Every year on March 20, we celebrate the International Day of La Francophonie – a day that is marked by global activities designed to promote the French language and its cultural expressions. In Canada, French is spoken by 22.8% of the population, with the greatest concentration of Francophones in Quebec, but with communities everywhere across the country, in big and small towns.
The Official Languages Act is the federal statute adopted in 1969 that made English and French the official languages of Canada. The federal government plays a critical role in promoting and protecting both official languages across the country, making sure Canadians receive information and services in the official language of their choice.
However, as it pertains to federal government internal affairs, it is common knowledge that, of the two official languages, French is the most at risk. There are less than 26.1% of public service employees who identify as Francophones. Business meetings are often conducted in English as a common practice. While Francophones are entitled to work in the language of their choice, for various reasons, many will often surrender to the linguistic majority.
In fact, in recent years, language insecurity has become a major concern for French-speaking federal public service employees. Many do not feel comfortable using French in the workplace. According to a 2019 survey conducted by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, almost 44% of Francophone respondents admitted to feeling uncomfortable using their mother tongue with their colleagues, the main reason reported being that they didn’t want to inconvenience their English-speaking colleagues.
French has been deeply entrenched in Canada’s rich identity and cultural mosaic, and we must do everything possible to honour, protect and promote our linguistic duality. This also means making sure to create an enabling environment for Francophones to use their mother tongue equally in the federal public service.
The International Day of La Francophonie is also an opportunity for us to acknowledge all the translators, interpreters and terminologists we represent. They play a critical role in promoting the French language across the nation, ensuring that all interactions between federal employees, elected officials and Canadians can take place in French, and that information is equally provided in both French and English to everyone.
Speaker Series 2021: Working in French in the Federal Public Service
It is against this backdrop and to mark the International Day of La Francophonie that CAPE is hosting on March 23 an online discussion with two experts to offer their perspective on official languages in the federal workplace and on what it looks like for French-speaking public service employees.
For more information and to register for the event, click here.