[lg policy] Canada: Employees lose challenge against Via language policy
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Sun Feb 21 18:09:53 UTC 2010
Employees lose challenge against Via language policy
By Janice Tibbetts, Canwest News ServiceSeptember 9, 2009
Via, a federal Crown corporation, adopted the bilingualism requirement
for new employees in 1986 and the staffers say they have missed out on
promotions and some were not given French language training to achieve
OTTAWA — Five Via Rail employees have lost a court battle claiming
they should not have to speak French to work on routes in Western
Canada because there are already enough bilingual employees to pick up
the slack. Federal Court Justice Luc Martineau dismissed the veteran
employees' quest for financial compensation for the wages they say
they lost because they were denied the most senior service jobs. The
unilingual employees, who have all worked at Via for 24 years or more,
are based in Winnipeg and Vancouver. The workers unsuccessfully
challenged Via's requirement for bilingualism for onboard service
staff on the Western Transcontinental route between Toronto and
Vancouver, which mainly serves Canadian and foreign tourists.
"Via is an important instrument of government policy in
transportation, employment and promotion of linguistic duality and
bilingualism in Canada," wrote Martineau.
A francophone travelling in Western Canada should have the same
entitlement to service and emergency instructions in French, just as a
unilingual anglophone travelling in Quebec would expect service in
English, said Martineau. The rulings were released Wednesday, less
than one month after the railway came under fire following complaints
emergency evacuation instructions had only been given in English,
angering some francophone passengers travelling from Toronto to
Ottawa.Via, a federal Crown corporation, adopted the bilingualism
requirement for new employees in 1986 and the staffers say they have
missed out on promotions and some were not given French language
training to achieve bilingual status.
They also argued that 75 per cent of employees on the Western
Transcontinental are bilingual, which ensures services can be provided
in both official languages without affecting the futures of the
unilingual workers. The judge noted that Via disputes the number. The
employees were seeking, among other things, monetary compensation for
lost wages and pension benefits and damages for what some described as
"humiliation and embarrassment." The judge handed down five separate
rulings, but he noted they affected dozens of other complainants.
The five employees who challenged Via's language policy in court were
Mark Collins, Brian Norton, Margaret Temple, and Wendy Seesahai, who
are all based in Winnipeg, and Brenda Bonner, who lives in Vancouver.
They were seeking varying amounts in compensation and other damages.
The highest claim came from Seesahai, who wanted $150,000.
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