Commissioner says Canada Border Services Agency is taking the high road in official languages
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Gatineau, May 28, 2015 – The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has improved its commitment to official languages and Canadians should see the difference at border crossings, according to Graham Fraser, Commissioner of Official Languages.
In an audit released today, the Commissioner examined whether travellers receive services of equal quality in English and French at airport and land-border points of entry across Canada.
“The Canada Border Services Agency has made very clear progress in complying with the Official Languages Act over the past 10 years,” said Mr. Fraser. “Now that the groundwork has been laid, we should expect to see further improvements in service to the public at border crossings.”
The Commissioner issued eight recommendations to assist the Agency in further improving its compliance with the Act, including one that calls for CBSA to formally monitor whether its employees welcome travellers in both official languages.
Providing an active offer of service in English and French and offering equal service in both languages are essential, especially since there is a power dynamic at play at the border,” said Fraser. “
When travellers think that requesting service in French might mean being redirected and delayed, they are less likely to exercise their language rights.”
The Commissioner recognized CBSA’s challenge in providing 24/7 service at 117 land-border crossings and 13 international airports across the country, over half of which are designated as bilingual.
Ensuring that travellers receive service in the official language of their choice is a top concern for the Commissioner. In 2013–2014 he conducted a campaign to raise awareness of language rights at airports and he checked up on Air Canada’s service to the travelling public in 2011 and again earlier this year.
Border services officers are the face of Canada to the over 100 million travellers they greet annually. These employees have a unique opportunity to exemplify Canada’s linguistic duality on a daily basis for visitors and Canadians,” concluded the Commissioner.