Federal languages act needs update, says P.E.I. francophone group

·2 min read

A group representing francophone and Acadian communities on P.E.I. is encouraging Islanders to write to their MPs about modernizing the federal Official Languages Act.

Société acadienne et francophone de l'Île-du-Prince-Édouard (SAF'Île) says the 50-year-old act is out of date and that's creating inequalities in the way Islanders receive French-language services.

"If we say that we are a bilingual country, then the federal government really needs to put the means and resources to live up to it," said Isabelle Dasylva-Gill, executive director of SAF'Île (formerly the Société Saint-Thomas d'Aquin).

Lack of bilingual workforce

Dasylva-Gill said one of the big issues is a lack of a bilingual workforce to provide services in areas such as child care, education, and health care.

And that affects francophones trying to access services in their first language.

Submitted by Isabelle Dasylva-Gill
Submitted by Isabelle Dasylva-Gill

"If you want to register your child for French-language daycare [on P.E.I.], well most of the time there is a huge waiting list," said Dasylva-Gill.

"Because there are not the resources available to be able to have a spot."

When that happens, said Dasylva-Gill, parents must put their kids into English-language daycare, which can lead to assimilation.

Dasylva-Gill emphasized that the act also affects anglophones on P.E.I., in particular parents who want their children to have equal access to learn French through an immersion program.

"If you don't have the resources to provide those programs, that's where the act is not living up to the demand," Dasylva-Gill said.

Group says act not accountable enough

She said that if Islanders feel they are not getting equal treatment under the act, it's hard to know where to speak up about it.

"The mechanisms that are in place are not reliable enough to make sure that the act actually is respected by the federal institutions."

The act also includes targets for bilingual immigrants who can work in the health care and education sectors.

As a society, we have a responsibility to make our voices heard — Isabelle Dasylva-Gill, SAF'Île

"Year after year, there is less than two per cent of immigrants that settle outside of Quebec that are French speaking," said Dasylva-Gill.

She said it's an asset for all businesses to be able to employ more bilingual workers, which helps the economy.

"Really, it's the act of all Canadians when you think about the bigger picture."

SAF'Île wants Islanders to send a letter to their MP about modernizing the Official Languages Act, and it has a template on its website.

"As a society, we have a responsibility to make our voices heard," said Dasylva-Gill.

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