This is the conclusion reached by the Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada, Raymond Théberge, in an interview granted to Behind the scenes of power following revelations about the absence of Francophones on the Board of Directors of Canadian National.
” I think that the concept of official languages is not well integrated within our federal institutions, within Crown corporations that are subject to the Official Languages Act. »
The last francophone to have been among the administrators of the railway company was Jean Charest. The former Quebec premier has left office to enter the race for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada.
The misstep at Canadian National comes just months after the Air Canada president sparked disapproval for a speech delivered almost exclusively in English in Montreal.
Managers of businesses under federal jurisdiction do not have to speak both languages, but according to the Commissioner, in order to be able to interact with customers, you have to be able to understand them, regardless of the language.
” This is clearly a lack of sensitivity on the part of federal institutions, which do not seem to understand the linguistic context. »
Canadians have the right to expect the heads of businesses, departments, agencies or Crown corporations to be bilingual, added Mr. Théberge.
The population is attached to linguistic duality. A survey conducted by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages revealed that 87% of citizens support bilingualism.
60,000 complaints in one year
This may partly explain the increase in the number of complaints received by this federal agency. Over the past year, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages recorded 60,000.
” I would dare to believe that this is a message for all federal institutions, that Canadians are very aware of their rights and want to assert them. »
The Commissioner hopes that the plan to modernize the Official Languages Act tabled in March by Justin Trudeau’s government will change the situation somewhat.
Until now, it could only issue recommendations to businesses that did not meet their linguistic obligations.
Not just recommendations
If the law is passed, he will have more powers.
Included in this toolkit is the ability to enter into compliance agreements, issue orders, transportation monetary penaltiesexplained Raymond Théberge.
However, he would still like the legislators to improve certain aspects concerning services and communications with the public, as well as those relating to the language of work, so that the new law is more up-to-date, more robust and more dynamic.