Ottawa Businesses to Get 'Secret' French Language Test

Secret shoppers are being sent out across Ottawa to see whether the capital of this officially bilingual nation is in fact offering equal service in both English and French.

Canada’s language commissioner Graham Fraser is dispatching the shoppers to restaurants, hotels and stores across Ottawa next month. Graham said he wants to know how French visitors experience the capital region at various destinations and businesses including museums, Parliament Hill and the airport.

“I find it’s easier to get an English menu in Barcelona than it is to get a French menu in Ottawa,” Fraser told CTV News on Saturday.

With four million Canadians who self-identify as Francophone, Graham said it makes strong business sense for Ottawa to attract and keep French-speaking Canucks.

“Americans aren’t coming to Canada as often as they used to the in the past,” Fraser told CTV News Channel in an interview on Friday, blaming the strong Canadian dollar and the weak American economy for the decline in visits from south of the border.

The secret checks are slated to start on August 22, and continue until the end of September. Fraser said that his office doesn’t have the authority to punish private businesses who don’t offer service in French. The post office already uses mystery shoppers to test its outlets and Service Canada will be soon putting 13 programs to the test with secret shoppers.

About a thousand Service Canada kiosks across the country will be visited by the undercover shoppers to test how agents handle customer questions on issues such as employment insurance, old age pension and passport applications.

Taken from 30.07.11