Canada: Charges dropped against francophone who made language complaint

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Tue Jan 15 14:28:14 UTC 2008

 Charges dropped against francophone who made language complaint Last
Updated: Monday, January 14, 2008 | 5:29 PM ET CBC

A judge has thrown out the charges against a Gatineau, Que., man who made an
official complaint against the Ottawa police after an officer refused to
serve him in French during a traffic stop. Michael Morin had challenged his
tickets for running a red light and failing to pull over when signalled to
do so while driving in downtown Ottawa last fall. A judge threw out the
charges for technical reasons in the Provincial Offences Court in Ottawa on
Monday. Morin, who works at Canadian Heritage managing programs that support
Canada's official languages, had argued that he was forced to continue
moving through a red light at the intersection at Queen and Lyon streets
because of heavy traffic on Oct. 10.

He said that when he was stopped by the officer, he asked to be served in
French, and was asked whether he spoke English. He responded, "Yes," and the
officer told him his service would be in English, Morin told CBC's
French-language service, Radio-Canada, in French. "But I asked him, 'Do you
speak French?' He said, 'No, but I speak Vietnamese. Would you like your
service in Vietnamese?'" Morin recalled. After the incident, Morin filed a
complaint with the police and with Ontario's French Language Services

The Ottawa police said they would not comment on the complaint until it had
been handled. However, a police spokesperson told CBC News that officers
initially speak to civilians in English but if a person asks for service in
French and the officer isn't fluent, the officer is supposed to call the
detachment and get someone on the line who can speak French. Ontario law
does not require municipalities to offer services in both official
languages. The City of Ottawa's language policy says the municipality will
"take the necessary steps to provide at all times the appropriate number of
bilingual employees within work units." However, Ottawa lawyer Sean McGee
said he believes francophones should be served in French in the nation's
capital. "It's a fundamental right," he said.

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