Ottawa

RCMP not meeting bilingual obligations on the Hill: languages commissioner

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are still not fulfilling their obligations to offer services in both official languages on Parliament Hill, according to follow-up report on a four-year old complaint.

2017 report outlined 3 steps for RCMP to improve services in both official languages

A report from the interim Commissioner of Official Languages says the RCMP has not followed recommendations after it was found not to have enough bilingual officers on Parliament Hill. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is still not fulfilling its obligations to offer services in both official languages on Parliament Hill, according to follow-up report on a four-year old complaint.

The January report, written by interim Official Languages Commissioner Ghislaine Saikaley, follows up on a 2015 complaint made by former New Brunswick MP Yvon Godin, who encountered security officers that said they didn't speak French.

Godin said his complaint was about basic security in an environment that welcomes people from across the country.

"My question to them was what happens if somebody goes to the RCMP to say 'I saw somebody with something strange in their hand or with a gun.' And the answer is: 'Well, I'm sorry I don't speak French,'" Godin said.

"[The RCMP] is supposed to be there for the safety of all the public."

He said he thought the original findings based on his complaint had been accepted and implemented, but he was surprised the language commissioner's report found that wasn't the case.

Former NDP MP for Acadie Bathurst Yvon Godin raised the issue of the language skills of RCMP officers on Parliament Hill after meeting some who could not speak French in 2015. (The Canadian Press)

Saikaley's report said there have been no changes since the language commissioner's report in March 2017.

The language commissioner's office had recommended the RCMP promote the importance of communicating in English and French on Parliament Hill among officers as well as create an inventory of officers capable of bilingual service.

Saikaley wrote none of that has happened and management has made no plans to ensure there are enough bilingual officers for the Parliamentary precinct. 

RCMP responds

In a French-language statement to Radio-Canada, the RCMP said it is now only hiring bilingual officers to work on Parliament Hill and it has been working to comply with the Official Languages Act.

The statement said the law does not require all employees of federal institutions be bilingual, rather it guarantees English- and French-speaking Canadians can receive services in the official language of their choice.

The RCMP said 87 per cent of its officers on Parliament Hill are bilingual and it is now only hiring bilingual officers to work there. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

"Currently, 87 per cent of regular officers with the RCMP who are employed in Parliamentary Protective Services [PPS] are entirely bilingual, which means the PPS already has the capacity to communicate and deliver services to the public in both official languages," the statement said. 

The RCMP said it is going to present the official languages commission with an update on its progress.

Saikaley's report was based on documents and phone meetings from July 2017 to October 2018. In a statement, the commissioner's office said it is waiting for the RCMP's response to the report.

Time to push the file, ex-MP says

Godin, who has retired since representing the New Brunswick riding of Acadie-Bathurst in the House of Commons, said he would like the Standing Committee on Official Languages to push the file forward.

"You could request the RCMP to appear in the front of the Committee of Official Languages and have the commissioner appear too because I'm kind of upset to the commissioner, who has not followed the file to push them to do it," he said. 

"We're talking about four years."

Mélanie Joly, whose ministerial portfolio includes official languages, said she we will be talking to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale to follow up on the file.

with files from Radio-Canada's Antoine Trépanier and Angie Bonenfant