OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada will remove the French-language exhibit at a major military memorial after a reporter discovered it was riddled with grammatical errors, Veterans Affairs Minister Greg Thompson said on Thursday.
Public broadcaster Radio-Canada found numerous mistakes in interpretive panels at Vimy Ridge in France, where more than 10,000 Canadian soldiers were killed or wounded in April 1917 during World War One.
“I have just been made aware of this situation and it is totally unacceptable. As soon as the errors were confirmed, it was obvious the only solution was to remove the panels,” Thompson said in a statement. The panels will be replaced.
The issue is an embarrassment for Ottawa, since Canada has been officially bilingual for 40 years and millions of French-speakers are very sensitive about their fate in a country where most people speak English.
“The law on bilingualism has been there for 40 years, we’ve been talking about this for 40 years, and French is still in second place,” complained Senator Romeo Dallaire, who served on the committee to restore the giant marble monument at Vimy.
The errors were in an exhibit at the visitors’ center next to the memorial, which took 11 years to build and was officially unveiled in 1936.
The left-leaning opposition New Democrats said they would file a formal complaint to Canada’s official languages commissioner because “there is no excuse for the appalling quality of these French texts”.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper will visit Vimy later this week for services to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the battle, which marked the first time the various Canadian divisions in Europe had fought together as a single unit, taking a German position that had repulsed previous allied advances.