Meet the real champions of Canada’s official languages

osez2Did you know that in federal government offices, true champions of official languages exist? These champions are mandated to promote linguistic duality as personal and organizational values. In other words, they do everything in their power to ensure that French and English are used to their full potential in our government organizations.

To learn more about these champions, my colleague Philippe has shared a summary of his recent discussion with Donna Achimov, the CEO of the Translation Bureau and Board Chair of the Council of the Network of Official Languages ??Champions.

What is the Council of the Network of Official Languages ??Champions?

"The Council gives a voice to community champions and co-champions for official languages. Deputy heads are required to appoint champions in their organization. In the past, it was a little volunteer role, but now it is more formal."

The role of the official languages ??champion was included in the Policy on Official Languages ??that came into effect on November 19th, 2012. This policy states that deputy heads must establish an appropriate governance structure [with respect to Official Languages.]

What are the official languages ??champions?

Champions are like consultants that give management teams and deputy ministers tips and ideas about ways to improve the use of both official languages ??in government organizations. They support deputy heads in the development of an integrated vision of the Official Languages ??Program, the promotion of official languages, ??and objective consideration of official languages ??in the decision-making process.

"I myself am a co-champion in my department. My task is to work closely with our management team to ensure that our young talent is prepared for managerial or executive positions, and that we’re prepared to invest in language training," said Mme. Achimov.

Are the actions of the official languages ??champions specifically targeted to minority communities?

"Of course, there are departments that have a very focused mandate on official language minority communities, and the Network of Official Languages ??Champions is a good way to see how they work in a culture that embraces both languages. I think this is a great way to have a positive influence that isn’t threatening. The trend in several departments and organizations is to appoint co-champions: a person from elsewhere in the country and another in the area of ??the national capital. This gives a different perspective on different regions of Canada, and allows us to have a more concrete influence."

What do you think is the importance of linguistic duality in the public service?

"The first word that comes to mind is respect. Linguistic duality is a way to manage and engage employees or clients with respect for each other. It’s also a question of courtesy when you have a discussion with colleagues. If we want to create an innovative work environment that enables the sharing of ideas, it’s necessary that people can express themselves and be understood in the language of their choice. When we can speak more easily, it seems that ideas are better communicated."

What remains to be done to advance the issues of official languages ??in the public service?

"Honestly, a lot of money has been injected into language training for government employees to achieve necessary levels, but we need more focus on maintaining these language skills. In some jobs, it is mandatory to maintain quality standards. I think, for example, of engineers who must meet certain standards to maintain their certification. Why not have the same rigor for language skills? It is a great challenge that will require a cultural shift, and it’s the role of our champions to encourage best practices in departments, agencies and Crown corporations."

To learn more about the Council of the Network of Official Languages ??Champions, visit the website, Osez! Dare!