Language of the Skies

Language of the Skies: The Bilingual Air Traffic Control Conflict in Canada

SANDFORD F. BORINS
Copyright Date: 1983
Pages: 303
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt80cp6
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  • Book Info
    Language of the Skies
    Book Description:

    Through extensive interviews with the key participants, Professor Borins reveals the interplay of organizational ideologies and interests and leaders' personalities that characterized the conflict. He traces its evolution from the early formation of a francophone pressure group, through the airline pilots' strike in June 1976 in support of the controllers, to the agreement between the pilots' and controllers' unions and the Minister of Transport which the French Canadians saw as a humiliating defeat, and to the eventual acknowledgement by the Clark government in August 1979 that bilingual air traffic control was safe. Borins discusses the implications of these events for public policy and French-English relations and concludes that the federal government's ability in this case to meet francophone demands quite rapidly is cause for optimism about the ability of the federal state to accommodate francophone aspirations.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6086-4
    Subjects: Transportation Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xi)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. xii-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    The history of relations between French and English Canadians has been one of long periods of uneasy though quiescent coexistence broken by occasional confrontations. These crises have often resulted from some external opportunity or change in the status quo to which the two groups responded in completely different ways. Examples of such incidents are the opening of the west, which led to the Manitoba schools crisis, and the two world wars, both of which provoked conscription crises.

    This book is about one of the most recent such crises, that between English and French Canadians over bilingual air traffic control. It...

  7. Chapter One The Technological and Occupational Context
    (pp. 7-19)

    This chapter sets the stage for our story by discussing the development of the air traffic control system, the nature of work involved in flying and controlling aircraft, and the role played by the pilots’ and controllers’ unions.

    In the earliest days of aviation, navigation was very primitive. Pilots maintained a course by using a compass and spotting landmarks on the ground. They would often follow railroad tracks and occasionally drop to a low elevation to read the names on the stations. They avoided other aircraft by keeping a visual lookout: “see and be seen.” Flying was possible only when...

  8. Chapter Two French in the Air: The First Steps
    (pp. 20-30)

    This chapter deals with the initial events which led to the use of French by some controllers and pilots in Quebec, tracing the story into 1973. In this period the basis for the more dramatic events of 1975 and 1976 was laid: in the behaviour of the various actors, and in the issues raised, we can see a very clear foreshadowing of the themes of the following years.

    In the post-World War II period the aviation world was dominated by English-speaking nations and individuals. Allied leaders organized a conference in Chicago in 1944 to lay the groundwork for the post-war...

  9. Chapter Three Bilingual Air Traffic Control: Pro and Con
    (pp. 31-36)

    The previous chapter has shown how the application of the Official Languages Act to communications between pilots and controllers would require controllers to be bilingual. This drew the opposition of unilingual anglophone controllers who wanted to retain their jobs. However, the issue of bilingual air traffic control was more than a question of jobs. Members of the entire Canadian aviation community argued heatedly over whether bilingual control was safer and / or more efficient than unilingual control. Therefore, this chapter presents both sides of each argument. In the following chapters, we will refer to the various arguments by name, without...

  10. Chapter Four The Battle for Bilingualism: The Early Victories
    (pp. 37-54)

    During the early 1970s, the question of the language of air traffic control was often discussed by the francophone controllers in Quebec City. Because the unit was small and the pace of work rather unhurried, the men knew each other quite well and expressed their feelings openly. A number of them had spent some time at the Montreal centre, and spoke bitterly of their experience with anglophone domination. Jean-Luc Patenaude, who was the head of the CATCA local, went from high school into the air force, and had spent his whole career working in English. When he thought about the...

  11. Chapter Five From Angry Words to Clenched Fists
    (pp. 55-79)

    This chapter discusses the growth of the bilingual air traffic control controversy between June and December 1975. At the outset of this period, MOT tried to play the role of mediator, initiating studies and setting up forums in which the opposing sides could iron out their differences. However, the francophone and anglophone controllers had no such desire: rather, they took unilateral action, and began to mobilize both pilots and public opinion to support them. By the end of the period MOT’s role had changed, and it too became a partisan, shifting towards the francophone side in the dispute.

