News / Toronto

'French should be better reflected:' Residents urge City to better serve Francophones

The city's French Language Advisory Committee will address the subject next week.

Residents want the city to provide better services in French.

Justin Greaves / Metroland

Residents want the city to provide better services in French.

Residents are calling out the city for neglecting the country's other official language.

"We're not saying the city should be officially bilingual, but Toronto is a city that regularly hosts the world," said Diane Chaperlon-Lor, a communications consultant with the Canadian Club of Toronto. "French should be better reflected in the services of the city."

A long-time resident of Toronto, Chaperlon-Lor said she's lucky to be bilingual as many important messages from the city are only available in English. Last fall, for example, the city's solid-waste management department sent a memo to residents about contamination in the blue-bin recycling program. While the notice was translated into four other languages, French was not one of them.

"It's not really hard if they wanted to offer French services," she said, noting the city's neglect leaves a big section of the population in the dark. According to Statistics Canada, French is the mother tongue of more than 35,000 people in Toronto.

The city's French Language Advisory Committee will address the subject next week, including a defunct service that allowed people to pay or dispute parking tickets in French.

Committee chair Norm Kelly — who isn't fluent in French himself — said the city has a policy to translate public information into the 10 most-spoken languages, including French.

"I work exclusively in English, but the sense I have is that there's a lot of services that are offered in French to a considerable extent," he said, pointing to electronic services in particular.

The address for the French version of the city's website, toronto.ca/francais, leads to a "cannot be found" page. City staff say it's an old address that has been discontinued, as the city currently offers a Google Translate version of its website in more than 50 languages.

Callers are advised to use 311 if they need to be served in French, even though instructions on that line are in English.

Kelly said Toronto is one of the "premier" cities of the world, and officials should emphasize the use of French in public services.

"It's not a minority language," he said. "It's one of the founding languages of Canada."

More French:

Ontario is in the process of establishing its first exclusively French university. The Université de l’Ontario Français will be in Toronto, according to the provincial ministry of advanced education. The opening date has yet to be announced.

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