In 1992, the Manitoba legislature amended the former City of Winnipeg Act to make English and French the official languages and to guarantee the delivery of services in French in certain designated areas. Those provisions were expanded in 2003 when Part IX of The City of Winnipeg Charter came into force and, on the municipality’s part, when By-law No. 8154-2002 for the provision of municipal services in both official languages came into force.
The Charter guarantees the active offer and delivery of municipal services in French of “comparable” quality to those available in English in the “designated area” of the Riel Community, which includes Saint-Boniface, Saint-Vital and South Winnipeg – Saint-Norbert Wards.
The Charter governs the use of the official languages in relation to the city council and its committees, communication, signs, and services. The Charter also requires that the City adopt an implementing by-law and appoint a French language services coordinator to enforce its language obligations. By-law No. 8154/2002 states the specific services that French-speaking Winnipeggers may receive from the various departments in the designated areas.
There are two language complaint mechanisms that apply to the City of Winnipeg: the French Language Services Division and the Manitoba Ombudsman, with the two mechanisms operating parallel to each other. As a result, it is not necessary to file a complaint with the French Language Services Division before going to the Ombudsman, although it is generally more effective to exhaust the internal remedies before exercising external recourses.
1. French Language Services Division (FLSD)
The FLSD ensures that the City of Winnipeg’s obligations in respect of services in French are implemented. It coordinates, supervises and monitors the delivery of services in French in accordance with the Charter and By-law No. 8154/2002. It receives complaints from the public concerning services in French and works with the various departments to respond to them. A language complaint can be submitted to the FLSD:
2. Manitoba Ombudsman
Under the Charter, anyone who believes that the City is not in compliance with its language obligations may file a complaint with the Ombudsman by completing the prescribed form and submitting it to the Ombudsman:
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