SSTA urging P.E.I. government to entrench more bilingual services

The Société Saint-Thomas-d'Aquin says the P.E.I. government is is dragging its feet on mandating more bilingual services for French speaking Islanders.

'We are trying to have a community where we can live in French'

The Société Saint-Thomas-d'Aquin would like to see the government designate more positions as bilingual. (Jean-Luc Bouchard/Radio-Canada)

The Société Saint-Thomas-d'Aquin, a group that represents Acadians and Francophones on the Island, says the P.E.I. government is dragging its feet on mandating more bilingual services for French speaking Islanders.

"We are trying to have a community where we can live in French," says president Guy LaBonté.

In late 2013, the French Services Act was proclaimed in the province.

The president of the SSTA, Guy LaBonté, is asking the government to designate jobs already filled by bilingual employees under the French Language Services Act. (SSTA / Facebook)

It designated French services be made available at three libraries in the province, on road signs and the 511 tourism information line. The government also committed to add more services or positions to the list over time. In the three years since the list has not grown. 

Adding to the frustration for the SSTA, there are services being offered in French by civil service employees now, but the positions are not designated that way, meaning government can move an English-only employee into the job at any time.

Services already offered in French

LaBonté gave the example of Telehealth 811 and 911 being services that are currently offered in French, but are not designated as such.

"We're saying designate them," he said.

Even the staff at the Acadian Museum in Miscouche, P.E.I., are not in designated bilingual positions.

Most troubling to Société Saint-Thomas-d'Aquin is absence of designated bilingual jobs in essential services for French families.

It is asking for entrenched jobs at provincially-funded French language early childhood centres, homecare and the Access PEI centres in three of the seven Acadian regions of the province including Summerside, Charlottetown, Wellington and Tignish.

Province will set up working group: Premier

Premier Wade MacLauchlan, who is also responsible for Francophone affairs, said the province will set up a working group to improve access in the four priority areas identified by SSTA in an emailed statement to CBC.

The government is not adding any timelines for the group to expand designated French language services.