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In Saskatchewan, Showing Leadership Means Maximizing Your Linguistic Competencies
Regina, September 11, 2012
Graham Fraser - Commissioner of Official Languages
Check against delivery
Beginning of dialog
Ladies and gentlemen, good morning.
I would like to start by thanking Deanne Belisle and Sharon Lee Smith for inviting me here today. This is my first visit to the Council, but I have already met some of you on previous occasions. I am pleased to come visit you in Saskatchewan and speak with you.
This year is the Year of the Fransaskois. This is an opportunity for all Saskatchewanians to set new objectives for promoting linguistic duality in the province!
It is also a valuable opportunity to cultivate the sense of belonging and pride of Saskatchewan’s Francophones and of all Saskatchewanians with a Francophone heritage or who are touched by the French language—whether they are from here or elsewhere, and whether or not they speak French.
Next week is also Linguistic Duality Week. The goal of this event is to raise the profile of both official languages and provide opportunities to experience bilingualism and familiarize public servants nationwide with the cultures of both official languages. So this is the perfect time for me to visit you!
The Fransaskois community is developing at an impressive rate. It is clear that the French-speaking community is taking the initiative and making considerable progress in the areas of education and culture. Future generations will continue to feel a strong sense of belonging to the French-speaking community. However, we must keep working to achieve this. All stakeholders must work together if this development is to continue.
For the federal government, active offer needs to become a reflex and a sign of respect for all citizens of the province, English-speaking, French-speaking and bilingual. Of course, such a reflex could apply to all levels of government. Saying “
Hello/Bonjour” may seem simple, but active offer in fact continues to be a problem.
The federal government also has an obligation to ensure that services provided in Saskatchewan are of equal quality in both languages. To achieve this goal, the government must see to it that services meet the specific needs of French‑speaking communities. By doing this, it also contributes to their vitality.
To this end, I encourage managers throughout the federal government to demonstrate leadership in the area of linguistic duality. There are no designated bilingual regions for language-of-work purposes in Saskatchewan. However, there are Francophone and Francophile employees working in federal offices here.
The lack of officially bilingual spaces is sometimes a challenge when offering services. French is only used when Francophone clients request service in their language. With this in mind, I would encourage managers to make sure that French language and culture are respected in the same way as English within the public service. When employees feel that both languages are valued in the workplace, active offer is much more likely to occur.
The presence of employees of both language groups provides an opportunity for people to learn or improve their second official language. Appreciating another culture makes us more aware of issues facing the community. Here in Saskatchewan, the French-speaking community offers many opportunities to learn more about this province’s cultural environment. It is very important for you to encourage your employees to initiate activities in French and participate in French-language events taking place in Saskatchewan, especially those organized by the Saskatchewan Interdepartmental Network of Official Languages Coordinators (SINOLC), which was founded to facilitate the implementation of the Western Federal Councils’ Official Languages Strategic Plan in this province. An exemplary practice would be to ensure that your organizations have a representative in Saskatchewan to take responsibility for promoting official languages and liaising with SINOLC.
But the community must continue to request services in French, even if it is often easier and faster to obtain them in English. By doing so, the community affirms its commitment and its pride, and it shows the government that there is indeed a demand for service in French in the province.
There is still a great deal of work to be done. Challenges remain, but I think that, together, you are on the right track. In Saskatchewan, cooperation between federal institutions, the provincial government and the Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise is essential to promoting linguistic duality. Don’t neglect initiatives that have worked in the past. For example, the Committee of Official Languages Leaders has shown great leadership and done excellent work promoting linguistic duality in Saskatchewan’s federal institutions. I therefore encourage you to carry on their work and revitalize the organizations and committees that promote linguistic duality in Saskatchewan. Focus on good communication, effective partnerships and beneficial collaboration. Linguistic duality needs to continue to thrive, despite this period of budget cuts and program changes. Collaboration is important—particularly between the Committee, the province and the community—in order to identify the challenges that must still be overcome and the needs that must still be met so the community can continue to develop and receive the services to which it is entitled.
Canada is stronger, both economically and socially, when linguistic majorities and minorities support each other and contribute to the advancement of Canadian society. Francophones, Métis and the many aboriginal communities have been taking part in the province’s economic and social development for generations.
