Vic Toews has reason to feel insulted


I wonder if Pablo Rodriguez and Jean-Claude D’Amours have any idea how many English-speaking Canadians pride themselves on being strong supporters of French in Canada even though they haven’t mastered the language?

The two Liberal MPs tag-teamed an assault on Treasury Board President Vic Toews yesterday at a House committee, challenging him on his suitability for his cabinet post because he doesn’t speak French. “Don’t you think,” Rodriguez said to Toews at a House committee, ”someone who has responsibility such as yours should be bilingual?”

D’Amours suggested that because Toews has some responsibility for bilingualism in the public service, he “should be a bilingual person to better be able to serve the people.”

A quick online search turns up evidence supporting Toews’ angry rejoinder that he’s long been a staunch supporter of minority language rights, particularly since there’s a sizeable French-speaking minority in his rural Manitoba riding.

Back when he was Manitoba’s justice minister in the late nineties, he was briefly embroiled in controversy when he pushed for more French-speaking judges on the provincial bench. More recently, as federal justice minister in 2006, he advocated Criminal Code amendments to makes sure anybody charged with a crime is properly informed of his or her right to be heard by a judge and jury that speaks the official language the accused is most comfortable with. And there’s some more mundane stuff about Toews helping send federal money toward franco-Manitoban businesses, but you get the picture.

So I don’t find any evidence that in his political life Toews has fallen short when it comes to backing bilingualism. But what will really resonate for many unilingual Canadian parents (like, for example, me) who read about this nasty committee clash is Toews’s wounded reference afterward to his pride that his daughter learned French in an immersion school.

Overall, there’s nothing on his bio to suggest he lacks a personal appreciation for the value of bilingualism or a political grasp of the need to take practical steps to support it. If there’s something lacking in the way he’s handling that part of his Treasury Board file, then the Liberals should stick to questioning his actions as a minister and leave his language skills out of it.


Vic Toews has reason to feel insulted

  1. I think the thing to take away is that Pablo Rodriguez is a clown. But who didn’t know that?

  2. How much you want to bet you won’t get many posts defending Vic’s postion and then complimenting the LPC on their efforts at non partisanship and consensus building. The Liberals are getting desparate as they only have a few weeks to get their name in the papers before the summmer break and their numbers flatline or go down before the fall. The party was expecting a much better showing from the convention but that well ran dry- The thing is you would expect this from the BQ –

  3. Let me guess…Aaron Wherry had the right of first refusal on this topic and wanted nothing at all to do with it.

    But who was the first guy to post what a meanie Harper was for allegedly mocking Dion’s English skills after that infamous interview?

  4. All of which Toews could have stated in a calm rational manner…but he didn’t

  5. I’m in agreement – this is a purely partisan plucking that really has nothing to do with the person’s ability to do the job at hand.
    However, it’s also a case of the opposition doing what the CONs have mastered – twisting an issue/item to the most reckless shape to score political points. That doesn’t make it right. But I didn’t hear Wayne or John G cry ‘outrage’ when Harper and his troops were bashing Bains, the opposition for their questions on Afghanistan, etc.

    • whose bains? – you sure didn’t hear me bashing her or him.

      • oh right Navdap or whatever – nope sorry I didn’t bash the guy .. you will have to find another non example.

        • Back to remedial reading Wayne. Harper did the bashing; you did not raise a whit of complaint against Harper’s actions.
          Please pay attention. I know the Canucks’ win may be distracting, but stay on point before you get back on message.

    • I have been critical recently of the Conservatives’ use of Members Statements to attack Ignatieff. Partisanship just for the sake of partisanship has no place.

      But then again, Maclean’s isn’t paying me to be a political commentator either. But they are (presumably) paying Wherry to do that job.

      Wherry is very quick to make post after post about Conservative partisanship. Sometimes he’s right (like the abuse of Member’s statements), and sometimes he’s in left field (like Harper vs. Dion’s English, or trying to make the Ruby Dhalla story about Jason Kenney’s very measured response to some pretty loaded questions).

