Languages commissioner says Energy East documents in English will spark complaints

OTTAWA – Canada’s official languages commissioner says he expects complaints galore because of the predominantly English-only documents TransCanada has given the National Energy Board on Energy East.

TransCanada (TSX:TRP) says it will translate the filing within the next month but Graham Fraser said Thursday he believes all Canadians should be able to understand the details of such a project.

“I believe very strongly that citizens need to have access to critical information that affects where they live, in the language of their choice,” Fraser told a news conference as he tabled his annual report.

Earlier in the week, TransCanada gave the National Energy Board 39,000 pages outlining details of the controversial pipeline project.

They were almost exclusively in English and some environmental groups complained that francophones will have less time to study the proposal even if it is translated within a month.

Fraser said he expects a backlash against the unilingual documents.

“I have the strong impression this will lead to complaints,” he said.

While Fraser did not wish to comment extensively on the matter because it could possibly end up in his office, he said everybody needs to understand the consultations involved in such projects.

“It’s extremely important that if we engage in a process of consultation, that all Canadians have access to the proposed information in their language of choice,” he said.

Heritage Minister Melanie Joly, who is also responsible for official languages, said she would study the issue with Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr.

Energy East is a 4,500-kilometre pipeline that would carry 1.1 million barrels of oil a day from Alberta and Saskatchewan into New Brunswick for overseas shipping.

More than 600 kilometres of the pipeline would pass through Quebec.

The cost of the pipeline is estimated at $15.7 billion, which doesn’t count the existing pipeline assets that would be converted for use in Energy East.

Fraser’s comments came after he tabled his 10th and final report as official languages commissioner.

The report found that Canadians who want court hearings in the language of their choice often face barriers when it comes to gaining access to justice.

It called for an improvement in the bilingual capacity of the judiciary, something he found lacking in much of the country.

The commissioner’s office received a total of 725 complaints in 2015-16, an increase of 175 over the previous year. More than 85 per cent of them came from francophones.

Fraser will officially leave his post in October after 10 years on the job. He was given a seven-year mandate in October 2006 and was reappointed in 2013 for three more years.