Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024

Cuts at Radio-Canada: the Commissioner of Official Languages ​​investigates

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In December, the public broadcaster announced that it expected to have to cut 600 jobs across the organization and eliminate some 200 vacant positions across the country. (Archive photo)

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The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages ​​(OCL) received several complaints after the announcement last December of cutbacks in staff and programming at CBC/Radio-Canada. Commissioner Raymond Théberge has decided to investigate the matter.

The public broadcaster announced that it expected to have to cut 600 jobs in organization and eliminate some 200 vacant positions across the country, most over the next 12 months, due to budget pressures. Radio-Canada and CBC will each have to cut around 250 jobs, the state-owned company said in a press release.

This announcement generated four complaints to the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages.

One ​​of them alleges that by wanting to cut services equally French and English, CBC/Radio-Canada disproportionately disadvantages Francophones, and particularly Francophones in minority situations who often have very little or no access to other French-language media for information.

Last week, the CLO confirmed that these complaints are admissible. Commissioner Raymond Théberge, however, refused to speak about it in an interview due to ongoing investigations.

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The Commissioner of Official Languages, Raymond Théberge (Archive photo)

In a written statement, however, Mr. Théberge strongly encourages CBC/Radio-Canada leaders to take into account their role within official language communities when making their decisions.

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It is also a rare platform where the general public can receive information and have access to cultural content from the entire Canadian Francophonie, insists it.

At the local community level, I think it's important that we have our place and that we are able to find ourselves.

A quote from Fabien Hébert, president of the Assembly of the Francophonie of Ontario

An analysis shared by the president of the Assembly of the Francophonie of Ontario (AFO), Fabien Hébert.

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The president of the Assembly of the Francophonie of Ontario, Fabien Hébert (Archive photo)

I believe it is the primary information resource in French for the Franco-Ontarian community. So losing this resource means abandoning the French-speaking community completely in Ontario. […] A perfect example: people from the north, we are attached to Radio-Canada Sudbury. You can see regional news. It allows us to see what is happening in our communities.

For the lawyer specializing in language rights, Mark Power, there is no doubt that the CBC/Radio-Canada company cannot act as it wishes since it is subject to the Official Languages ​​Act.

Without knowing the facts […] I nevertheless venture to point out that cuts in the number of positions which would mechanically apply just as much to French-speakers as to English-speakers appear to me at first glance quite fact illegal.

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Ottawa lawyer Mark Power official language minority communities.

Federal institutions, including state-owned corporations, must also consider the possibilities of avoiding or, at the very least, mitigating the direct negative impacts that their structuring decisions could have on these communities. In addition, the law recognizes, since its modernization in June, the particular situation of French, underlines Mr. Power.

Since June 2023, it has been required to take into account the particular situation of French as a minority language in North America, in Canada, and in particular – but not only – outside Quebec.

A quote from Mark Power, lawyer specializing in language rights

CBC/Radio-Canada has indicated that it is not granting interviews at this time in reaction to the Office's investigations.

We have been contacted by the commissioner and are ready to help him in his work, she clarified in writing, adding that she complies with the Official Languages ​​Act.

We are particularly aware of the importance of Radio-Canada and CBC in official language minority communities across the country, assured the Crown corporation. It is still too early to talk about reductions in different sectors. Our objective is to minimize the impacts on the services we offer to the Canadian population and to position ourselves well for the future.

Even if it does not does not want to sound the alarm too quickly, the president of the Federation of Francophone and Acadian Communities (FCFA) of Canada, Liane Roy, is concerned by the December announcement.

Reason why the FCFA requested a meeting with the president and CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada, Catherine Tait.

What we wanted to ensure was that at the level regions, all these services remain intact.

A quote from Liane Roy, president of the Federation of Francophone and Acadian Communities of Canada

To After this meeting last Thursday, Ms. Roy spoke of a good meeting.

We don't know exactly what cuts will happen, but it's important to remember that our radio, our state television, have requirements in relation to the new Official Languages ​​Act and [must ] meet these requirements.

The president of the FCFA recalls in particular that under the law, the CBC/Radio-Canada company must consult the official language communities if the plans envisaged risk having a negative impact on them.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">If her organization has not filed a complaint with the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, Ms. Roy considers the approach interesting. She is also counting on the Liberal government to ensure that CBC/Radio-Canada meets its obligations.

The government must do its job to ensure that this law is followed, explained the president of the organization representing Francophones in a minority context.

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The president of the Federation of Francophone and Acadian Communities of Canada (FCFA), Liane Roy

The office of the Minister of Official Languages, Randy Boissonnault, does not had not responded to an interview request at the time of publishing this text.

For its part, the team of the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Pascale St-Onge, returned the ball to CBC/Radio-Canada, indicating that it is up to each Crown corporation to ensure that languages ​​are respected official.

Mr. Power points out, however, that it is the government's responsibility to ensure that federal institutions respect the Act. He also adds that a threat could weigh on the state-owned company in the event of non-compliance with its obligations.

The new Official Languages ​​Act calls on the federal court and independent judges to intervene, and I want to think that the judicial system will be there if – and when – the senior management of Radio -Canada/CBC does not do its homework.

Ms. Tait will be heard by the standing committee on Canadian heritage on Tuesday to answer questions on cuts within CBC/Radio-Canada.

With information from Rebecca Kwan

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