Ottawa: Mind language, or else

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Fri Apr 6 13:25:20 UTC 2007

Mind language ... or else

Senior city managers might risk annual salary increase if they don't meet
French requirements


Senior city managers who don't take steps to meet the city's bilingualism
requirements may not receive their full annual salary increase. Last week,
Gatineau media reported that 16 top level managers had not done enough to
meet the city's French-language requirements. Ten of those did nothing at
all to improve their French. Yesterday, city clerk Pierre Page said to
ensure those managers achieve the expected level of bilingualism they will
make the managers' progress a part of the annual evaluation process.

"Their salary increments could be affected if they don't show progress,"
said Page. "It shows those who think they can be delinquent that there are
consequences." Page added he city is flexible. Sometimes there's a good
reason why the top bureaucrats haven't done enough to meet the language
requirements. The city's policy states that if an employee is hired by the
city for a position that requires that candidate to speak both official
languages, the employee must agree to seek training and meet the
bilingualism criteria. Rideau-Vanier Coun. Georges Bedard says it's a
matter of respect that the employee meet the obligation. "It really is a
question of respect to the francophone community who need to be addressed
on public issues," said Bedard. "They should be taking the necessary steps
to get the job done."


He said it's also a matter of respecting other employees who choose to
communicate in French. Bedard agrees with the city's move to make the
training part of an annual assessment. "It's a way to ensure they meet
their commitment," he said. "It makes sense to have it that way."
Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Jacques Legendre said if ensuring they take the
French-language training is part of a job evaluation process, then so bet
it. "It appears to be the only tool the city has available," he said. "I'm
disappointed so many of them were choosing to ignore (the training)."

Like Bedard, Legendre said the policy is there for a reason and not in
place to trick anyone. He says senior managers need to be able to
communicate in both languages when they consult with residents on
municipal issues. "They are the ones who are best able to explain city
policies to the public and it needs to be in both official languages,"
said Legendre.  "It's there for a practical and public reason." Almost 20%
of city jobs will be designated officially bilingual by next month. The
language policy is based on a 2001 decision by council to offer city
services in both official languages.


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