A recent countrywide poll on the status of bilingualism has attracted a good deal of comment on the relatively small minority of Canadians outside Quebec who consider it to be an important objective. Much attention has been paid to the fact that the portion of Quebecers who believe bilingualism to be important, 83 percent, is almost twice the number answering positively to the same question in the other nine provinces, 43 percent.
The principal implications of these numbers that have been emphasized are that official bilingualism is a myth. This is true in considerable measure, but it disguises both progress and an opportunity. The fact that nearly half of the people living outside Quebec consider bilingualism to be important and valuable is a huge step forward on what a corresponding poll would have found prior to Pierre Trudeau’s campaign in favour of bilingualism nearly 60 years ago.
At that time, the number of English-speaking Canadians living outside Quebec who would have responded positively to that question was negligible. One centrepiece of Trudeau’s successful campaign against the separatists in Quebec was to promote bilingualism throughout Canada and reduce its nature as a country cleaved sharply in two between English- and French-speaking elements, with, implicitly, the federal government operated by a small clique of elite bicultural politicians and senior civil servants.

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