      But one thing we never see from Wherry is complaints about Liberal partisanship and gutter sniping. Like this one. For some reason it falls to John Geddes to make this post.

      • In my humble opinion, John Geddes is the most fair-minded and impartial of all the Maclean’s bloggers.

        • You’ve got to be kidding.

          • Not at all. He’s a great journalist who rarely lets his opinions get in the way of the story.

  6. Toews and the CONs, when on the receiving end of low-blow attacks, are only getting what goes around. The traffic in muck, and they will get mucked up.

  7. It is a trend actually, a science minister who doesn’t believe in evolution, an environment minister who doesn’t believe in saving the environment (only the political hide of his master), an agriculture minister who doesn’t know shittake mushrooms from shinola, and now a unilingual minister advocating for both languages. Nothing wrong with being unilingual, but shouldn’t his post be one of those things that is a good idea to be bilingual? Or do they just not know what to do with him, how many times can he be demoted?

  8. I agree wholeheartedly.
    I’ve studied French all through school, my father is French. However, I have not yet mastered the language, although I hope to soon. But the second someone starts attacking bilingualism or the French fact within Canada, I will be the first in line to fight them.

  9. Pablo, who’s English is extremely poor, should be ashamed of himself. Besides, what’s the deal about defining “bilingual” as English and French only in Canada? Bilingual is any person who speaks two languages at native level. Unlike Pablo, Toews is actually fluent in three languages and has every reason to stand tall and proud.

    And wasn’t Pablo the guy who conspired with a CBC reporter in an attempt to manipulate the inquiry into the Schreiber affair?

    • Mr. Toews is in charge of official languages. In Canada those are English and French.

      • “Mr. Toews is in charge of official languages.”

        No he’s not. He may have some responsibility for ensuring the appropriate use of English and French in the federal public service, but saying he’s “in charge of official languages” isn’t entirely correct.

    • “Pablo, who’s English is extremely poor, “…

      Taken literally, this contraction only makes sense with a comma, but then it does not make the point I believe you were attempting:

      – “Pablo, who is English, is extremely poor”.. I just don’t think you meant to comment on his relative wealth.

      Instead, you must have meant “Pablo, whose English is very poor,”… but then that would be ironic, because then you would be caught out using the wrong word/spelling, just as you were slagging him for struggling in his non-mother tongue. Is it yours?

      And as Loraine points out, the answer to your question is that being bilingual in Canada means to be conversant in French and English should be relatively obvious in context, given the rather prominent place they have in our Constitution and his Ministry’s mission. Of course one may be bilingual in many combinations that have nothing to do with English or French, but that is a pedantic, pathetic attempt at deflection.

      Nonetheless, I believe Potter has made good points on this latter issue and Mr Toews’ record should count for something. Can we not conceive of a man caring about the welfare of women, of a white person caring about the welfare of non-whites, etc…? Judge on substance, not the superficial.

      • My bad, I was typing too fast. I know the correct form of course — in fact better than 99% of the poorly educated masses across this country. Still doesn’t change the fact that Pablo is a joke, and when I hear him speak, I always feel like throwing up.

        • “Of course I knew that. I was just testing you to see if you were smart like me, or dumb like everybody else.”

    • Toews may be able to speak other languages BUT we only have “2” official languages here in Canada – French and English.

      I can’t imagine anyone defending lack of morals Toews.

      • There may be a lot of problems with Vic Toews’ performance in his job, and no one questions the ability of the opposition to point them out. What people are saying here, myself included, is that Toews shouldn’t feel bad because of his lack of French skills. That, in and of itself, does not make him a bad minister.

