Some "oversights" in proposed amendments to bilingual services rules
Access to federal government services for official languages should never depend on the size of the minority community.
There is much to love in the federal government’s proposed amendments to the Official Languages (Communications with and Services to the Public) Regulations: the adoption of a more inclusive way of estimating significant demand for the service, the use of a new qualitative vitality criterion, and the way the proposals incorporate directions put forth in successive private members’ bills to amend the Official Languages Act.
You knew there had to be a “but…”
In a letter to Treasury Board, the CBA’s French-Speaking Members note a “number of oversights” in the proposed amendments to the regulations:
- Access to federal government services for official languages should never depend on the size of the minority community relative to the majority, so it would be inadvisable to continue to apply a five per cent threshold in urban areas
- Regulations should include a range of qualitative vitality criteria that could include the presence of a cultural centre, a local newspaper, day care, credit union, or even a church serving members of a minority community in their language.
- The regulatory framework should be simplified – as it stands, a traveller taking a domestic flight with several legs could see his or her language rights change several times in one trip.
The Section also notes that while it is pleased to see the number of communities where the RCMP will offer services in both official languages increase, it denounces the “minimal obligation imposed on the RCMP” to offer bilingual services on the highway.
It also suggests that it’s time the regulations require federal institutions to offer services in both official languages in New Brunswick, Canada’s only officially bilingual province.
“It is important we do away with the discord between the federal and provincial regimes in New Brunswick regarding communications and service offered in both official languages.”