City of Ottawa to English employees: “No Saturdays For You!”

This is just a tiny little example of the malaise which is crippling the City of Ottawa!

The ‘French Languages Services Branch’ decided that right now, when the City of Ottawa is so broke it cannot prevent raw sewage from flooding people’s basements, over and over… when the City of Ottawa is unable to pay the upkeep on municipal buildings so that some  have become safety hazards (like, say, the stands as the Landsdowne Park that had to be pulled down)…..when the City of Ottawa has no funds to maintain public housing, turning a deaf eat to senior citizens’ requests to have cockroaches and bed-bugs and, yes, rats (!) exterminated from their meager citty-run housing….

… when all this is happening, the French Languages Services Branch decided that it is time to celebrate the excellence with which they deliver French Language Services to the citizens of Ottawa!

And, to be honest – they are doing as bang-up job!

All the ‘keep out’ notices on condemned buildings are translated into flawless French and high-quality signs with it are posted all over!

And, all the letters requesting that the City bring the housing units it runs up to code are replied to in both English AND most elegant French, telling them that their concern is noted and once there are funds, someone will look into it.  May be…

And all the numerous glossy fliers we receive at our residence from the City of Ottawa, informing us of which services are no longer going to be provided by The City – well, those are also flawless in both their layout and excellent bilingual formulation of the esteem The City holds its  citizens in!

So, you see, they really DO deserve a little ‘pick-me-up’, a ‘pat on the back’, an unmistakable message that their dedication to excellence and best practices is appreciated..

This ‘appreciation’ took shape in a fancy glossy calendar.  Full colour picturesque pictures of scenic Ottawa may have brought the printing costs up a little – about $16,000 for the 2,500 calendars printed (somewhere near $6. 50 per calendar, if my math is not mistaken).  But, it was for the employees – to show appreciation – so it was worth it!

The calendars have arrived.  No, they do not provide any ‘City-of-Ottawa specific’ information – you know, like when seasonal event seasons start and end, or when The City delivers specific services (you know, like which is the 1-morning-a-month when the ‘hazardous materials’ depot (where we are supposed to bring used-up batteries, and so on) is open, and where (it moves around so it is hard to keep up with it) and so on).  It only lists the ‘usual’ information that any glossy, colourful $1.99- over-the-counter calendar does.

And, this 2010 calendar arrived and was handed out before the end of February 2010!  Big cheer for efficiency!!!  Yeeeeeay!

But, there was a tiny, itsy-bitsy mistake.

So tiny, it took days for anyone to notice it.

Well – there was no mistake in French, only in English, so you can understand how the French Services Delivery Branch would not really notice it.  After all, it is not the Bilingual Services Delivery Branch!  And, to the best of my knowledge, there isn’t an English Services Delivery Branch to partner with in collaborative efforts!

So, the days of the week – all through the 12 months – go as:  Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Sunday.

Yes – there is no Saturday!  Not one!

Now, I do not believe it is a sign of systemic anti-Semitism within the French Services Delivery Branch, because I do not believe this was an attempt to expunge or hide or otherwise ‘get rid of’ the Sabbath.  (Still, a simple check of the French Services Delivery Branch’s hiring statistics, to ensure they are fully compliant with the multicultural hiring quotas, is probably warranted – just to make sure!)  ;0)

But, I do think this belies a cultural prejudice:  in Quebec, most calendars adhere to the ‘Mainland European’ standard of starting the week with Monday and ending it with Sunday.  In Ontario – both the English and the Franco-Ontarien adopt the ‘Anglo’ standard of starting the week with Sunday and ending it with Saturday!

Therefore, I suspect that far from being a language issue – this mistake is the fruit of a growing cultural  gap as Franco-Ontarien culture is systematically being eroded and replaced by Quebec culture… because it seems to me that the most likely way this ‘mistake’ would have happened is that a Quebec-culture person, at the last moment, noticed that the week is not ending in ‘Sunday’ and ordered the change!

I, for one, find that highly offensive!

‘Language’ and ‘culture’ may be related, but they are not the same thing!

And, too often – especially here in Canada – we confuse the two.

But that is a grave mistake!  Just look at the rich cultural diversity among different countries that are, say, Spanish-speaking!  The culture of the Dominican Republic is not the same as the culture of, say, Argentina, is it? Yet they share a common language…

Similarly, Franco-Ontariens may speak French, but,they have a very different culture than Quebec does!  Let’s not forget this – ‘French’ and ‘Quebec’ are not synonymous!  Listening to people, it sounds like Franco-Ontariens are as deeply frustrated (if not more) by the Quebec French-language militants who are exporting their discord into Ontario as the rest of us are!

So, I present to you:  this little typo is not a ‘language’ mistake – it is a ‘culture-gap symptom’!

It shows that many of our City of Ottawa employees are less interested in delivering services to us, the citizens, then they are about playing politics with our money!  Spending our tax dollars in sowing cultural discord within the city and building their own bureaucratic empires, funding ‘perks’ for the employees – till there is none left to provide even the most core services!

…all the while The City can’t afford to fix the tons of raw sewage still spilling into the Ottawa River.

How fitting!