French-speaking Hay River residents can look forward to improved French language services through the GNWT in the near future.
A strategic plan for government-offered French language services, a first for the GNWT, was tabled during last Wednesday’s seating of the 17th Legislative Assembly.
“It will be helpful,” said Justin Carey, president of the Association Franco-Culturelle de Hay River.
“When you speak English not as a first language, basic English is OK, but explaining in more detail or giving an opinion can be way harder,”
Carey said situations where non-English speakers need to describe medical symptoms, financial issues, or government forms can be particularly difficult because they require words in English that may not be well-known or used often.
Benoit Boutin, executive director of the Francophone Affairs Secretariat, said the plan clarifies the roles and responsibilities of government, positions within government, the secretariat, the department, and more. He said it will also improve the GNWT’s communication with the public regarding French services that are available.
Within the plan are three frameworks in the areas of administration, operation, and legislation. The administrative framework defines the roles and responsibilities of the GNWT and various positions within it. The operational framework covers the implementation of the strategic plan, including a communication plan and the work of a consultation committee. Finally, the legislative portion includes the Official Languages Acts of both Canada and the NWT.
The Federation Franco-Tenoise was actively involved in the plan’s development. In a press release announcing the tabling of the strategic plan, Richard Letourneau, president of the federation, stated the plan is “the result of a straightforward negotiation process” and called it a “noteworthy achievement in the history of the relationship between the GNWT and the Federation Franco-Tenoise.”
Boutin said the secretariat, which provides the GNWT with advice and support on French language services, wasn’t starting from square one with this plan and a large portion of the work was about clarifying and communicating the French services which already exist.
“We don’t start from scratch,” he said. “We already translate about one million words per year.”
Boutin’s figure includes translation work done on departmental brochures, acts, regulations, and territorial government websites.
Boutin said the plan is finalized and will now in the implementation stage.
– Lyndsay Herman