Treasury Board rejects ‘blanket exemption’ idea for official language requirements

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The Treasury Board is rejecting an idea pitched by some Indigenous public servants to offer “blanket exemptions” from having to learn both of Canada’s official languages.

A briefing note released to The Canadian Press under federal Access-to-Information from last fall shows senior officials deliberating over the exemption call coming from some members of the Indigenous Federal Employees Network.

Senior bureaucrats flagged a “growing tension” between Indigenous languages and official languages of French and English for some Indigenous employees.


The possible solutions suggested in the note include offering Indigenous language training to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous public servants, as well as potential exemptions if someone could speak an Indigenous language.

The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat says in a statement it’s working with partners to explore options to address barriers public servants face in advancing their careers, “but a blanket exemption from official languages is not one.”

A spokesperson says the government “will never change the principle of bilingualism in the public service.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 18, 2022.

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