In an effort to boost bilingual services, Fredericton updates its language policy

The City of Fredericton is making changes to its language policy in an effort to better serve bilingual residents.

City staff working directly with the public will be required to greet residents with "hello, bonjour," which will give people a chance to be served in either language.

Wayne Tallon, director of Corporate Strategy and Safety Services for the city, says the new changes include a network system. This will allow an inquiry to be transferred to another city worker, if a staff person who answers the call can only speak English. 

Tallon says the city won't have to hire any new staff to work with the system, and says it will be a "single-hand off" for inquiries that need to be transferred to another person.

"We have a lot of people on staff right now that are subject matter experts," Tallon said, following a council-in-committee meeting Tuesday.

Coun. Henri Mallet asked Tallon to ensure the new changes will create an authentic experience for bilingual residents.

"That first interaction needs to be genuine and happy to be in this organization. That it's not like it's an inconvenience," said Mallet.  

Gary Moore/CBC

The city's annual bilingualism budget is $250,000. That money is spent on French interpretation of regular council and planning advisory committee meetings, along with translating documents and meeting minutes.

The city doesn't have anyone on staff who provides those services, therefore work is contracted out. But council has requested the city look at the possibility of hiring staff to do that work internally instead.

More documents available in French

Revisions to the city's language policy also means more documents will be available in French.

Tallon says contractors and consultants will be required to provide a detailed executive summary at the end of a project that the city will then translate into French.

The city's Official Languages Act has been in place since 2002. Tallon says the city has done a good job in providing bilingual services. 

"The key performance indicator there is that we got very few complaints," he said.