MONTREAL – All it would take is a phone call to Quebec’s language watchdog for Montreal’s bus and métro authority to be able to require bilingualism among more employees, Jean-Francois Lisée says.


Contradicting statements by the Société de transport de Montréal, the provincial minister responsible for anglophones said the STM has never actually asked for help from the Office québécois de la langue française in interpreting Bill 101.


The Gazette recently revealed that the STM’s policy of not requiring bilingualism among bus drivers and métro ticket takers is in sharp contrast to requirements for such workers at Montreal’s commuter train authority.


The Agence métropolitain de transport compels all employees who deal with the public to be bilingual.


On CJAD’s Tommy Schnurmacher show Friday, Lisée was asked to tell the STM to follow the AMT’s lead and make bilingualism a requirement for bus drivers and métro ticket takers.


“STM, are you listening?” Lisée said. “It’s OK, when you make the case that you have employees in areas where part of the clientele will be anglophone, they are in contact with anglophones.


“Simply call the (OQLF) and you will be able to hire bilingual employees in some of these places.”


Christine Fréchette, a spokesperson for Lisée, said the minister was not available to speak to The Gazette on Friday. She said he stood by his statements.


In response to a Gazette access-to-information after the STM-AMT contradiction emerged, the STM this month said it had not sought legal advice internally or from outside lawyers on how to interpret Article 46 of Bill 101.


The STM requires only a small number of employees to be bilingual, including those who work at its information booth and call centre.


Article 46 says an employer cannot require employees to have knowledge of a language other than French. However, the law provides for exceptions.


Article 46 states: “An employer is prohibited from making the obtaining of an employment or office dependent upon the knowledge or a specific level of knowledge of a language other than the official language, unless the nature of the duties requires such knowledge.”


After The Gazette published an article about the STM’s access response, the STM backtracked, saying it had internal legal opinions based on jurisprudence and exchanges with the OQLF.


Lisée indicated that’s not true.


“I discussed that with Diane De Courcy, who is the minister in charge of language, and I said you know the difference is real between the two (the STM and the AMT), what gives here?” Lisée said. “And she said, they never asked. The STM never made a request.


“Now, it seems that (the STM has) internal legal advice that tells them that they can’t, but they never tested that with (OQLF).


“Obviously, the general rule is you have to make the demonstration that bilingualism is needed but it’s needed in very many cases in Montreal both for the clientele – either local (anglophones) and tourists – and for the fact that suppliers in the rest of North American and a number of clients are anglophones.”


Last year, there were several high-profile altercations between English-speaking passengers and STM employees, including a métro ticket taker who allegedly assaulted a customer in October. (Montreal police say that case is still being investigated.)


Lisée said he expects language incidents to decline.


“The point is becoming a bit moot because every new cohort of young francos and young anglos are bilingual and certainly bilingual enough to sell subway tickets.,” Lisée said


This week, The Gazette filed an appeal with Quebec’s Access to Information Commission over the STM’s response to the request for legal documents pertaining to the interpretation of Bill 101.




© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette



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In my opinion:

Concrete, practice and reasonable gestures, such as this one, from Minister J-F Lisée, will gain much more traction in the English-speaking community than wasting $20,000 on a rap song to build bridges.