Skip to main content

Report calls for more to be done to protect French language

A new report commissioned by L'Association canadienne-francaise de l'Ontario (L'ACFO), suggests the city of Greater Sudbury could be doing more to protect the French language.

The city has long been home to a substantial French-language population.

The report, entitled 'Progress, resistance and opportunities: Municipal Bilingualism in Greater Sudbury' has come up with seven recommendations for the city to put in place.

It'll be introduced in council Tuesday night.

The strategies include 'draft a robust by-law to be overseen by the provincial commissioner', 'permanently expand bilingualism among staff', and 'building teams that work in French.'

"There were some surprises," said executive director of L'ACFO Joanne Gervais. "What surprised me the most was when reading the report, what I discovered is that French language services and the services offered to the French-language community have deteriorated over the last 50 years. We went from a bylaw, to a policy, to a policy that we're kind of, sort of following but we're not kind of, sort of following it either. So I think that deterioration over a period of time was an awakening for me. I didn't realize it, it was like the frog in boiling water kind of thing, it changes slowly over time and new people come in and you don't realize that's not the way it's supposed to be."

Gervais says the city has done some really nice things and they have gotten certain services they never got before. It's the level in which they've gone backwards is what is surprising people.

She's hoping council will be receptive in making the changes needed to protect their linguistic rights.

"We've shared all the data with them from the very first day… I'm hoping they take the exercise and they take the opportunity. We need some serious, systemic changes at the municipal level," she said.

The study's author is historian Serge Dupuis who has studied the city's francophone roots extensively.

"The report wanted to retrace the evolution of municipal bilingualism from the 1970s to today," he said. "To take a look at things that were maintained, things that changed, improvements and points where we've seen a decline in the presence of French-language services."

Dupuis says it's not usual in signage, or materials being made available through the city. The issues appear to be internal with problems recruiting staff who are comfortable in working in French.

A new report commissioned by L'Association canadienne-francaise de l'Ontario (L'ACFO), suggests the city of Greater Sudbury could be doing more to protect the French language. (Ian Campbell/CTV News)

He says other cities have representation goals where it reflects the makeup of the community. While he admits they don't have solid numbers, from what they can tell, francophone Canadians appear to be significantly underrepresented.

"The report ends saying there is probably a moment to act, an opportunity to bring improvements … those are simply ideas that come from other administrations that seem to be helpful and can be implemented here," he explained.

The historian conducted the report by doing a comparative analysis of services offered in the city versus what he could find in Ottawa and Moncton.

"If we were to apply the logic that the level of bilingualism is proportional to the demographic weight of its minority population, we might expect bilingual practices in Greater Sudbury, whose population that is 23 per cent francophone (in 2021 down from a high of 40 per cent), to be more robust than in Ottawa and not quite as robust as in Moncton. Yet Greater Sudbury does not even meet Ottawa's targets," the report finds.


He tells CTV News this was not meant to pick at city leaders and he's hopeful they will find it inspirational.

"There are things that could bring an important change that wouldn't be all that costly but would need commitment and leadership to make bilingualism more visible and vibrant within City Hall," he explained.

The motion at city council tomorrow night, comes with the city's newly-elected francophone mayor.

"It's something like I said, we're happy to have this report and to have that conversation as to what does that mean? What additional services can we provide? Certainly being mindful of providing the best services," said Mayor Paul Lefebvre.

Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann has also been working with the group and championing their efforts.

"Well I think we need to make the distinction between a municipality that offers French services and a truly bilingual city so the communication needs to be clear," she said.

CTV News asked Nickel Belt MP Marc Serré, the parliamentary secretary for Official Languages, for his input and received the following statement.

"Sept. 25 is an important day for Franco-Ontarians marking the anniversary of the raising of the Franco-Ontarian flag right here in Sudbury. As a proud Franco-Ontarian myself, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Official Languages, my role is to follow the situation of linguistic minority communities very closely- like the one in Nickel Belt - Greater Sudbury. In addition, our government remains pro-active with rural communities and working with municipalities is one of our priorities. We will continue to defend official languages in minority situations with the work set forth in bill C-13 and our action plan," he writes. Top Stories

'No concessions' St-Onge says in $100M a year news deal with Google

The Canadian government has reached a deal with Google over the Online News Act that will see the tech giant pay $100 million annually to publishers, and continue to allow access to Canadian news content on its platform. This comes after Google had threatened to block news on its platform when the contentious new rules come into effect next month.


opinion Don Martin: With Trudeau resignation fever rising, a Conservative nightmare appears

With speculation rising that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will follow his father's footsteps in the snow to a pre-election resignation, political columnist Don Martin focuses on one Liberal cabinet minister who's emerging as leadership material -- and who stands out as a fresh-faced contrast to the often 'angry and abrasive' leader of the Conservatives.

Stay Connected