Liberal leader slaps Trudeau over minority language rights
OTTAWA - Liberal leader Stephane Dion publicly chastised his new star candidate yesterday, saying Justin Trudeau's comments calling into question minority language school boards don't reflect the party's position.
"It is very important to keep the institutions that have allowed our communities to keep their language and to live in French," said Mr. Dion, who as a former Cabinet minister authored an ambitious plan to help official language minorities. "So we will always defend them. It is in Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms."
Mr. Dion said Mr. Trudeau, who won the Liberal nomination in the Montreal riding of Papineau little more than a week ago, has just entered federal politics and will learn.
"He is new," said Mr. Dion with a small smile. "He will no doubt have to make his thoughts more precise."
Describing sovereignists as whiners was not the best choice of words either, he added.
"I would not express myself like that. I think I have always respected the opposing view."
News reports of a speech to teachers in New Brunswick Friday quoted Mr. Trudeau as calling into question the province's system of separate English and French school boards, suggesting it would be more cost-effective and better for students to consider merging the boards.
"The segregation of French and English ... in schools is something to be looked at seriously," said Mr. Trudeau, a teacher by profession, in a speech to an estimated 2,000 teachers. "It is dividing people, and affixing labels to people."
Mr. Trudeau, eldest son of the late former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, also angered Quebec sovereignists by likening them to school children who whine and complain to get more attention. News reports said he predicted Quebec will never separate and described sovereignty as a "mythology."
Mr. Trudeau issued a statement yesterday saying his comments had been misconstrued. He apologized to Acadians and other francophones who might have been offended.
"I would like to say that I regret how certain comments I made during my visit to New Brunswick last Friday on the subject of the francophone school system in New Brunswick. If I offended Acadians and francophones living in a minority situation, I would like to apologize publicly.
"Linguistic duality and the management of francophone schools in New Brunswick is enshrined in our constitution. It is a Liberal heritage of which I am very proud."
While some media reports suggested Mr. Trudeau had criticized bilingualism, he said he spent several years teaching French in Vancouver and has "always been a fervent defender of bilingualism and even bilingualism plus."
However, Mr. Trudeau's apology did little to calm political opponents.
Former New Brunswick premier Bernard Lord, a Conservative, told CTV Newsnet that Mr. Trudeau had no choice but to apologize or risk hurting the Liberal party's fortunes in New Brunswick in the next election.
Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe said Mr. Trudeau's comments showed a lack of knowledge of political jurisdiction, pointing out that education is a provincial responsibility. His comments also showed an "arrogant attitude" toward Acadians and French Canadians, Mr. Duceppe said.
finally a liberal with some balls
i mean his dad fucked over western canada so i dont think i'll ever vote for him