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Quebec man awarded $1,500 due to English-only water fountain

Federal courts have sided in favour of a man’s request for compensation due to an English-only water fountain.

Roberto Wakerell-Cruz Montreal QC

Federal courts have sided in favour of a Montreal man’s request for compensation following a complaint regarding an English-language water fountain on Parliament Hill.

The ruling given Thursday by Federal Court Justice Luc Martineau agreed that the Senate of Canada did not meet their required obligations under the Languages Act of Canada due to the water fountain’s metal buttons only having the word “PUSH” without the French “POUSSEZ”.

Though some fountains did have braille on them, none had the French word, prompting Michel Thibodeau to file a complaint against the Senate.

Thibodeau has worked as a public servant on Parliament hill since 1997.

“I felt like a second-class citizen compared to Anglophones, who had signage in the language of choice,” said Thibodeau to CTV News.

Signs with the text   “To activate the water fountain, please push the button” and “Pour activer la fontaine d’eau veuillez appuyer sur le bouton” have since been installed above drinking fountains.

The acting clerk of Senate, Richard Denis, even sent Thibodeau a letter of praise, thanking him for his actions while also expressing “since regret.”

Despite the additional signage added to the fountains, Judge Martineau agreed that they were too little, too late, agreeing with Thibodeau’s complaints that there was “no reason to complain if a bilingual self-adhesive label with the words ‘push’ and ‘poussez’ was placed on the button of each unilingual fountain or if the English word ‘push’ was covered up with a thick enough self-adhesive label.”

Thibodeau was awarded $1,500 in damages and his $700 court costs were covered.

This isn’t the first time Thibodeau has sued over his language rights being violated. Last August, he and his wife were awarded $21,000 in a lawsuit against Air Canada because the arlines emergency exit door signs were only in English or the English font was larger than the French font. The couple also were upset the seatbelts only say “lift”.

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