2016-2017 Annual Report of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

Having read the annual report of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada, I think a number of points are worth noting, because the progress made and the recommendations put forward have real consequences for official language minority communities.

The October report on early childhood called for additional investment for linguistic minorities and recommended that a Francophone component be specifically included in the national framework.

On the legal front, following our joint report on access to justice in both official languages in 2015, the federal government changed its nomination process for superior court judges to improve the courts’ bilingual capacity. “The new process will include more specific questions about language skills on the nomination form. It will also make it possible to assess candidates’ language skills objectively.”

Also of interest is the fact that the Court Challenges Program was not only reinstated but also modernized, as its scope was expanded to include all laws with language obligations.

I applaud the OCOL’s desire to revise the official languages regulations, in conjunction with Treasury Board, to achieve, among other things, substantive equality in official language services.

The OCOL also submitted a report to Parliament on the need to clarify the language obligations regarding the publication of federal court decisions simultaneously in both languages.

The OCOL pointed out the importance of revising the Directive on Official Languages for People Management to raise the language requirements for supervisors. We note that a number of institutions, including Shared Services Canada, have adopted these new requirements.

The OCOL made recommendations on the cost, accessibility and availability of language tests administered by third parties on behalf of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. However, these issues have not yet been resolved.

Also worth mentioning are two useful tools developed by the OCOL: a guide to help managers identify candidates who need to demonstrate proficiency in both languages, and a guide to promote the active offer of service in both official languages.

Congratulations to my colleague Ghislaine Saikaley, Interim Commissioner of Official Languages, on her excellent work and her successful and widely recognized stewardship in challenging times.

You can read the full report on the website of the Commissioner’s Office. Publishing the report in electronic form only, with no paper copy, is an excellent move for the environment. Certainly an example we intend to follow in the near future.

In short, a very busy year and some meaningful initiatives.  Bravo!

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