Letters

Pardonnez-Moi, English Is Spoken in Quebec

There is an error in your otherwise fine report by Fred Langan on the growing distinctiveness of Quebec English, which some characterize as a separate dialect ("In Quebec, English Speakers Sprinkle in a Little French," Oct. 22). The article says that 20 years ago, "Quebec's separatist government banned the use of English in public." Not so.

Citizens of and visitors to Quebec are at liberty - as they are in any free society - to speak whatever language they wish. English-speaking Quebecers also enjoy guaranteed access to medical care, social services, and the justice system in their own language.

There are certain measures that successive Quebec governments - federalist and separatist - have enacted to promote the use of French, which is the mother tongue of 82 percent of the population. These include requirements that commercial signs and labeling be in French (although other languages also are permissible so long as French predominates) and that organizations employing more than 50 persons take measures to ensure that French is the primary language in the workplace.

Incidentally, it was the federalist government of premier Robert Bourassa that, in 1974, made French the official language of Quebec.

Kevin Drummond

New York

Delegate General

Quebec Government House

Writer's note: Mr. Drummond is right when he says anyone can speak English or any other language in Quebec. The sign law, Bill 101, which changed the face of Quebec, was passed by the separatist Parti Quebecois government in 1977.

- Fred Langan

Need for UN persists

In your editorials "Downsizing the UN" (July 21) and "Rejuvenating the UN" (Oct. 24), you quote Adlai Stevenson, who argued that "if the UN didn't exist we would have to invent it."

It is interesting to note that Stevenson was only paraphrasing a statement made by Sir Eric Drummond, the first secretary general of the League of Nations, in a 1933 BBC broadcast: "If (the League) were to disappear today the first task which would confront statesmen would be to reinvent (it)."

It is perspicacious for us to reflect on this statement today - realizing that the UN has successfully carried on for 52 years where the League left off, that the world's citizenry has understood that it's essential to have an established international forum, and that it is not by changing the name of the organization, or reinventing a new one, that the world's problems will be solved.

Nina Kriz Leneman

Geneva

United Nations Library

Au pair trial

I sat in court in Cambridge for virtually all the arguments and presentation of evidence at Louise Woodward's trial. The guilty verdict is a grotesque miscarriage of justice. It cries out to be reversed.

Tim Hunt

Marblehead, Mass.

President, British Charitable Society Inc.

Treasurer of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts

Only 47 shopping days left?

The "News in Brief" Etceteras item about the "Sing-and-Snore Ernie" toy (Oct. 31) embodies in a few words so much that is wrong with US consumer culture: (1) kids who watch so much TV that they are easy prey for marketers, (2) companies that target children with ads to create massive demand for particular toys, (3) parents who are slaves to their children's whims, (4) an ever-expanding pre-Christmas shopping season, (5) toys manufactured in China by laborers (in some cases children) whose wages and political rights keep them in their place as cheap labor for us.

It needn't be so. We can: (1) turn off the TV, (2) write legislators to oppose ads aimed at kids, (3) say "no" to our kids, (4) reject the commercialization of Christmas, (5) and avoid toys made under unjust conditions.

Jeff Johnson

San Francisco

Your letters are welcome. Letters for publication must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. Only a selection can be published and none acknowledged. All letters are subject to editing. Mail to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to oped@csps.com

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