Have you ever used a water fountain or even walked by one and noticed the language used on the push-button? One Montreal-area man did while working in Ottawa and now he's getting money because of it. Language rights in Canada were broken according to Canada's Federal Court. 

The court recently ordered the Senate to pay a Montreal-area man $1,500 in compensation because a water fountain on Parliament Hill had a push-button labelled in English but nothing in French. 

The man, Michel Thibodeau, complained that his language rights were violated by those water fountains without French instructions on them. 

On November 21, Federal Court Justice Luc Martineau ruled in favour of Thibodeau's complaint and that the Senate failed to meet its obligations under the Official Languages Act by only having the English word "push" on water fountains.

The purpose of Canada's Official Languages Act is to "ensure respect for English and French as the official languages of Canada and ensure equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all federal institutions."

Back in 2016, Thibodeau filed his complaint against the Senate about the water fountains after working in different Parliament Hill buildings as a public servant from 1997.

Thibodeau said he felt "like a second-class citizen compared to Anglophones, who had signage in the language of choice" when passing the water fountains in Parliament Hill's East Block.

When someone posted about this on a Canadian subreddit, people were quick to respond with their opinions on the situation. 

One person commented, "if you don't know how a water fountain works, you shouldn't be out."

Another said, "the real question is can I go to Quebec and do this for English? Or can I, a non-French speaker, do the same thing as him in the rest of Canada?"

In 2018, a petition to change highway signs that were in only in French was sent to the Quebec provincial government.

According to Global News, putting English on the signs would have broken language laws. However, because of the petition, the government agreed to change the French-only signs to pictograms.

With Thibodeau, this isn't the first time he has complained about his language rights being violated. Also, this isn't even the first time he got money because of it.

In August 2019, Thibodeau and his wife Lynda were awarded $21,000 because their language rights were violated by Air Canada when emergency exit door signs on the plane were in English only or the English font was larger than the French font and the seatbelts had the word "lift" only.

In 2016, when the water fountain complaint was filed, it was part of 22 complaints filed by the Thibodeaus for offences under the Official Languages Act.


There are stories everywhere. If you spot a newsworthy event in your city, send us a message, photo, or video @NarcityCanada on Twitter and Instagram.


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