Twitter: the place where celebrities’ inane thoughts are limited to 140 characters of stupidity. That being said, it is only natural for politicians to use Twitter as a tool to update of their four followers: mother, father, and a couple of grandparents who have recently discovered the internet.
On the internet, like on international waters, anything goes, but Stéphane Dion has taken it upon himself to ensure that Canadian Parliament’s laws and traditions are upheld even on Twitter. He has called out a slew of ministers who have exercised primarily English Twitter communications.
Dion, the Liberal Language Critic (not a bad band name, I’ll give you that), addressed Treasury Board President Tony Clement regarding his monolingual Twitter activity: “You yourself, minister, fail to meet bilingual requirements in your electronic communications on government matters.” Dion continued to note that Clement isn’t the only culprit, saying, “many ministers use almost only English in their Twitter communications.” Dion urged Clement, whose department is responsible for enforcing language policy, to rectify the situation.
With Dion patrolling the federal government’s presence in social media like a cyber language gestapo (here’s their first album name—am I getting paid for this?) who knows where else he’ll be enforcing this kind-of-minor-but-arduous-enough-to-be-an-annoyance mandate? Perhaps all federal ministers will have to send two versions of every Snapchat, one standard snap and a second one with them smoking a cigarette and wearing beret. Will they have to plan half of each Tinder date in French, or every other Tinder date fully in French?
Would we really be doing the French language a service by forcing our ministers to Tweet in it? The French language is one of beauty and seduction, meant for a surprise poem to your lover at sunset. Its romance can’t be distilled into 140 characters. Conversely, the English language is for 15 year olds to shout at each over Xbox Live.
Commissioner of Official Languages Graham Fraser investigated the report and found that former Foreign Affair Minister John Baird and Public Security Minister Steven Blaney had violated the language laws. During a two-month span, 181 of Baird’s 202 tweets were English-only. The Commissioner’s office said that, while ministers can use the language of their choice with staff and in their private offices, they must use both official languages when communicating with the public in a official manner.
Conservative MP Laurie Hawn voiced his opinion on the matter on Twitter like an attention-mongering high schooler. He tweeted, “Commissioner of Official Languages says cabinet ministers MUST tweet bilingual. Quelle idee stupide.” What a stupid idea. Really, my six year old cousin said the same thing about cross contaminating his chocolate and vanilla ice cream by putting them in the same bowl.
So, good readers, is it so stupide to scrutinize our ministers’ standards on a platform as mundane and feeble as Twitter, or is it important that our Canadian traditions be upheld no matter the medium? Tweet your thoughts to @TheTrueNorth with the hastag #DionPerformsCunningLinguistics