The canton of Bern is one of a number of bilingual cantons where both German and French are spoken. However, a legal complaint made there alleging racism was rejected because it was written in French, reported 20 Minutes.
The law in the canton of Bern requires legal complaints be written in the language of the municipality were the complaint is presented, a legal area that is more flexible in other bilingual cantons such as Fribourg and Valais, two other bilingual cantons.
The complaint was lodged by a lawyer in Lausanne on behalf of someone from Vaud for behaviour they considered racist. However, discovering the complaint was written in French, the administration in Ostermundigen in the canton of Bern would not accept the document, which was returned with a letter stating that the official language in the municipality is German. According to the law we are returning the document for improvement, it said.
The policy in Bern is at odds with the bilingual cantons of Valais and Fribourg. In Valais, where 25% of the population speak German and 67% speak French, German and French can be used interchangeably for communicating with the Police and justice department. In Fribourg, where 63% are French speakers and 29% German speakers, the situation is similar to Valais. Although it will be returned if it is written in Italian or Romanche, Switzerland’s other two official languages.
The percentage speaking German (84%) in Bern is far higher than the percentage speaking French (11%), based on data from 2019. The language spread is also clustered geographically. The percentage speaking French was higher before the predominantly French-speaking region broke away and became the canton of Jura in 1979. In the lead up to Jura breaking away, language difference was a political flashpoint.
20 Minutes article (in French) – Take a 5 minute French test now
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