 2013 " citing bilingual workforce as their main motivation. In short, official bilingualism creates jobs. The study also notes benefits in educational achievement and tourism.
A study by the Conference Board of Canada done 2013 examines the effect of bilingualism on Canada's economy. 220 million people speak French worldwide in 31 countries. They account for 5.9% of the world's GDP and trade volume with Canada is growing rapidly. Finally, Quebec and New Brunswick's trade volume with these countries was around US$3.5 billion higher due to common language.
Clearly, the benefits of being bilingual outweigh the cost. In designating French as an official language, Ontario would profit. Implementation would be easier since Ontario has more key bilingual institutions in place than New Brunswick in 1969. Laws should benefit and serve a meaningful purpose which is why French should be an official language in Ontario.
New Brunswick is a province dominated by two mother tongues - French and English. As of 2011, New Brunswick's French-speaking population accounted for 31.6% of its population . 32.7% of its population reported being bilingual in both French and English, while 9.0% spoke French only. Less than 1% of its population holds a non-official language as their mother tongue . Due to its lack of diversity beyond its two language groups, New Brunswick has struggled to attract new immigrants, who have cited significant social and economic barriers in the province. This poses significant economic challenges for a province with an aging population and highly mobile youth workforce. 
With a long history of language-based tensions, French and English communities continue to be largely divided in New Brunswick. Language legislation is still used as a spring board for perpetuating the tensions and division in the province - e.g. fines being issued for French not being the first language posted on all signs , and an alleged Charter violation that arose from French and English students sharing school buses to save costs. Despite legislation, the province continues to struggle to meet its requirements for bilingualism; in 2014, the Office of the Commissioner for Official Languages received 155 complaints .
Conversely, Ontario has a highly integrated French population. While just over 4% of its population maintains French as a mother tongue, only 0.3% of the population speaks French only. Diversity in Ontario continues to be a driver for sustained population and economic growth, with the province boasting significant populations of non-official mother tongues such as Chinese, Italian, Spanish and Punjabi . Of note, as of 2011, Chinese surpassed French as the second most common mother tongue after English .
Ontario's economic success through diversity stems largely from its high adoption rate of English as a unifying language; introducing a second official language would promote segregation and stifle its success.
I already essentially refuted part of the first claim by presenting the study of Desjardins and Campbell which showed that bilingualism is good for business and has attracted major corporate players to that province like Xerox and IBM. You may recall my also mentioning that New Brunswick has become a favourite of major insurance companies due to its bilingualism.
My opponent also claims that New Brunswick has struggled to attract new immigrants. The annual report of the Office of the Commissioner for Official Languages reports that in the 2013-2014 13.2% of students in that province's universities were international which is a 53% percent increase from 2009-2010. The Desjardins-Campbell report also states that blingualism has helped attract more foreign entrepreneurs if not as many new immigrants. Immigration is low in New Brunswick due to federal regulations not bilingualism as the 2013-2018 New Brunswick Population Growth Strategy paper notes. The federal government cut down the amount of business applicants and skilled workers the province could accept. They account for 80% of New Brunswick's immigration. Finally on that point the Perfect Demographic Storm paper from the Journal of New Brunswick Studies cited by my opponent actually notes an increase in immigration as per the 2011 census.
The second claim is the idea that Ontario would hurt by bilingualism and that English as a unifying language is key to Ontario's economic success. You may recall in my opening argument that I mentioned the 2013 Conference Board of Canada study and how New Brunwick's and Quebec's trade with French speaking countries was significantly bolstered by common language. That same report also discusses the growing clout of Francophone countries in world trade which makes bilingualism still more economically attractive for Ontario. As for the idea that English as a unifying language is the key to Ontario's economic success, well that is simply not true. Ontario's robust economy has far more to do with wealth of resources and the fact that Ontario hosts both Canada's capital and its largest city whose financial district is home to several French speaking companies.
This knowledge should assuage all fears surrounding the motion.
Unfortunately, however, my opponent has critically erred in drawing a cause and effect relationship between the legislation in question and economic enhancement. While companies may cite bilingualism as an important factor drawing them to Quebec and New Brunswick, it is unclear how legislating two Official languages has contributed to this economic draw; both New Brunswick and Quebec have long histories of bilingualism, far preceding the introduction of dual-language legislation. I would argue that, paradoxically, any additional demand for a bilingual labour force is created by the language legislation itself. In other words, when legislation is imposed, companies are forced to adopt strategies for coping with the legislation - this demand would not otherwise exist. This is very different than servicing an unmet demand.
