Little Fish in a Giant pond

Saturday, August 02, 2008

A Small Victory For Yours Truly

Last year I made a post entitled "Linguistic discrimination in Ontario?" about my experience in attempting to submit a resume in French to the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services. I had originally decided that posting it on my blog was as far as I wanted to take things, but a friend of mine asked me to submit an article to Interpares, the student newspaper for Law Students at Ottawa U, and since I figured that my Francophone colleagues deserved to know about what had happened, I decided to base my article on the posting I made on my blog. Essentially, all I did was translate the posting I made on my blog into French (the paper prints articles in both official languages) and remove a few non-essential paragraphs so that it would fit the size limit required for the paper.

After a while had passed a few friends of mine, and even a member of the faculty suggested that I file a complaint with the office of the French Language Services Commissioner, so after having given it some thought, I did exactly that. My goal was never to get anyone in trouble, and I had no intention of forcing them to hire me, I just wanted to make sure that the Ministry knew that they had broken the law and that they needed to take steps in order to make sure this didn't happen again.

The Commissioner's office is brand new, so of course they did not yet have any protocols in place for dealing with complaints, so understandably it took them some time before any progress was made. Once things got rolling, there was some question as to whether or not the guarantee of the availability of French language services provided by the Ontario French Language Services Act applied for someone who was writing to the government in order to "solicit" for employment. Fortunately, I had saved a pdf copy of the document that the Ministry of the Attorney General produced, in both languages, informing students about the availability of articling positions. Once the commissioner's office had that document in hand, there was really nothing else left for the Ministry to do but admit defeat.

A few weeks ago I received an official letter of apology! Here is what the letter said:

M. Fisher:

Pour faire suite à la lettre que vous avez adressée au Commissaire aux services en français, nous tenons à vous présenter nos excuses pour tout inconvénient que nous vous avons occasionné en exigeant que vous présentiez une demande en anglais relativement à l'embauche d'un stagiaire en droit de notre bureau d'Orillia. Nous avons, depuis, instauré des procédures au sein de notre division pour nous assuré que cela ne se reproduise pas.

Je vous remercie d'avoir porté ce fait à notre attention et de votre intérêt à l'égard de la Direction des services juridiques.

Veuillez agréer mes meilleures salutations.

*I decided not to print the name and job title of the person who signed the letter, simply because I am not sure if it would be appropriate to publish that kind of information without their consent.

It's not much, just a simple letter acknowledging that they made a mistake and promising that they have taken measures to ensure that it will not re-occur. But then, that is all I was after in the first place.

In case any of you are wondering why I'm writing this post in English, rather than in French (as I did with the first post I wrote on this subject), I don't think it's necessary to convince Francophones (at least not those living outside of Québec) of the importance of bilingualism. I think it's important for Anglophones in this province to know that even though our province has only one official language, there are still certain linguistic rights that must be respected.

I'm looking forward to hearing from my fellow bloggers on this one.

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