On Monday, The Canadian Press obtained an email dated July 11, 2012, that was a written by a manager to some employees at the Canadian International Development Agency.
The email listed seven instructions for ministerial correspondence which 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.''
The 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.''
Seven months later, the directive was revived by Fantino's office.
"I would like to reiterate that ALL correspondence signed by the minister be sent in English," said the email from Fantino's office on Feb. 14.
"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.'"
Fantino was within his rights to do so under the Official Languages Act, the message noted.
Official Languages Commissioner Graham Fraser has agreed to investigate the matter after a complaint from the New Democrats, who say the order might contravene the Official Languages Act.
A report on Sunday by The Canadian Press about the emails brought a swift denial from Fantino.
"This is categorically false, there was no such directive," he said in an email. "Francophones, like all Canadians will continue to receive letters from the minister in the national language of their choice."
NDP MP Yvon Godin is pushing ahead with the official complaint even though he says civil servants working for Fantino were told verbally last Feb. 22 that people who write to the department in French can receive a response in French.
CIDA officials said the agency and Fantino respect the Official Languages Act.
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