With regards to global trade, my opponent is correct that France and other french-speaking nations represent significant trading partners. However, it is again unclear how the specific legislation in question would enhance these relationships, and why French language legislation should take priority over any other languages of trade. Indeed, based on current demographic trends in Ontario - specifically the rapid and continued growth of Chinese-speaking populations, which are now greater in number than those holding French as their mother tongue - and the booming economic growth of China, a more compelling argument can be made in support of legislation to promote and enhance access to Cantonese and Mandarin within Ontario. China is Ontario"s second-largest trading partner trade volume totaling $36.2 billion in 2014, and Chinese companies have invested heavily in Ontario with close to $1 billion in investment and 1,800 jobs created from the Premier's 2014 trade mission alone . There is no question that, aside from the US, China is Ontario's most important trading partner for continued long-term economic growth and stability. With this, I suggest that, with regards to language relations, Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin) should be Ontario's first priority.
Furthermore you may be aware of China's recent economic woes. China has a large but unstable economy and combine with their other problems, some of which I just described, that makes China a "developing country (albeit huge) suffering growing pains and the excesses borne from overconfidence and misplaced optimism" as John S. Tobey describes it in his August 20th Forbes article.
Please note that I have no desire to discourage investment in China and as my opponent terms it "language relations" with China. We have a large Chinese-Ontarian community but there are big risks with China and if we overplay our hand the results can be adverse. Countries like France, Belgium and Switzerland have much more stable socio-political situations which is a very attractive commodity in an increasingly unstable world of which China is but a microcosm.
With regards to how companies would react to language legislation, it should be noted that foreign companies operating in Canada, specifically Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick, already operate to varying degrees in both languages. McDonalds coffee cups have warning labels in both languages already for example and insurers offer service in both languages already so they are not being asked to radically change their business models.
Another important point to consider is how Quebec has suffered from relegating English. The percentage of Quebec residents who speak only English is small nevertheless Quebec has suffered clearly from failing to acknowledge the political importance of the English language. Do note that Ontario doesn't marginalize French the way Quebec does English with an equivalent of Bill 101. However Ontario still misses out on some economic opportunities though.
Finally, I will submit that there is a cause and effect relationship between language legislation and economic growth. Here's one example. Before 1969 Francophone farmers in New Brunswick were being hampered in their efforts by lack of access to services they needed in their native tongue. After, they were far more productive and the province's economy grew as a result of the law.
I welcome our concluding statements on the matter.
I would like to take the time to thank everyone who has taken the time to monitor this debate. I also want to thank my opponent for taking up the challenge and engaging in a highly productive conversation about this particularly interesting issue. After all, it is through debate and reasoned argument from both sides of an issue that progress comes and one must never underestimate the value of that.
I believe that this debate helps underscore the importance of the French language in Ontario and by extension the rest of Canada. More generally I think we can all agree that this debate is an expression of the sheer power of language in the advancement of human society and the degree to which language can influence social progress. Language was one of the first realms of human knowledge whose importance has not diminished with time but rather grown. The fact that we are having a conversation such as this and that similar conversations are currently taking place around the globe underscore this fact.
Back to the issue at hand I hope you also see this as further evidence of the fact that taking language into account in a legislative sense has implications more far-reaching and profound than that of symbolism and historical deference. Language legislation has far-reaching effects in society and those effects can be very positive as they were for New Brunswick and would most certainly be for Ontario if the motion were to be implemented.
The importance of the French language in the modern world cannot be underestimated and it is almost universally accepted that the clout of the French language will grow dramatically over the next few decades. If the motion were to pass Ontario would be still better equipped than it already is for this reality.
I will wrap up by sharing a quote from Canada's first prime minister Sir John A. MacDonald. He said "Let us be French, let us be English, but most importantly let us be Canadian!". We cannot escape the reality of the importance of both languages to public life here and certainly not here in Canada's mid-section, the part that holds up the rest of the Canadian body. We must be English and we must also be French and this is not a tense balancing act but rather a happy medium that allows us to base our national identity on more than just ethnic identity or political power but rather the vastness and diversity of our land and its people. More than any other country, we are shaped by bilingualism which is why I support this motion. Thank you.
DerekWilliamson forfeited this round.
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