Province tables bill to make Ottawa officially bilingual

Ottawa's bilingual services will soon become entrenched in provincial law.

Ontario government omnibus bill will also establish a French language university

Ontario's omnibus bill is expected to be passed in the provincial legislature by December. (Bruce Reeve/CBC)

Ottawa's bilingual services will soon become entrenched in provincial law.

The Ontario government tabled a bill on French language services Tuesday which includes the protection of bilingual services for residents in Ottawa.

The French Language Services Bill is expected to be passed by December, which means Ottawa could have official bilingual status before the holidays.

The omnibus bill will also establish a French language university in the province.

MPP Nathalie Des Rosiers says the bill will ensure that Ottawa's bilingual character is recognized in the city's constitution. (David Smiley/courtesy CCLA)

The provincial government bill is an almost word-for-word copy of the private member's bill tabled by Nathalie Des Rosiers, Liberal MPP for Ottawa-Vanier.

The purpose of the bill is to enshrine the city's bilingualism by-law and the city's policy on French-language services in the City of Ottawa Act, with the objective of preserving them regardless of what municipal governments do in the future.

"The goal was always to ensure that the bilingual character of the City of Ottawa is recognized in its constitution," Des Rosiers said in French.

"This recognizes that the French Language Services Act is applicable to the City of Ottawa and it also recognizes that the current policy and regulations are subject to the French Language Services Act." 

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson welcomes the move, saying the province consulted with the city to develop the law.

"I appreciate that MPP Desrosier and Minister Lalonde respected the city and took the language from our law and put it into provincial law. And I believe that gives greater comfort to the francophone community and I'm very comfortable with that," he told reporters in french, on Wednesday.

"Historic moment"

Carol Jolin, president of the Francophone Assembly of Ontario, says the tabling of this bill is historic.

"These are extremely important steps in the right direction. We hope that by the end of 2017, it will no longer be a bill, but that it is a law and that we can go ahead and make sure that services that are already there are now enshrined in a law," Jolin said.

Establishing French and English as two equal official languages in Ottawa is "good news for the city, for the province and for the country," he said.