Winnipeggers may soon be able to access city services in French, regardless of where in the city they call home.
This week, members of council’s executive policy committee (EPC) voted to receive a report that recommends French language services be provided upon request when communicating with or receiving a service from the City of Winnipeg.
Currently, only Winnipeggers living in St. Boniface, St. Norbert and St. Vital have a legal right to have city services delivered in French.
“We live in a bilingual country and this definitely a very positive direction for Winnipeg,” said St. Boniface councillor and EPC member Matt Allard, Wednesday.
The report follows four weeks of consultations with community groups and community members.
As well as recommending city services be provided in French when possible, it calls for the creation of a five-year plan to identify the city’s capacity to provide services in French.
It also calls on the public service to review and update the city’s Official Languages of Municipal Services By-law at least every five years to make sure it meets the needs of the community.
Allard said things have changed since the city first put legislation in place requiring municipal services in both official languages in St. Boniface, St. Norbert, and St. Vital.
‘It’s trying to close that gap’
“French people are living much more all across the city now,” he said.
“For example … many new Canadians, who speak French, they need affordable housing and often times that means not living in those three wards.
“In some cases they might need services in French, but may not have the right to services in French. It’s trying to close that gap.”
Allard says changes to how Winnipeggers access city services — online, through 311, and apps — makes now a good time to ensure those services are provided in both official languages.
“If you think of the City of Winnipeg website, for example, once you’ve translated something … it’s available forever, so why restrict it?” he said.
“This is a historic direction that we’ve seen from executive policy committee. There’s no budgetary impact attached to the report, but it does send a pretty clear message that service should be delivered in French where reasonable.”
The plan still needs approval from council as a whole.