Caught up in a legal labyrinth for several years, a Francophone employee of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is trying to have it recognized that he was the victim of linguistic discrimination because of his imperfect command of English, but has just been caught another setback from the Federal Court.
After years of fighting in court, Éric Frémy has just been dismissed by a decision rendered on May 20.
Mr. Frémy has been trapped in this legal maze since 2013, when his boss decided to assign him to administrative tasks because of his level of English.
After being “forced” to resign, he then asked for the cancellation of his decision, which was refused. He later won his case in 2019, when the national police lost their appeal in court.
“I am an RCMP employee, but I have no duties [depuis la réintégration]“, he explained.
However, the man assures that he obtained an intermediate level in his second language evaluation carried out at the RCMP, which should “allow him to work in the federal administration”.
In a dead end
Éric Frémy has tried everything. Formal notice from the RCMP Commissioner, complaint for linguistic discrimination to the Official Languages Commission, appeal to the union, but no recourse is possible.
And while National Police Commissioner Brenda Lucki indicated in a letter sent in May 2021 that he should indeed have a position, nothing has changed since.
Same story on the side of the Commissioner of Official Languages, who acknowledged “that the applicant suffered discrimination from his employer while he was stationed in British Columbia” in a report issued in January 2021 .
However, no recommendation was made since the employee had been reinstated as a member of the police force.
“There is no body that is able to overturn the decision of the RCMP, because the administration has full powers [sur les questions de langue]“, he underlined.
“Not the same protection” for French speakers
Judging that he had been the victim of an “unlawful dismissal”, the Francophone recently pleaded that the RCMP refused him recognition of his 12 years of seniority, to pay him retroactively the lost salary, to update his pension and to give him a “suitable” position. However, financial compensation was paid.
Assuring that he had “not had the right to the same protection of the law as his English-speaking colleagues”, Mr. Frémy therefore claimed punitive damages in the amount of $210,000.
A request that was rejected by Associate Chief Justice of the Federal Court, Jocelyne Gagné, who also ordered him to pay $500 in costs.
According to her, the Charter protects certain individual language rights, “but none of these language rights is at issue in the proceedings”.
With regard to the Official Languages Act, sections 39 and 62 “must be considered as ‘declarations of the Government of Canada’s commitment’ and not as sources of obligation for the government”.
“Francophones have no protection in Canada. There is no way to ask for compensation for having been discriminated against for the language”, reacted Mr. Frémy in an interview with the QMI Agency.
A fight that is not over
His only option now would be to go to civil court, but he who defends himself alone does not have the means to go to this court. And resigning from the RCMP is not an option for him.
Mr. Frémy does not give up, however.
“I have no intention of letting myself go,” he assured. “I still face discrimination in the RCMP.”
“I challenge anyone to find a legal decision where an English speaker is fired for not speaking French well enough.”
The RCMP had not reacted to the decision at the time of this writing.