Canada: Project spurs city to classify 27.6% of jobs bilingual

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sat May 31 15:50:00 UTC 2008

Project spurs city to classify 27.6% of jobs bilingual

Laura Drake, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Friday, May 30, 2008

After a four-year project, the City of Ottawa will officially
designate 27.6 per cent of its jobs as bilingual starting on July 1,
City Clerk Pierre Pagé said yesterday. "Our citizens are English and
French, so it's about service and we want to provide services to both
our francophone and anglophone citizens," Mr. Pagé said. The 3,968
positions that will require bilingualism were selected based largely
on the amount of time the job requires someone to deal with the
public. The city has been working on classifying jobs since 2004 under
the Designations of Bilingual Positions Project.

This has been a long time coming," said Rideau-Vanier Councillor
Georges Bédard, who called the move "extremely important."
Though the 2006 census shows that only 1.6 per cent of people in
Ottawa speak French alone, Mr. Bédard said many people in the city
would prefer to speak in French even if they are able to speak
English. Nearly 15 per cent of city residents count French as their
first language, he said, and many immigrants learn French as their
second language. However, West Carleton-March Councillor Eli
El-Chantiry said he thinks the policy change is unnecessary, although
he was not aware that 27.6 per cent of jobs would be classified
bilingual in July.

Still, he said, he has always had the same position on mandatory
bilingualism. In 2006, he argued that Ottawa's new police chief didn't
have to be bilingual as chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board.
"You have a smaller pool to pick from" if bilingualism is mandatory,
he said. "Have we looked at the big picture? Are we going to be able
to fill these positions with qualified people?" Mr. Pagé said the vast
majority of the employees in the jobs to be reclassified are
bilingual. Those who are not, he stressed, will not lose their jobs.
Instead, they will be given priority to get language training.

Anglophones will be able to apply for a bilingual job, as long as it
doesn't require Day 1 language skills, such as a 3-1-1 call centre
operator. If an anglophone is the most qualified person for a
bilingual job, Mr. Pagé said, he or she will be offered the job on the
condition that they finish language training. Despite all these
protections, English-language rights crusader Howard Galganov, who
does not live in Ottawa, said the policy is "downright wrong." "If
it's 27.6 per cent today, what's it going to be tomorrow?" He said the
policy change would exclude the majority of the population from
getting jobs. According to 2006 census data, 37 per cent of people in
Ottawa can speak both official languages. About 63 per cent of
Ottawans claim English as their first language, versus 15 per cent who
say French is their mother tongue.

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