Commentary  Hyde Park: Respect in translation

Thoughts on the AUS listserv and universal bilingualism at McGill

The problem of the lack of respect for francophone students at McGill and of the lack of accessibility to information in good French is not limited to the Arts Undegraduate Society listserv – as was one of the issues raised by Justin Margolis in his public letter to Adil Katrak (“AUS must respect its francophone students,” Nov. 10).

This problem is of a far more general nature and must be addressed as such. Faced with such an assertive letter, we were surprised – not by the problem itself, but by the fact that it was finally being brought to light by a member of McGill’s very own community of students.

As francophones, we want to underline what exactly provokes reactions such as Margolis’s. It’s not so much the lack of translation of committee or association documents – though this is indeed an important problem – that spikes disapproval. Rather, it is the utter lack of respect that a poor quality translation represents.

One must understand that a simple translation from English to French, when done improperly, is not the sign of an attempted accommodation, it’s an insult which completely disfigures the most important element of francophone culture. When there are translations, it should go without saying that they must be completed well.

Another aspect that we wish to insist upon is that as SSMU Francophone Commissioners, we want to transcend the rivalry that has forever existed between francophone and anglophone populations in Quebec.

We believe that in order to progress, it is primordial and entirely possible for us to reconcile our differences and coexist in a peaceful way. We must learn to know one another, to exchange with each other, and to appreciate our unique qualities in order to better unite and celebrate the bilingualism that is slowly but surely instilling itself within our institution.

In order to do this, there must be equal access to all documents for anglophone and francophone students whether these are administrative documents, documents from a student association, or from an independent group working within our campus (like Elections McGill).

We are quite conscious of the restrictions in terms of available resources that would make this process of mass translation easier.

However, we remain positive that together, it is possible to cooperate in order to ensure that the rights of all students; anglophone, francophone, and others are fully respected. Please be aware that the Commission on Francophone Affairs is present and entirely willing to commit the efforts necessary toward the adoption of a universal bilingualism at McGill.

Amélie T. Gouin and Alana Boileau are both SSMU Francophone Commissioners and sit on the Commission on Francophone Affairs. Amélie is a Law I student, and Alana is a U2 Art History and Anthropology student. Both can be contacted at