If a federal agency violates its employees’ right to work in French by forcing them to communicate daily with monolingual Anglophone specialists in other parts of the country, the Federal Court of Appeal In the verdict given on Wednesday.
Montreal officer Andre Dion won his battle and is therefore able to speak French in the office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI). This decision will have major consequences for the daily lives of Francophone employees in the Federal Public Service, many of whom work remotely with colleagues from other parts of the country.
« [La totalité des] The facts show that the federal agency responsible for taking steps to create and maintain a favorable working environment for the effective use of both official languages has failed, ”we read in a 57-page judgment signed by Judge Marion Rivollen.
Andre Dion worked for OSFI from Montreal, a bilingual area designated by the federal government, which gave him the right to use French in office. However, he had to work “90% of the time” in English, as his work required daily contact with monolingual English-speaking colleagues from OSFI’s specialized division in Toronto. He failed in federal court in 2019.
Dissatisfied with these first judgment resolutions The Office of the Official Languages Commissioner for Canada wanted to appeal the case, Just like Mr. Dion.
Canadian National Railway Company Even when landed in the field To argue that there is no obligation to respect the right to work in the language of employees moving from one area to another; The issues raised by the company through the judgment were ignored.
The Federal Court of Appeal, OSFI, like any other federal body in the bilingual area, has a responsibility under the Official Languages Act to do everything that allows its staff to use French or English.
“It’s a big win,” said Gabriel Polyquin, a lawyer for Gibb von Ert, the company representing the plaintiff. According to him, the court ruled that federal employees must have the right to work in French with the help of English-speaking colleagues from other regions.
“To make the extrapolate [ce jugement], Not because we are in a teleworking situation, but suddenly, as a federal employee we no longer have the right to be prepared in the official language of our choice. So, if we need a specific organizational contribution to do our work […], It depends on the company what the employee wants in the language of his choice, ”he explained in an interview To stay.
However, the Federal Court of Appeals ruled that the compulsory use of English-only speaking professionals in Toronto would be considered a “central service” provided by his employer, so it should be bilingual. For this perspective, the appeal determines what was decided in the first judgment.
Bilingual employee rights
The judge qualified them as “disturbing comments” from the first judgment, according to which bilingual employees do not have the right to choose their official working language because they can express themselves in English and French.
She went further by stating that it was wrong to claim that Francophones had a special status in the Federal Public Service, as pointed out by Federal Court Judge Peter Annies. “I feel that these justifications are unacceptable and testify to the deceptive stereotypes that call into question the value of French-speaking employees in the public service,” Judge Revollen wrote.
Its judgment ultimately stipulates that a bilingual employee “does not have to act as a translator when preparing documents intended for the public.” In short, the organization does not require more than one bilingual employee from one bilingual employee.
Translation is a profession, the Federal Court of Appeals recalls, suggesting that the service should be improved to protect the right to work in one’s language.
I am of the opinion that the justification is unacceptable and reflects the pseudo-template practices that question the value of Francophone employees in the public service.
Since the complaint was filed, OSFI has added a bilingual requirement to 11 positions in its Toronto office, previously granted to non-French speaking employees. The court identified the gesture as “an example of a possible measure of creating a work environment conducive to the use of both languages and promoting management”.
The avenue was also proposed by Melanie Jolie, Minister of Official LanguagesIn the work document submitted in February Solve the federal language problem by not hiring too many language employees.
An earlier version of this text was attributed to public prosecutors, but they were by Federal Court Judge Peter Annies.