Fantino’s office claims document on English-only correspondence was altered

OTTAWA – The office of International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino claims an email it sent staff urging that all correspondence in his name be in English was subsequently altered.

However, a source who provided the email to The Canadian Press vows no changes were made to the document before it was given to the news agency.

On Sunday, The Canadian Press reported that employees of the Canadian International Development Agency got two separate directives — one verbal and one written — that all correspondence from the minister should be in English.

Both directives were later abandoned after they were questioned but the New Democrats filed a complaint with the office of the Official Languages Commissioner, who agreed to investigate. The NDP argues the orders may have violated the Official Languages Act.

Included in the complaint was an email from a ministerial staff member in February which stated, “I would like to reiterate that ALL correspondence signed by the minister be sent in English.”

Fantino’s office says the concluding words to the email — “for review” — are missing.

A request to Fantino’s office for a copy of what it says was the original email was turned down for privacy reasons.

The source, who spoke to the news agency on condition of anonymity, rejected charges of a change in wording.

“No alteration of the message,” said the source, who claimed to have nothing to gain by doing such a thing. “The messages are all authentic and intact.”

The Feb. 14 message, which resurrected the directive, says Fantino is within his rights under the Official Languages Act to communicate in English but acknowledged an exception where French could be used.

“In special cases, ie (Haitian Prime Minister Laurent) Lamothe, then it makes sense, but for example, for the Ethiopia trip thank you letters to staff, we noted twice that we had some in FR (French). I understand that we know the recipients first language is French however the minister can write in English if he chooses to do so.’”

On Monday, The Canadian Press obtained an earlier email dated July 11, 2012, that was a written by a manager to some employees at CIDA.

That email listed seven instructions for ministerial correspondence that had been discussed at a previous meeting.

The fourth point, which was written in English, stated, “Unless we hear otherwise, all letters are to be in English to be signed off.”

That directive was amended after it was questioned internally.

“As we discussed earlier, there has been a change to item 4,” the same manager wrote in a July 19 email. “Please respond to correspondence in the language they were received — obviously this is limited to French or English.”

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