    As director...

  12. Chapter Six A Conflict on Many Fronts: January to June 1976
    (pp. 80-117)

    In previous chapters, our story focused on activity at specific points in time. However, by January 1976, many events were occurring simultaneously. For the next six months, the story can be likened to a tangled braid, with a number of distinct strands which sometimes ran independently of one another and sometimes intersected. This chapter identifies three major strands of the story: the implementation process, the collective bargaining process, and the publicity battle.

    The implementation process involved the effort to develop procedures to permit controllers in the Quebec region to speak French with one another, the negotiations with the Committee of...

  13. Chapter Seven The Strike against Bilingualism
    (pp. 118-151)

    This chapter discusses the events following John Keenan’s resignation through to the resolution of the pilots’ and controllers’ strike against bilingualism on June 28. Because the strike is an important event in the history of French-English relations, the narrative goes into some detail to reconstruct the motivations, strategies, and activities of the major participants. For a week or two, this strike was at centre stage in Canadian political life: as a result, new players, from the prime minister to everyday citizens, became more deeply involved. In this chapter, the three strands into which the story branched in the previous six...

  14. Chapter Eight The Turning Point: July 1976 to January 1977
    (pp. 152-174)

    At the moment the Lang-CALPA-CATCA agreement was signed, it appeared that CATCA and CALPA, with overwhelming popular support in English Canada, were close to winning their struggle against bilingual air traffic control. The two groups had recognized the previous December that they had to “play catch-up ball” against MOT, and by July had succeeded brilliantly. However, the agreement really represented the high water mark in their fortunes. By January 1977, the situation had been completely reversed. CATCA and CALPA were fighting battles that taxed their resources and had lost their support in English Canada. On the other hand, AGAQ was...

  15. Chapter Nine Towards a Solution: The Commission’s Initial Hearings and Interim Report
    (pp. 175-190)

    By early 1977, the focus of the bilingual air traffic control dispute had shifted to the hearings of the Commission of Inquiry, held in Montreal, and the simulation exercises that were getting underway in Hull. Both of these processes had two objectives: the determination of public policy, and the resolution of the many conflicts within the aviation community which the bilingual air traffic control issue had generated. Yves Fortier, who served as counsel to this commission of inquiry as well as a number of others, was well aware of the latter function, when he described commissions of inquiry as “an...

  16. Chapter Ten Tying Threads Together: The Problem Resolved
    (pp. 191-219)

    In order for full bilingual air traffic control to be implemented in Quebec, there were two necessary conditions: its acceptance by the English-Canadian public and acquiescence of the aviation community. The two previous chapters have shown how the attitudes of the former changed so substantially that theInterim Reportof the Commission of Inquiry was received without any controversy. Based on its acceptance of theInterim Report, one could have predicted that the English-Canadian public would have been equally willing to accept a final report recommending full bilingual air traffic control in Quebec whenever the Commission of Inquiry issued it....

  17. Chapter Eleven Conclusions and Implications
    (pp. 220-248)

    Though mindful of Coleridge’s melancholy dictum, this chapter discusses the major themes of the story, relating them to the relevant academic literature and drawing out their implications for future research on and our understanding of similar situations.

    Both analysts and policy makers have viewed the conflict between English and French Canadians as a struggle for organizational power, namely the ability to determine the linguistic and cultural characteristics of key institutions.¹ Such policies as the francization programs of both Liberal and Parti Québécois governments in Quebec and the federal government’s attempt to increase bilingualism within the public service have had as...

  18. Appendix A Memorandum of Understanding
    (pp. 249-250)
  19. Appendix B Glossary of Aviation Terminology
    (pp. 251-252)
  20. Appendix C Organizational Acronyms
    (pp. 253-254)
  21. Notes
    (pp. 255-278)
  22. Index
    (pp. 279-285)