ARCHIVED - Ottawa, February 28, 2006

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Bilingualism in Businesses in NCR Federal Buildings: NCC on solid ground, Public Works slips

The Commissioner of Official Languages, Dr. Dyane Adam, today released a follow-up to the March 2004 study entitled For Rent: In Search of Bilingual Services from Businesses in NCR Federal Buildings. The follow-up reveals that only a portion of the businesses located in federally owned buildings have improved bilingual service.

Since the first study in 2004, the level of bilingualism among businesses located in National Capital Commission (NCC) buildings has increased. The organization has made improvements especially in Ontario, where virtually all services, written materials and advertising studied saw marked improvements.

However, bilingual service from businesses leasing from Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) is inadequate. The Commissioner feels that PWGSC must show dynamic leadership and quickly implement the necessary measures to correct the situation. “The federal government must set an example by making sure that linguistic duality is a reality in its buildings. Although some promising initiatives have been taken to promote linguistic duality in the National Capital Region (NCR), in many cases, the door is still being shut on bilingual service”, said the Commissioner.

Results also show that the availability of in-person and telephone services in English among businesses located on the Quebec side has remained excellent. However, the availability of signage and written material in English has declined somewhat since 2003.

On the Ontario side, the level of bilingual service among businesses remains basically the same as in 2003 : 60% of tenants are able to offer in-person or telephone services in French and 60% of businesses had difficulty in terms of French-language signage and written material. In Ontario, the improvements in bilingual service made by businesses in NCC buildings were counterbalanced by a deterioration of service by businesses in buildings owned by PWGSC.

The Official Languages Act sets forth the Government of Canada’s commitment to promoting the bilingual character of NCR. The NCC and PWGSC are responsible for ensuring that their commercial tenants communicate with the public and offer their services in both official languages.

The Commissioner emphasizes that respect for Canada’s two official language communities and the country’s image are central to this issue. “As the nation’s capital, Ottawa is an international hub and must be a reflection of the entire country,” added the Commissioner.

Of the 13 recommendations from the 2004 study, all have been, or are in the process of being implemented, except for two recommendations that have not been implemented by PWGSC. The Commissioner has issued three new additional recommendations directed at PWGSC and one new recommendation for Canadian Heritage to help promote respect for linguistic duality in the NCR. “In the capital city of a bilingual country, citizens and visitors alike should be welcomed in the official language of their choice, especially in federal buildings,” concluded Dr. Adam.

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For more information, please contact:

Robin Cantin
Manager, Media Relations          
Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages
Telephone: 613-995-0374
Toll-free: 1-877-996-6368