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French Language Services Commissioner
Allow me to elaborate something about the history of the unilingual brochures sent to Eastern Ontario residents, by Tourisme Québec.
I want to remind and clarify that, designated regions or not, the province of Ontario has taken the engagement to communicate in both languages, French and English, with its population. Since the episode of the publication of the H1N1 unilingual brochure, the government adopted guidelines for automatic bilinguism in all communications with the general public, wherever it’s located.
It’s important to make this point considering the many exchanges on the Internet these days concerning the presence of Francophones in Ontario.
Today’s an important date to remember for the Franco-Ontarian community… On December 7, 2001, the Court of Appeal of Ontario confirmed the lower court decision in the Montfort case. In this very important decision, the Court validated that vital institutions for the development of the Francophone community, such as Montfort Hospital, are protected by the unwritten constitutional rule of protection of minorities. The Court also noted that the Government cannot bypass the designation of the hospital under the French Language Services Act, a quasi-constitutional act.
Because he played much more than a major role in it, the retiring Montfort’s President and CEO, Gérald R. Savoie, recently bequeathed to his team a document of transfer of knowledge (French only). I invite you to read it. He made this gift on the history of Montfort to ensure that everyone will remember this battle to save the only University French hospital West of Quebec. This is a well done document, an extraordinary departure gift. While reading this document, one understands even more the importance of this fight, but also how Gérald Savoie is an incomparable leader.
Short appearance at the TFO program Panorama yesterday… I participated into a relevant round table (French only). It was about the new definition of the Francophone population, which is now more inclusive. My conclusion is that everybody is expecting concrete follow-ups on that, and I totally agree. For sure, we will have to be patient to see the real impacts of my recommendation that the government just implemented 6 months ago. We are not talking about 50,000 new people that just arrived in Ontario. These people are already here and they already enjoyed receiving French-language services. The question one may ask, though, is whether these services are really adapted to the specific needs of this particular clientele. I do maintain my position. The new definition is a great start and certainly one in the good direction. I hope that you adhere to it too.
It’s a good timing to bring the topic on again, because the government will unveil next week the new Francophone community profiles according to this new definition. The Minister will make the announcement next Wednesday, Dec.9th.
The response I received is certainly encouraging. For instance, I was glad to know that, even though the calls for the position of Executive Director of the North East LHIN does not call for bilingualism as a must (only an asset), the Board did created two new Senior Planning officers, one for First Nations and the other one dealing exclusively toward the needs of the francophone population. About a third of the population in that region speaks French. It certainly goes in the same direction that I was hoping in my Report since I made it a recommendation! So, I am glad to see it happening at least in one important region.
Speaking of the recommendations, I am still waiting for the official response from Government although I am told it’s in the works. The same goes with the preparation on a new regulation, one that should be in tune with, hopefully, my Report and more importantly, Charles Beer’s. I am keeping my fingers crossed to witness a new regulation before Christmas.
I found very interesting the data coming from a survey released earlier this week by my provincial colleague, Michel Carrier, NB.
Accordning to this survey, 82 % of New Brunswickers support the concept of linguistic duality. It’s encouraging and impressive. Therefore, what it is not surprinsing, is that 55 % of Francophones feel that the future of the French language is threatened, whereas only 22% of Anglophones share that view.
The Office of the Commissioner commanded this poll in this 40th anniversary of the New Brunswick Official Languages Act. It is interesting to consider how the perceptions have evolved…especially these days with the recent publication of a new approach by the FCFA, which is relevant, but was kind of predictable.
The recent annoucement of the FCFA, made in an op-ed, got my curiosity and attention. The organization will be releasing a proposal for a sweeping reform of how official language policy is implemented in Canada. Of course, I will go through this proposal in the coming days, and after I’ll come back from London and Parry Sound where I pursue my meetings with LHINs.