En français, s’il-vous-plaît!

New Brunswick is the only officially bilingual province in Canada, which has implications and ramifications made amply clear in the Charter of Rights that’s part of our Constitution. That said, I must say that as someone who has been so fortunate as to grow up immersed in this country’s both official languages, my attitude towards bilingualism is to be accommodating. Oh sure! I like being spoken to in French when I’m in a store in Moncton, but since I also speak English fluently, I don’t let my nose get out of joint if a salesperson speaks only English. My attitude is, “What language do we have in common and let’s use it to communicate.”

In a bilingual city like Moncton, being able to offer services in both languages has to be more than tokenism as it is here in Halifax, New Scotland. So why, I ask you, can a large funeral home company be so insensitive and set up shop in Moncton, and offer next to no service in French and have only one employee (to my family’s knowledge) who speaks French?

My parents each have had a will for many years, but only about 5 years ago did they consider a pitch by Fair Haven for prearranged funeral arrangements. I still remember the time my mom and dad took me for a “little drive” to show me what they had arranged, and one thing immediately struck me: Everything was in English only! We were shown around by what I assumed to be a fat, unilingual Baptist-minister-cum-funeral-director who had a picture of a wife and cute-as-buttons little girls on his desk but who, to me, would leave people picking HIM as the flaming queen if they had to pick between the two of us. But notwithstanding that, my heart sank to my knees when I saw that the trite, pulled-out-of-a-box wording on the glass of the vault my parents pre-purchased: “Together Forever.”

Okay, so my mother does know what that means, but she hardly speaks any English to this day despite years of taking courses. More unsettling, I could see all these French names on the glassed vaults, with these bloody English trite phrases. Fair Haven didn’t even make an effort to offer them in French, thus taking advantage of people of my parents’ generation not to make any waves and advocate for their rights.

I will go on the record for saying that in every other respect, the people at Fair Haven are professional and courteous. But I’m supremely pissed about their shoddy unilingual website on which they placed my father’s obituary 15 days after he died and made a total mess of it. Littered with mistakes! They can’t even TYPE in French properly!

Now as far as the “Together Forever” thing is concerned, I think this is a matter I’m not going to raise while my mother’s still with us, which I hope is for at least another 20 years. However, if my brothers and sister don’t agree with me yet don’t outright disapprove, I will have that changed to French one day.

For the short term, however, I have other thoughts. First, I will be writing to ask that my father’s obituary be corrected, as it is totally insulting the way it now stands. And second, …well, I better keep that one under my hat for now. Let’s just say I would like to raise awareness of their market and perhaps reap some benefits while doing so…

{1} Thought on “En français, s’il-vous-plaît!

  1. Completely off-topic association. I still have nightmares from 8th grade French class whenever I hear the phrase “En Francais, s’il-vous-plait.”

    (Sorry. I’m an ignorant American whose keyboard doesn’t have the accented letters.) 😛

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