NNSL Photo/Graphic

Canadian North

Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall textText size Email this articleE-mail this page

French group happy with GNWT progress
Services for francophones coming into place after lawsuit victory

Cody Punter
Northern News Services
Published Saturday, May 4, 2013

A relationship borne out of acrimonious circumstances appears to be bearing fruit now that French is taking hold in a wide variety of territorial government programs and services.

NNSL photo/graphic

Richard Létourneau: Federation franco-tenoise president pleased with progress so far. - NNSL file photo

The territorial French rights and cultural group Federation franco-tenoise took the GNWT to court in 2000 over a lack of constitutionally guaranteed services in French. But the bad blood has mostly evaporated with the progress made since the GNWT lost an appeal in 2009 of an NWT Supreme Court ruling ordering the government to provide more and better French language services to the approximately 1,000 francophones who call the NWT home.

"We're happy with the progress that has been made," said Richard Letourneau, president of the Federation franco-tenoise, late last month.

"If you look at the court order, we're a little bit behind, but as a community we're not too concerned about that, because the GNWT has really tried to implement and follow what's in the plan. What is being done, is being well done. For us that's what matters."

Part of the original 2006 ruling called on the territorial government to form a committee between the GNWT and the federation for consultation on the creation, implementation, management and promotion of French language services in the NWT. The consultation and co-operation committee on French language services announced last month that it is coming closer to its goal of improving French language services across the NWT.

Benoit Boutin, the GNWT's executive director of the Francophone Secretiat with the GNWT, agreed that, "There was a continuation of the collaborative spirit we had with phase one."

Boutin said he could not provide an estimate on how much it will cost to implement the new French language services. That will be determined over the upcoming months.

“After Christmas we will have a good idea of the cost for implementing the program," said Boutin.

The committee, which met on April 5, was convening for the first time since its strategic plan on French language communications and services was approved by the government last October.

Both sides determined that only communities that had a significant demand for improved services and programs, such as Yellowknife, should be included. It was also agreed that the committee will focus its efforts on four communities, including Yellowknife, Inuvik, Hay River, and Fort Smith.

"We don't expect French services in Trout Lake," joked Letourneau.

The committee also discussed the details of the regulations and procedures that must be implemented by the GNWT in order to meet the demands of French-speaking citizens in those communities.

"For instance, how they are going to translate documents or webpages, or how they are going to assess their own needs regarding French services," said Letourneau.

Over the next few months, the GNWT's Secretariat of Francophone Affairs, which was created as a result of the court's orders, will be holding public consultation meetings and "looking at the plans and discussing with the different departments, making sure that what they are doing is in conformity with the strategic plan."

With the help of the the Secretariat of Francophone Affairs, several GNWT departments, including Human Resources and Health and Social Services, have already begun to hire for new positions to ensure French services. There has also been a co-ordination committee, established which includes a representative from every department.

It is hoped that the current phase of the plan will be finished by the end of the summer.

"The first annual planning in each department will hopefully be ready for next fall, because that's the only way it can be included in the next budget for the winter of 2014,” said Letourneau.

E-mailWe welcome your opinions. Click here to e-mail a letter to the editor.