Open Letter to Graham Fraser - Canada’s Commissioner of Official Languages:
As published in the Victoria Standard: August, 2014.
Dear Mr. Fraser,
You are a logical choice as Canada’s French language advocate considering clan Fraser’s ancient Norman ancestors. However, our Celtic forbears originally spoke not English or French, but Gaelic; a language that now enjoys strong public and even government support in Nova Scotia, Scotland and Ireland. It pleases me to report that nearly all local road signs in central and western Cape Breton are printed solely in Gaelic and English.
In fact, just prior to Canada’s confederation; the notion of French-English-Gaelic trilingualism was the subject of serious discussion among the leaders of the day. According to a recent Statistics Canada survey, over one-third of Canadians trace their cultural heritage to Scotland, Wales or Ireland; yet these Canadians are lumped in with the “English” who conquered their lands and outlawed their cultural expression in a brutal process that can accurately be called apartheid. I refer in particular to the late 18th century period in Highland Scotland when the English declared illegal Gaelic language, music, dress and forbade weapons and public gatherings under pain of death or “transportation.” Unfortunately, I have heard not a word about the Gaelic culture from you; in either so-called official language.
Were the Gaelic language in Nova Scotia to receive one tenth the financial and political support lavished on the French language in the rest of Canada; it is likely that the province would be an officially English-Gaelic bilingual entity. However, such charity is neither requested nor required; particularly by Cape Bretoners of Highland extraction who require no subsidies to protect their "culture."
Naturally, in an officially English/ Gaelic Nova Scotia; the vital cultural rights of First Nations and Acadians would enjoy legal protection above and beyond that offered by the Federal government. Nova Scotia’s Office of Gaelic Affairs notwithstanding; the resurgence of the Celts’ ancient language is very much a grassroots phenomenon on Cape Breton Island. Come see for yourself, Mr. Fraser: Failte!
Morgan Duchesney (and Fraser, MacDonald, Campbell, MacLellan, Burton, Gwynn, Carter etc.)