        • Agreed. I do not look kindly on Liberals willing to drag through the mud for this sort of effort. I’m quite sure Conservatives will actually do something worthy of scorn and ridicule, we don’t need to invent stuff. Also, have the Liberals just required all members to be bilingual? Because if so, I missed that memo. Maybe it was in French, because I can’t speak it, you see.

          • I think the argument is that, Conservatives are bad, so Liberals can be just as bad and it is unfair and unreasonable to expect better. At least that is my reading of all these “but they made fun of Dion” comments.

  10. I may be wrong here, but as I recall Mr. Toews was a member of the public accounts committee in 2004 that was looking into the sponsorship program. When André Ouellet was testifying, some Conservative (Toews?) questioned Mr. Ouellet’s choice of French in answering questions asked of him in English. If it was not Mr. Toews, he certainly did not object to this questionning of a Canadian citizen’s right to speak French in Canada and within the walls of the Canadian parliament.

    If it’s OK to question Mr. Dion’s capability to become prime minister because of his heavily-accented English, why is not OK to ASK A QUESTION to the capability of the minister in charge of official languages to a man who does not speak a word of the other official language?

    • That wasn’t Toews, it was Brian Pallister, and he rightly got skewered by the media and opposition for it.

      • Wasn’t Toews on that committee?

  11. Toews, from the G&M : ““For some reason, I’m less of a Canadian, I’m less entitled to hold public office because I only speak one of the official languages,” he fumed.

    For some reason, he belongs to a party that has questioned the entitlement of a member of parliament to become prime minister of Canada because of his heavily-accented English.

    For some reason, he belongs to a party that has questioned the entitlement of a member of parliament to become prime minister of Canada because he held dual citizenship.

    I don’t feel sorry for Mr. Toews one bit. If he were an honest man who truly believed that one is not a lesser Canadian because onepeaks French, he would have stood up and dissociated himself from Pallister. He would have stood up and dissociated himself from his party on Dion.

    He did not.

    I don’t feel sorry for him one bit.

  12. Seriously, do you think that if you prick us, we do not not bleed? I have read here, on the Globe site and elsewhere the most vile comments on Stephane Dion’s because of his heavily accented English. Should I, as a citizen, feel that I am a second class citizen because I speak English with an accent?

    The Conservatives made a point of stopping their leader’s plane to hold a press conference about Dion’s inability to answer a question asked of him in English. They made fun of him.

    Nobody is making fun of Vic Toews inability to speak any French at all. He was being asked legitimate questions to which he should have answered without creating such a drama-queen and inflamatory response.

    • Loraine, stop. Your common sense is just too based in reality and intellectually elite for this bunch. You must use vile insults and question their patriotism, you know, get down to their level. The CONs and rightwingers are going hard after any little morsel because they know they are headed to the scrap heap. This is not resonating anywhere else so they can keep frothing at the mouth but the spittle will just dry on their chins. Again.

    • That would have been more likely to happen, had he been presented with something other than drama-queen and inflammatory questions.

      The two Liberal MP’s in question are usually pretty decent, but this was bad. And I don’t like Toews in the least, but I’m with him on this.

  13. Liberals insulting unilingual Canadians? Lots of unilingual Canadians in the west, same old same old from my point of view. I think it is going on 70 years now that the unofficial Liberal motto is “screw the west, we’ll take the rest”. I will have to try to remember to mention Pablo next time a Liberal calls me during a campaign.

  14. Ah the legal precedent of “Arse v. Douche”, the ground breaking legal defense in that well known 1790 court case. I forget, was that common law or civil code? Of course the Liberals are allowed to do it because they think the Conservatives did it already. Some of these comments really could make you angry, if you let them.

    • Don’t forget that Justin Trudeau thinks that unilingual anglophones are not only less ‘Canadian’ but also ‘lazy’!

      • Really? Not surprising, but still disappointing. Some days it seems like the inmates are running the place.

  15. Aw come on give VIc a break. 55 years old and lack of sleep from a baby at home can make anyone have a short fuse and be touchy.

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