• The Low Down

Greater issues in Chelsea than ‘temporary unilingualism’ of candidate

I have just read with interest Laura Shine's lengthy essay about the candidacy of a unilingual English candidate for the position of mayor of Chelsea [“Shelley Fraser: lost in translation,” Oct. 27 edition]. As a francophone living in Chelsea for over 40 years, I am happy that some people are concerned about the issue of respecting the French fact in Chelsea, except when this concern is used for the sole purpose of discrediting a candidate — while Chelsea is in great need of renewal in order to face problems much greater than the temporary unilingualism of a candidate.


And problems we have, following years of bumpy administration of which mayoral candidate and former councillor Pierre Guénard was a part of for the last eight years.

With Mr. Guénard’s support, Chelsea has become one of the top 10 per cent of the most indebted municipalities in Quebec; our taxes increase twice as much as inflation; our community trail that we wanted "hyper local" has become a tourist attraction just like our village and its surroundings, where it has become almost impossible to circulate; our elderly residents and their children cannot find suitable and affordable housing, and so on.


As the councillor for the village centre and its surroundings, Mr. Guénard was at the centre of all these changes, which brought us to the precarious situation where we are now. Why would we think he's the right man for the job now to solve these problems? We must therefore put an end to the old practices and policies of the [Caryl] Green era, supported by Mr. Guénard, and elect a candidate who will bring new ideas and concepts.


So no, Ms. Shine, although I am a francophone and despite your dissertation that has no doubt been influenced by people who would much prefer the status quo, I am convinced that the potential arrival of a unilingual candidate will not create the chaos that you describe. After all, Ms. Fraser simply has to do what the majority of francophones and anglophones who are now bilingual did and learn to communicate in another language — a much less arduous task than your claim for anyone who has the will and the need, and who takes the necessary steps to learn, just as Ms. Fraser promised.


As for your premise that francophones’ ideas and concerns could not be included and addressed in her program — you seem to ignore the fact that nearly 75 per cent of Chelsea's population is bilingual, so you can be sure that anyone who met Ms. Fraser had the opportunity to express their opinion and for her to fully hear and understand their questions and concerns.


Louis Gaetan

Chelsea, QC