Ottawa has voted in favour of providing municipal services in both of Canada's official languages, following an emotional debate by city council.

Those opposed to the motion were concerned that bilingual job applicants would be hired instead of more qualified people who don't speak French.

The vote was 17-5 in favour of using both French and English.

This debate pitted French speakers against English speakers, city against suburbs, and even dragged in the federal government.

Prime Minister Jean Chrtien told Ottawa's main daily newspaper that he'd force the city to adopt bilingualism if he had the power.

In the end, the strain on the councillors who actually did have the power was starting to show.

Madeleine Meilleur said she'd been shocked by the bitter feelings the debate brought to the fore. "It was very painful for a francophone, and I would have liked every one of you to be here and listen to what we went through."

The rhetoric that hurt Meilleur included talk of ethnic cleansing, civil conflict, and a conspiracy to create an English-speaking underclass.

Opponents of bilingualism have charged from the beginning that the policy will disadvantage the English-speaking majority in the job market.

Proponents have pointed out that the policy proposed is, in fact, very similar to the policy that existed for more than 20 years in Ottawa.

But opposition is strongest in the former suburbs and rural areas that only became part of the capital when it was amalgamated in January, represented by councillors such as Janet Stavinga.

"To purport that this policy is status quo is false," said Stavinga. "It's not the status quo to Nepean, Rideau, West Carleton, Osgoode or Kanata. It is simply not. "

Distrust of bilingualism remains high in the newer, more unilingual west of the city, home to Ottawa's high-tech industry. And many councillors admit they have yet to convince their own city workers the policy won't hurt them.