Canada the Culturally Straightforward

At Crooked Timber, Ingrid Robeyns has a teaser-post up announcing that she will write a longer post about the political crisis in Belgium. She mentions that most non-Belgians (or perhaps, most non-Flemish) have trouble understanding why language should be such a big deal. Canada is dutifully mentioned in the ensuing comments, and commenter Alison adds this summary of our national skills in consistency:

Re Canada:

In Quebec, even commercial signs must be in French. Outside of Quebec, commercial signs are in the language of the customers.

Document, services and signs tend to be in the languages mandated by the level of government responsible for them. The airport in Toronto is signed bilingually because of its federal connection. The calendar for municipal garbage pickup is available in many, many languages, because Torontonians speak hundreds of them, and the government wants people to put out the right sort on the right day. Provincial laws are bilingual in Ontario, but most public servants are not. The courts have the capacity to operate in French, but it is infrequent except where there is a high density of Francophones.

Clear? Our weather is in Celsius and our ovens are in Fahrenheit. Our buildings are in imperial and our roads are in metric. Our cheese is advertised in pounds, but the shelf signs are normalized for comparison in grams.

We are bilingual and multicultural. Aboriginal people belong to First Nations, but are not included in the Constitution as a founding people, like the British and French. Quebecers tend to ignore the rest of us, but most of our prime ministers (and all of the best ones) have been from Quebec.

There will be a quiz later.

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