Commentary | Hyde Park: AUS must respect its francophone students

A public letter to Adil Katrak, Arts Undergraduate Society VP Communications

Dear Adil Katrak, Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) VP Communications:

On behalf of all of the francophone students at McGill University, especially in the Faculty of Arts, I would like to say to you that your apologies regarding the errors on the first listserv are not sufficient. There have been an unprecedented amount of complaints brought to my attention regarding bilingualism in the AUS, not only about the listserv, but also about the absence of French on AUS documents, and at AUS Council.

Article 22 of the AUS constitution, Language of the Society states the following: English and French are the official languages of the AUS; members of the AUS may use either official language at all meetings and in all documentation of the AUS; and the Constitution and By-Laws of the AUS must be made available in both official languages upon request.

It is evident to me and to the entire McGill Arts community that you have not followed through in your fulfilment of this constitutional requirement. Arts students are unable to view the AUS web site in the language of their choice, which is part of your portfolio as VP Communications. Arts students do not have access to documents in the official language of their choice. The logo of the AUS is in English only, whereas the other bilingual institutions on campus – such as SSMU, or l’AÉUM – have seen to it that their logos are bilingual. Finally, Council minutes have not been bilingual, nor have they been published online in the first place, which is a constitutional requirement of you through Article 23.

Now to the issue that has brought your lack of consideration for the University’s francophones to the public sphere: the listserv. In the first listserv, which was three weeks late, you promised that all future communications between the AUS and the students would be in both languages. That did not happen. In fact it was not until October 29 that the listserv was finally made available in French, over one-quarter the way through the school year. I am also very concerned that the French listserv email came out more than 24 hours after the English version. I believe that the only reason this was done was because I gave you an ultimatum that if a bilingual listserv was not presented before the beginning of the Council meeting that evening, you would be publicly confronted at Council and in the student press.

The following week’s listserv (November 3) was bilingual; however, the quality of French was unacceptable. In addition to the accent marks being in an obscure font, there were numerous spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, and other typographical errors. The document looked as if had been thrown through a free, online translator. This is absolutely ridiculous considering that part of the student’s fees are meant for the hiring of a translator. The only announcement free of errors was the one translated by the Commission on Francophone Affairs (CAF) itself. I’m concerned that a portion of every student’s AUS dues go toward the salary of a translator; however, the current translator’s finished product is extremely improper.

Francophone students of McGill call on you, Adil Katrak, the VP Communications of the AUS to ensure the following: that equal services are provided to francophone students; that the listserv is bilingual in clean and proper French, the sole official language of the province of Quebec and of the city of Montreal; that all documents of Council are bilingual, and that any member of the AUS has the possibility to work in French – AUS members cannot “use either official language at all meetings and in all documentation of the AUS” unless all documents and reports are provided bilingually.

Further, Katrak should update and translate the AUS web site, as it is not available in both official languages of the AUS, and verify, through any means you feel necessary, that the translation of all AUS documents is correct and proper.

Failure to respond to the demands of the francophone students of the AUS could result in further action taken by myself, including your possible referral to the Judicial Board for the violation of Articles 22 and 23.

Justin Margolis is the AUS Francophone Commissioner, and a member of the SSMU Commission on Francophone Affairs. He’s also a U3 Quebec Studies student, and you can reach him at justin.margolis@mail.mcgill.ca.


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