CTV Northern Ontario: Greater Sudbury to review its French-language policy

It’s being hailed by some as a move that’s long overdue. Greater Sudbury reviewing its French-language policy.

Ward 6 Coun. René Lapierre asked for the review, with support from Ward 12 Joscelyne Landry-Altmann at a meeting last week.

“I’m looking to see what other municipalities who have French-language services offer, how do they offer it, what’s mandatory and what’s not,” said Lapierre.

“On the HR side, do we have any positions that are designated that should be bilingual versus not. It’s complex overall but I think we’re already doing a number of good things.”

The motion came after a request from L’Association canadienne-française de l’Ontario du grand Sudbury and its executive director, Joanne Gervais.

“I think that’s nothing but good news for us,” said Gervais.

“The city has come very far in the services that they offer. That’s not to say that there’s not a lot further to go but they’ve made a lot of strides. The problem is the policy that’s in place has not been changed, reviewed or anything has been brought forward for 22 years.”

The city established its French-language policy shortly after amalgamation and the creation of Greater Sudbury itself at the turn of the century.

Gervais said federal and provincial governments are updating their French-language services laws/policies and this was a needed move.

“This work is being done,” she said. “But if it was entrenched in a policy, short of it being a bylaw, that would become the norm for every department and not just when we find out there’s a lack somewhere.”

According to the city’s website and the 2016 census, 25 per cent of Sudburians claim French as their mother tongue and roughly 39 per cent of the city considers itself bilingual.

When it comes to those positions that should be bilingual that aren’t, Gervais said they’re not looking to have anyone fired. But she would like to see a policy in place that when certain positions become available, language skills in both official languages ​​are part of the qualifications.

“I’ll give you an example, on our EMS side, all of our non-union staff, out of all them, only one can speak French,” said Lapierre.

“And that’s a health care service so that’s a little concerning for me, right? So if someone has a concern, especially when it comes to health care, talking in their maternal tongue is usually important so I think it would be good to have a little more representation there.”

Lapierre, who also represents one of the most French-speaking wards in the city, said it would also be important to have people who can understand the language at places like the Howard Armstrong Centre.

“So there will be pros of good standard practice that have been doing to maintain and others that we might need to update,” he said.

Lapierre said he’s not looking for immediate change, only places where they can make tangible improvements. For Gervais, she said this will also go a long way towards protecting the French language and their French culture.

The report won’t be ready until roughly this time next year.


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