Canada”s official languages commission to investigate Netflix deal


OTTAWA — Canada’s Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages is opening an investigation into the $500-million deal between the Canadian government and Netflix.

Sylvie Lépine, spokesperson for the office, confirmed the news Friday, without specifying what the investigation would focus on. She said the commission had received two complaints about the deal announced in September by Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly.

The deal with the U.S. streaming giant was strongly criticized in Quebec because it did not include a quota on francophone production.

Elsewhere in the country, francophone communities worry that they won’t see their fair share of the $25 million that Netflix has promised for a “development strategy” in the francophone market.

La Presse canadienne confirmed Friday that one of the two complaints specifically concerns this envelope, while the other is about how the $25 million is disbursed and the lack of a francophone quota in the overall $500 million.

François Choquette, New Democratic Party spokesperson for official languages, said he was happy that the bilingualism watchdog has decided to look into the deal, regardless of the parameters of the investigation. He said the deal, “negotiated in secret,” goes against the government’s obligation to promote the country’s two official languages.

“Every time we ask Mélanie Joly for details about Netflix’s obligations when it comes to francophone production, there has been zero response,” he said in a telephone interview.

Joly’s office initially refused to react to the investigation, saying it had no comment. Later Friday, it clarified that Netflix is injecting “a minimum of $500 million over five years … in Canada’s two official languages” and that the $25 million in French-language development will be “for francophone content and production everywhere in the country.”

The commission, whose mandate is to ensure the Official Languages Act is respected and official language minority communities are protected, is led on an interim basis by Ghislaine Saikaley as it awaits a permanent commissioner. Her mandate was extended by six months in June after the controversial departure of former Ontario minister Madeleine Meilleur.

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