May 13th 2020
The Honorable Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington St.
Ottawa ON K1A 0A2
Subject: The importance of bilingual communication laws
Mr. Prime Minister,
First, allow me to congratulate you on your wise leadership in guiding Canada through the COVID-19 crisis. Much like myself, all Canadians have become reliant on your daily updates and we listen attentively to your press conferences. I would like to congratulate you, and your team, on the excellent work and impressive accomplishments achieved during this difficult time.
I am writing to you to discuss a hasty decision that was initially made by Health Canada to suspend the obligation of having bilingual labeling on various products that are used to combat COVID-19. During a press conference on April 28th, you mentioned that the reason for this decision was due to an apparent “lack of labour resources and the logistics that are not always available for the importing companies” also stating “we need to balance different vulnerabilities.”
More recently, a news article (https://onfr.tfo.org/etiquetage-bilingue-sante-canada-fait-un-pas-en-arriere/) confirms that Health Canada has “taken a step back” and reversed its decision, confirming that importers will have to adhere to proposed alternatives to provide bilingual information.
On behalf of AILIA and its Canadian Language Service Providers, I still wanted to express how concerning it was to hear of such a decision, which in our view, posed a threat to public safety, with potential long-term implications to the health of the most vulnerable unilingual Canadians who may not understand or misinterpret the labels, their instructions and important hazard warnings.
The message I want to leave with you, Mr. Prime Minister, is that our member companies (79 in total) employ thousands of professional translators, project managers, IT, AI and various other professionals all across the country, to support the language requirements of Canada. Since this pandemic started, and shortly after the stay at home order was announced, our industry immediately stepped up. Each company quickly sent all employees to work remotely, via secured networks, to ensure a safe working environment while maintaining optimal service levels for our clients, most notably the Government of Canada.
Mr. Prime Minister, Canada’s language industry is here to support your efforts in helping our country through this pandemic. Put us to the test, in whatever capacity you deem necessary. We have the capacity, the skills and the know-how to help Health Canada, and any other client, meet their demanding mandates, without cutting corners. There is no need to sacrifice bilingual labeling for the sake of expediting products to market. We can absolutely help with go-to-market strategies, while ensuring timely delivery of all translations in any language. We even suggest expanding the list of languages for those domestic cleaning products which could have potential hazardous health risks to Canadians, who may not speak either official language. Simply put, we are here to help the Government of Canada and support your efforts.
In conclusion, my letter today stems from our passion for our official Canadian languages. By working together, I strongly believe that we will come out of this crisis stronger and more united than ever. I thank you in advance for your time and consideration.
With my sincere respect,
(Association de l'industrie de la langue – Language Industry Association)
CC : Health Minister, Hon. Mrs Patricia A. Hajdu
Public Services and Procurement Minister, Hon. Ms. Anita Anand