Three posts ago, I wrote a segment entitled How you know you’re doomed on election day (kidding… well, kinda)
Near the end of that post, I stated:
I’m on the fence about “forcing” people to vote (such as the Australian model). It may be better to allow the uninformed — and those who simply don’t care — to “opt out” if they so desire, rather than risking them mark an “X” (chances are that our higher voter absentee rate may be related to the numbers of the “uninformed” just not wanting to vote… and perhaps that’s not a bad thing).
In some jurisdictions around the world, ballots offer people the opportunity to choose “None of the above” (NOTA). This is sometimes a way to make up for “issues” caused when uninformed / uninterested / disheartened / disenchanted / cynical voters are forced to vote by law (such as in Australia).
Essentially, NOTA is a protest vote (in addition to being an “opt-out” option for those who feel they are ill-informed / grossly ignorant on the issues).
Providing NOTA on ballots is also a principle adopted by some countries which do not force people to no cast their ballot.
To be honest, I have not given this option much thought in the past — until now (personally, I would not check NOTA, but I do think some other people should have that opportunity).
In Canada, this grass-roots movement has not had an organized face yet. But if it does, I do NOT believe the following French-English should be that “Face”.
A bilingual sign from the Vote Blank / Votez Blanc movement in New Brunswick (image SRC)
If there is any way to make people even more cynical about the whole election thing, this sign just did it!!
Yes, the translations are correct…
- “Votez” = Vote
- “Blanc” = White (as in the whiteness created from leaving a space blank on a form… Such as “une case blanche” which means “a blank box” on a form)
- In English, “Vote Blank” tells people to vote for “None of the above”
- In French, the expression “Un vote blanc” (a white vote) means to select NOTA, whereby you would tell someone to “Votez blanc”.
Although these translations are correct, the problem arises when you put them side-by-side, with English and French together.
Given the technicalities and room for misinterpretations in Canada’s bilingual context (and particularly in New Brunswick, Québec, Eastern Ontario and other highly bilingual regions), I would recommend that the organizers of this movement rapidly find another way to express their desires in French, other than stating (what could easily be misinterpreted as)…
Ooops X 20, and bad, bad, bad!! Unbelievable.
As you have seen in various other posts of mine, I sometimes push the boundaries of political correctness and combine it with satire for the purposes of effect or to make a point.
But I will never do it on the back of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, ethno-linguistic bashing, or traumatic events in life such as rape, sexual abuse, or other similar related matters (I draw the line at these, and I have been known to call others out on it when they do not).
So with that said…
You would think that the organizers of this movement in Canada would have chosen different wording in a bilingual context where they know that not everyone would be familiar with the expression “un vote blanc”.
Let me also explain to you how this is different from other similar public “goof-ups” (at least on how they may share similarities on the surface).
You may recall a couple of years ago that Coca-Cola ran a publicity campaign by placing random words and names on their products. The campaign was bilingual.
Part of their campaign was to place one random computer-generated English word, and one random computer-generated French word on the seals under the bottle caps.
In an unfortunate (but completely innocent) event, the computer put the words “You retard” under the bottle cap (in French, “retard” means late, not “retarded”).
An Edmonton family with a daughter who has cerebral palsy and autism opened this bottle and found “You retard” staring them straight in the face.
The family rightfully remained calm, rational, but they did the right thing and contacted Coca-Cola.
Even though this was a computer-generated mistake (and even though everyone knew it was such), Coca-Cola immediately did the right thing, and unreservedly apologized.
But what is different between the “Votez Blanc” campaign and the “Coca Cola” error is that people were involved in choosing to write “Votez Blanc”.
Computers cannot make deductions of “reasonableness”, but people can.
The people who wrote this campaign slogan are in Canada, in very bilingual regions of the country. This did not occur in the backwoods of France or Saguenay where there is little exposure to English.
If this campaign slogan was meant to garner instant attention for their campaign (and I suspect it may have been), then the organizers need to be called on this hard and fast.
This is NOT how one should attempt to attract instant publicity for one’s cause.
If more people call them out on this, I am sure we will soon see them put out a press release saying “… we’re sorry, but it wasn’t our intent…”.
Fine… But they still need to be called-out on this so that it is publicly made quite clear this is not acceptable (and at lease, at a very minimum, they should offer clear clarification).
I can only hope my worse suspicions concerning this are not true.
(Seeing this sign sure made me do a double take).
(credit Acadie Nouvelle)