Letter to the Editor - National Post

August 26, 2014

Uncharted language territory

Re: Investigating bilingualism on Twitter

I read with interest your editorial concerning our investigation into a Twitter account used by the Foreign Affairs minister (“Investigating bilingualism on Twitter,” August 22).

As the editorial rightly notes, this case is being examined as part of the larger issue of how language obligations of a federal organization could impact ministerial social media accounts. The world of social media is essentially an extension of the more traditional forms of communication. As they started adopting social media, federal institutions have been by and large mindful of their various obligations with respect to language, privacy and service to the public. But what happens when the head of an institution communicates directly with the public through a distinct account? A complaint from a citizen constitutes a timely opportunity to explore this uncharted territory.

While this is going on, other work by my office continues. For instance, we are currently investigating some 400 other complaints filed against federal institutions, conducting an audit of bilingual services provided by Elections Canada and working with Quebec’s English-speaking community on key issues such as immigration.

On the subject of the English-speaking community in Quebec, I have probably been more active in that province than in any other. I have travelled to the Gaspé, the Magdalen Islands, the Lower North Shore, the Lower St. Lawrence, Québec City, the Eastern Townships, the Laurentians, Montréal and Gatineau to meet English-speaking communities. My office has done vitality studies on three of those communities, on the challenges of English-language film and television producers in Quebec and on the federal resources available for seniors. I have met with a former premier, and with various cabinet ministers to discuss challenges facing the English-speaking community. And I have intervened before the Supreme Court on the question of access to English schools. I have spoken out publicly on the lack of a government office to deal with the English-speaking community’s concerns, and the anxiety felt in this community. What I have not done is issue a blanket denunciation of the Charter of the French Language, which meets the standards of fairness required by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Graham Fraser, Commissioner of Official Languages

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