I've been waiting for Randall Denley to write an article about the failed policy of Official Bilingualism - here it is at last!!! If you have the energy and the interest, please read the comments and add yours to mine which is already posted. Do NOT get frustrated because you feel that we've lost the battle against this policy and have decided that there is no point in pursuing it further. It is not over yet and now is not the time to quit fighting it - silence will only make it easier for the French zealots to win. Believe me, they haven't won yet. Several weeks ago, I posted a message of hope because the Liberal government had decided not to add their voice to the French groups who are determined to force the City of Ottawa to adopt Official Bilingualism to augment the City of Ottawa's by-law #2001-170 that Bob Chiarelli termed "Practical Bilingualism". Since then, the French have found that this policy does not give them the power and influence that they need because they could not force the city into translating everything into French. They wanted the 2015 budget translated totally into French - the City Council refused because it was too expensive. Of course, to the French activists, money is NO object as long as they can force Canada to preserve their dying language & culture & give the French a bigger place in Canada's Halls of Power.
A recent article written by Denis Gratton complained that the City is not working fast enough to train their senior managers to function in French and was very upset that the City Manager, Steve Kanellakos, is not bilingual. Mr. Gratton is very upset that the City can only afford to send their senior managers to 36 hours of French lessons. We're in the process of finding out if these 36 hours are private lessons because, if so, they come at a very high cost. We're following that issue and will keep you posted.
Denley: Bilingualism means public service isn't open to all Canadians
Published on: February 17, 2016 | Last Updated: February 17, 2016 2:04 PM EST
The federal government wants to hire thousands of millennials to rejuvenate the public service. This attempt to attract the best and brightest is laudable, but its not going to happen as long as the government continues to regard bilingualism as a primary criterion for hiring and advancement.
Its simply a matter of arithmetic. The number of Canadians who are proficient in both French and English is relatively small, at most 17.5 per cent of the population. Even that number is optimistic, since its those who can carry on a conversation in both French and English, not the number who can meet the governments more demanding language standards.
The government must make a choice. Does it want the best people or the best bilingual people?
There are already enough reasons to shy away from federal employment. Government is perceived as slow-moving and rules-driven. Much has been written about poor public service morale.
Add onerous language requirements on top of that and its easy to see why government faces a hiring challenge. Why would someone already successful in the private sector choose to master a new language just to work for the government?
Most would agree that service for the public in both official languages is necessary. It is in the workplace that the system breaks down.
In a designated bilingual area such asthe National Capital Region, home to the largest number of public servants, workers have a right to be supervised in the language of their choice. In effect, that means if a group of 50 employees has even one person who insists on using French as the language of work, his bosses have to be bilingual to accommodate him.
Is accommodating the language preferences of individual employees more important than choosing the most qualified person to be his boss?
The results of a hiring regime that gives French speakers a leg up are predictable. Francophones are over-represented, relative to their percentage of the population, in both the core public service and in the executive ranks. For those who want to advance to the top jobs here in Ottawa, bilingualism is essential.
The Liberal government prides itself on being forward-looking and sensitive to the needs of minorities, but government language policies dont reflect those values.
Canada admits more than 250,000 immigrants a year many with substantial job skills. And yet, the federal government might as well tell most of these new Canadians not to apply. No doubt some speak French, but the top immigrant-supplying countries are the Philippines, India and China.
Many of these people might be bilingual, but their second language is likely to be Tagalog, Punjabi or Mandarin. In the eyes of the government, that doesnt count as bilingualism.
Perhaps the Official Languages Act made sense back in 1969 when Pierre Trudeau brought it in, but Justin Trudeau does not live in his fathers Canada. The country has changed dramatically since then and continues to do so every year as we admit more and more immigrants from countries that have neither French nor English as their mother tongue.
If the government wants to position the public service for the challenges of decades ahead, it would do well to focus on the future, not the past. As Canada becomes more multinational, the government will need more public servants with diverse cultural and language understanding. Its not going to get them with current hiring practices.
The federal government has nearly 500,000 employees either in the core public service or in Crown corporations subject to the Official Languages Act. Attracting millennials is not just a goal, its a necessity to keep staffing levels up.
What better way to achieve that goal than sending a clear message that federal jobs are open to all Canadians?
Randall Denley is an Ottawa commentator, novelist and former Ontario PC candidate. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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