Public sector managers urged to foster bilingualism

If federal public servants want to exercise their right to choose to speak French or English at work, management must respect the employee’s choice.

Public sector senior and middle managers were given this tip and many others Thursday when an employee study — taken to gauge ideas on how to foster bilingualism — was released.

“It’s been a goal since 1966 when Lester Pearson stood up in the House of Commons (announcing a new bilingual policy for the public service),” said Graham Fraser, Commissioner of Official Languages.

“We still don’t know what good looks like.”

More than 100 employees in about 30 work environments gave their two cents in the study.

“We targeted in particular three institutions,” Fraser said.

“We wanted to find out, what is it that works?”

The daily actions of managers directly impact the use of French and English in the public service, the study concludes.

Another tip: managers should show equal status of the official languages.

That includes little things, Fraser, said, such as managers sending e-mails to employees in both languages.

Fraser cited an example of an office blood drive encouraging employees to donate.

The message, he said, should begin in the language of the majority followed by the minority.

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