Justice Paul Rouleau urges grads to promote bilingualism

Justice Paul RouleauIf a member of Glendon’s class of 2009 ever shows up in his court on charges of civil disobedience, he or she will be able to say to Justice Paul Rouleau, in French, “Je suis un dérangeur” and their chances for acquittal will be strong. It was Rouleau himself, a graduate of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School (LLM ’84), who urged the graduates to become disturbers and catalysts for change in his convocation speech on June 30 at York’s Glendon campus, where he received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Chancellor Roy McMurtry.

Left: Paul Rouleau

“You should not be scared to be labelled as an agitator,” Rouleau said, as he paid tribute to McMurtry for his commitment to social justice and a bilingual Canada – concerns that Rouleau said he shared with the chancellor, a man who “has demonstrated leadership and has shown how a great man can inspire ordinary people to do great things.”

The Ontario Appeal Court justice, a strong promoter of bilingualism and former member of York’s Board of Governors, also told graduands that they were an important resource for the future of bilingualism in Canada and urged them to become ambassadors for bilingualism. “You are all well placed to play a role…of translation, of interpretation of the two great communities of our country, to be the ambassadors of bilingualism.

Above: From left, York Chancellor Roy McMurtry, Justice Paul Rouleau, President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri and Glendon Principal Kenneth McRoberts

“Glendon is a very special place,” Rouleau said. “We all share an affection for Glendon and what it stands for. Through your time here you will have come to realize that the French language and culture are not just the concern of Franco-Ontarians but are a shared richness and asset that is the business of all Ontarians…. If the French language were to atrophy and disappear in Ontario, a core feature of how we define ourselves as Canadians would be lost to us here in Ontario for future generations.

“With your help…a robust Canadian bilingualism will enhance communications between Canadians but also will create new and better avenues for Canadians to participate in the increasingly important international dialogue with citizens from other countries.”

Noting that he had worked with several Glendon principals during his tenure on the Board of Governors from 1986 to 1992, Rouleau noted that all of them have ensured that programs offered at Glendon – the only bilingual university in southern Ontario – “remained pertinent to the francophone and bilingual community”.

“I encourage you therefore, to question, to innovate, to disturb, to assure our path to a more just community and, I dare believe and I hope, more bilingual,” Roleau said. “Each of us has the power to influence and change the world but what we do is what defines who we are. You represent an enormous potential. It rests only for you to act.”

To watch archived video of convocation ceremonies, click here. This speech is part of ceremony No. 13.