[Lgpolicy-list] [lg policy] Ottawa: Ability, not language, most important in fire chief search

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Tue Nov 18 16:08:16 UTC 2014

 Ability, not language, most important in fire chief search 94
 By Jon Willing <http://www.ottawasun.com/author/jon-willing>, Ottawa Sun

First posted: Monday, November 17, 2014 05:38 PM EST | Updated: Monday,
November 17, 2014 09:41 PM EST
[image: Fire] Fire Chief John deHooge will be saying goodbye to the Ottawa
Fire Services in January 2015. DOUG HEMPSTEAD/Ottawa Sun/QMI Agency



 With John deHooge leaving the fire service, a burning question returns to
City Hall: Should Ottawa's fire chief be able to speak both English and

Orléans Coun. Bob Monette said the candidate with the "best qualifications"
should get the job. If two candidates have the same abilities and one can
speak both languages, "then definitely go with the bilingual one," Monette
said Monday.

Monette, who has been council's representative on the French language
services advisory committee, said it's valuable to have a fire chief who
can speak both languages when there's a crisis.

The city announced last week deHooge will retire at the end of January.

His appointment in 2009 (in the previous term of council) sparked some
controversy because he wasn't bilingual, even though the city's hiring
policy for the job doesn't make full bilingualism mandatory. At the time,
two councillors sounded the alarm.

The current chairman of the committee that oversees fire services doesn't
think the next chief needs to be fluent in both languages.

"I don't believe it's mandatory right now," Bay Coun. Mark Taylor said.

"I think we should be looking for the best qualified candidate for the job
in terms of the fire service."

Taylor said it would be "value added" if the next chief can communicate in
both languages.

The issue of managers being able to speak both official languages is part
of a larger narrative on bilingualism in the nation's capital.

During city council and committee meetings, senior managers have been
making noticeable efforts to communicate in both languages.

The City of Ottawa is not officially bilingual, although it recognizes both
languages equally and promotes the "bilingual character" of the city.

Monette said he agrees with the city's current language policy but he wants
a "clear definition" of what bilingualism means.

Firefighting is specifically addressed in the city's bilingualism policy,
which says a "special effort" is made to allow francophones in the fire
service to work in French when serving francophone communities. The policy
also calls for a bilingual person always on duty. The section doesn't apply
to volunteer firefighters.

The 2011 census had 62% of Ottawa residents identifying English as their
mother tongue and 14% as French. When it came to the language spoken most
often at home, about 75% said English and 10% said French, while just over
10% said another non-official language.


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