Cornwall (Ontario): City hall endorses bilingualism policy

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Wed Jun 25 17:12:05 UTC 2008

City hall endorses bilingualism policy Francophone group hails decision

The city of Cornwall has put its commitment to delivering bilingual
services in writing like never before. City council has endorsed a new
bilingualism policy which increases the number of bilingual jobs
within the city and sets out a clear goal of providing "key municipal
services" to citizens and visitors in either English or French. The
new policy was hailed Monday by council members and representatives of
the francophone community as a positive and progressive step forward
for Cornwall. "Tonight, Cornwall has joined Canada in recognizing
Cornwall's linguistic duality," stated Jean Lecompte, the president of
the Society for the Promotion of Bilingualism, in a statement
regarding the new policy.

"It is a document that is in tune with Cornwall's demographic reality.
It is a policy with a reasonable approach. It is a policy which will
promote a better image of Cornwall."  Coun. Guy Leger, the chair of a
special city committee that reviewed Cornwall's bilingual services and
recommended the changes, called the new policy a "great step forward.
We have to recognize that we have a good bilingual population in
Cornwall and we have to respond to their needs," he said. The biggest
change in the policy is the number of city positions now designated
bilingual. The previous policy named three -- the secretary to the
mayor and the receptionists at city hall and social services.

The new policy identifies 19 positions, including administrative
assistants, clerks and receptionists in various departments, the
security clerk at the aquatic centre, box office accounting clerk at
the civic complex and the transit co-ordinator, among others. The
change will be grandfathered in which means no existing employee in
the newly designated positions will lose their jobs because they don't
speak French.

A total of 26 people work in the 19 positions now designated
bilingual, said CAO Paul Fitzpatrick. Of that, two job positions are
in the midst of being filled and bilingualism is a requirement. Of the
other 24 spots, 16 are occupied by bilingual employees, Fitzpatrick
When asked, the CAO stressed no "linguistic demands" will be put on
those employees affected by the new policy. Beyond those positions,
the social services and social housing departments are required to
provide other bilingual services under the French Service Language

The new policy also states publications on city programs and services
will be issued in both English and French along with information on
taxes, water and sewer bills and election information.

Another new addition to the policy regards signage. The policy now
states municipal signs will be in both official languages. Fitzpatrick
said the city already tries to install bilingual signs where possible,
and it will continue to do so if and when a sign needs replacing.

 Meanwhile, a clause which specifically identified English as the
language of work within the city has been removed from the policy.

Mayor Bob Kilger said the specific clause was not necessary as
everyone recognizes English is the working language within the city.

Kilger was quite pleased with the changes enacted through the new policy.

"It meets the test of dignity, of respect," he said.

A few other councillors noted the changes to the policy basically
reflect what the city was already doing.

The issue of bilingual services first came to light last year after
Coun. Kim Baird indicated she would like to see the matter reviewed.
Council asked city administration to review the bilingualism policy
and suggest what -- if any -- changes should be introduced.

A staff report from earlier this year concluded nearly half of all
city employees are bilingual, and practically every city department is
equipped with some level of bilingual staff. According to the report,
some 227 city employees out of a total complement of 460 are
bilingual. That figure accounts for most city departments with the
exception of Cornwall police.

Article ID# 1085794

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