The ability to do business in more than one language is no longer just an asset; it is now a necessity for many Canadian companies. The same holds true for the public service. Investing in linguistic duality and the development of official language communities across the country is a lever for Canada’s economic growth.
The federal government has an important role to play, of course. Federal institutions have to take positive measures in the form of concrete action. But people are the lifeblood of federal institutions. Yes, it is true that strong leadership from our government would enable federal institutions to better understand their obligations under the Act. However, without the leadership of individual public servants, it is difficult to move forward.
I would like to draw your attention to an important distinction. As citizens, we are entitled to expect our government to show leadership when it comes to enforcing our national values, which include official languages. Canada’s policies on linguistic duality help not only to strengthen our social fabric, but also to define ourselves as Canadians. This is why the government, through its institutions, has to lead the way.
Have you ever asked yourself why you do what you do? Why some people and organizations are more innovative, influential or profitable than others? Why people are loyal to some leaders, but not others? Simon Sinek, an author and a professor at New York’s Columbia University, wrote an essay titled Start with Why.Footnote 1 His thinking can be summed up as, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”
Every organization can explain what they do, some can explain how they do it, but very few can explain why. “
Why” is not money or profit—those are results. It’s not the same thing.
Why does your organization exist? Why do people really buy from one company and not another, or obey a policy or behave in a certain way? The answer is quite simple: it’s because they believe in it. The same is true when I say that linguistic duality is a value, not an obligation. Behaviour will not change if linguistic duality is no more than an obligation. It is values that guide our behaviour and the path we take.
Starting with “
why” works in big business and small business, in the non-profit world and in politics. Those who start with “
why” never manipulate; they inspire. And the people who follow them or buy into the message they are putting out don’t do so because they have to; they do so because they want to.
But to be a leader—whether in terms of organizational or personal leadership—you have to know how to inspire others. And to be a source of inspiration for others and for yourself, you have to understand the “
why.” And if the “
why” is not clear, the outcome will fall short.
When it comes to linguistic duality, whether across Canada or in the public service, as long as the “
why” is “
because it’s the law, because we have to,” people’s behaviour will not change, and neither will their perceptions. The answer to “
why” has to be “
because I believe in it.”
Unfortunately, sometimes there is a disconnect between aspirations for linguistic duality, as expressed by our laws and political discourse, and reality, which shows that linguistic duality is absent from the day-to-day lives of many Canadians, and thus of many public servants. The “
why” is ambiguous. Look at the recent language controversies surrounding the appointment of a unilingual judge to the Supreme Court and the hiring of a unilingual auditor general. These appointments were met with strong criticism in many of the country’s major newspapers, including Anglophone newspapers from the West, which shows that Canadians have higher expectations. The bar has been raised. But we are entitled to ask ourselves what these actions mean. It is vitally important that the government show leadership when it comes to protecting our language achievements, especially if we say that they are an intrinsically Canadian value. Our actions speak volumes.
As public servants, you have to exemplify public service values and carry them forward in your work.
Without the leadership of all its public servants, the public service, and ultimately the whole of government, will be unable to guarantee respect for both official languages in the workplace.
Last year, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages released a study titled Beyond Bilingual Meetings: Leadership Behaviours for Managers. This study, which aims to help managers create workplaces conducive to the use of both official languages, is available on our website. I bring this up because the study also presents a leadership competencies profile for official languages, which is based on the same key competencies as the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat’s more general Key Leadership Competencies Profile. The competencies have to do with values and ethics, strategic thinking, engagement and management excellence. For each value, we have defined a series of intermediate competencies and behaviours you can use as inspiration to promote linguistic duality in the workplace.
Our website also includes a self-assessment tool that will help you to evaluate your own leadership behaviours in a bilingual workplace, to see where your strengths lie and to identify the behaviours you need to adopt. The desired changes in an organization often happen by ripple effect. Every step in the right direction counts. As managers, you are catalysts for these changes.
Figure out the answer to the question “
Why do you do what you do?” Think about the difference between “
obligation” and “
value.” The success of the language policy in your organization depends on your behaviour and the messages you send.
Be proactive: it’s a question of respect. And good leaders are always respectful.
- Footnote 1
Simon Sinek, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, Penguin Books, New York, 2009.