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Cabinet to Decide Which Federally Regulated Businesses Must Offer Services in French: Report

Cabinet will decide by executive order which federally regulated businesses in the private sector must provide services to customers in both French and English as a result of recently passed legislation, according to an internal briefing note.

The Act for the Substantive Equality of Canada’s Official Languages, formerly known as Bill C-13, amends Canada’s Official Languages Act to mandate the use of both French and English by private airlines, railways, banks, and other workplaces under federal regulation in regions that the government believes to have a “strong francophone presence.”

The bill received royal assent in June after being introduced in March 2022 by Official Languages Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor.

“The new Act will come into force by decree and the size of the federally regulated private businesses that will be subject to it, and the definition of designated regions with a strong francophone presence, will be set out in regulation,” said an internal briefing note from Ms. Petitpas Taylor’s department, obtained by Blacklock’s Reporter.

The note added that regulations stemming from the new legislation will give employees of federally regulated private businesses “the right to work and be supervised in French, receive communications in French and use commonly used work instruments and computer systems in French.”

The note also said that the federal government has “exclusive federal jurisdiction” over labour relations and the official languages spoken in federally regulated private workplaces.

“The Government of Canada already regulates businesses through various laws, regulations and policy instruments in several areas such as accessibility, competition and telecommunications,” the note said.

“However, at this time it still did not impose any requirement on the use of official languages as a language of service and work.”

Ms. Petitpas Taylor said on June 20 that the new legislation will ensure Canada has “substantive equality between French and English” across the country, and give Ottawa “better tools to reverse the decline of French.”

The official languages minister has maintained that the act will not take away “any rights from English-speaking Quebecers.”

The legislation’s passage follows a November 2022 report by the Department of Canadian Heritage that said the viability of francophone “official language minority communities” across Canada “remains fragile.”

Statistics Canada also wrote in a report on June 21 that while the rate of English–French bilingualism within Quebec rose from 40.8 percent in 2001 to 46.4 percent in 2021, the rate across Canada outside Quebec fell slightly over the same time period.

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