A long-awaited revamp of P.E.I.'s French Language Services Act was tabled in the legislature Thursday by Premier Robert Ghiz.
Ghiz, who is also the minister responsible for Acadian and Francophone affairs, said he never imagined it would take six years when he first promised to update French services on the Island.
"To be honest with you I was naive. It was not as simple as I thought it would be," he said.
In practical terms any change is still to come. Ghiz admits the new act won't add any more French services on P.E.I., at least not yet, but it will enshrine the services currently offered, including French libraries.
It also directs 20 different government departments and agencies to conduct reviews to determine what other services they can offer in both official languages.
"This is a good first step and recognition. And that's what the community was first looking for,"
" I think that we can continue to improve our service delivery to our French and Acadian community."
The new bill, tabled in both English and French, will also create a mechanism for Francophones to lodge official complaints with government. Gabriel Arsenault of the Société St.-Thomas-d'Aquin even without all the details spelled out, the bill is an historic achievement for P.E.I.'s 5,400 Francophones.
"We have a commitment. We have a willingness from the departments and government agencies to provide more services," said Arsenault.
Ghiz said the bill won't cost anything to implement. When government departments start looking to add French services next year they'll use existing budgets. It is also possible some of the 100 bilingual provincial civil servants currently working in English-only positions will be re-assigned to provide services in both languages.