Wynne, Watson not interested in making Ottawa officially bilingual

Two of the leaders with the power to help make the City of Ottawa officially bilingual say they're not interested in joining the campaign floated by a Quebec MP.

Quebec Liberal MP Denis Paradis says he'll bring idea to federal committee

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne holds a news conference in Ottawa Sept. 16, 2016. Wynne says any change to make Ottawa officially bilingual will have to come from the city. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

Two of the leaders with the power to help make the City of Ottawa officially bilingual say they're not interested in joining the campaign floated by a Quebec MP.

Liberal MP Denis Paradis, chair of the House of Commons standing committee on official languages, says it's only right an officially bilingual country should have an officially bilingual capital.

Paradis said he wants the committee to talk about this when the House is back next week, but said the move wouldn't involve changing any federal laws.

His colleague Mélanie Joly, the minister responsible for official languages, told The Canadian Press the decision rests with the city and provincial governments.

Standing behind current laws

On Friday Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said the province isn't looking to change its law on the matter.

"We passed legislation at the provincial level to recognize the bilingual culture here in Ottawa, it's now up to the City of Ottawa to decide what the definition of that bilingualism is," she told reporters following a tour of a Hydro Ottawa facility on Friday.

"I think it's terrific you can live in French or English in Ottawa but it's up to the city to decide exactly how they want to decide that bilingualism."

The City of Ottawa Act, which is an Ontario law, states "the city shall adopt a policy respecting the use of the English and French languages in all or specified parts of the administration of the city and in the provision of all or specified municipal services by the city."

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said in a statement Friday there's no change to his long-standing position that the city doesn't need any further bilingualism rules.

The City of Ottawa's bilingualism bylaw recognizes the bilingual character of the city and says services will be available in both languages.

Council doesn't appear unanimous

While Watson's will is usually the way of city council, a motion on this could be introduced and passed with enough votes from councillors.

Rideau-Vanier councillor Mathieu Fleury told Radio-Canada he thinks making Ottawa officially bilingual would be an important gesture. He said he would talk to other councillors to see if he can get them on board.

Still, Rideau-Goulbourn councillor Scott Moffatt said Friday he thinks the city's bilingualism policy is good. Any attempt by the federal government to make a change would be "out of line," he said.

"This is a city decision. This is not a decision that should be made by the federal government," he said.

"If we're going to make a change to how we operate, it's going to be done at our level, it's going to be done by city council and the mayor."

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With files from Catherine Lanthier