I have proudly tabled my 10th annual report to the Legislative Assembly. For the occasion, we thought a retrospective of our actions, and the results achieved in the past decade was in order. Because this report is lengthily, I thought best to offer you an easier read through a number of blog entries that will focus on the main ideas of the report, hot topics regarding French Language Services, and the recommendations.
For this first entry, here is my foreword.
This year, and perhaps just this once, to mark the submission of our tenth annual report, we can congratulate ourselves and give ourselves a pat on the back for the value that the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner has brought to the services available to the people of Ontario over the last decade. We are also taking this opportunity to highlight the important issues that still need our attention and, most importantly, the government’s attention. To that end, we make a total of ten recommendations in this annual report.
I am proud of the systemic impact that the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner has had, and this report shows just how real and significant that impact has been. Worth noting are the new Inclusive Definition of Francophone (IDF), the regulation concerning third parties, and the creation of the French language health planning entities. I am also pleased to see the new mandatory Communications in French Directive, which seems to be bearing fruit, except, perhaps, in social media. We played a key role in bringing more schools to the Greater Toronto Area; we reopened discussion of the French-language programs available at the postsecondary level; and we signed numerous memoranda of understanding, including with our federal colleagues and the Law Society of Upper Canada, something I am very proud of. At the same time, the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner secured its independence from the government, and will now report directly to the Legislative Assembly — an important milestone. We are also founding members of the International Association of Language Commissioners (IALC), which gives us an opportunity to exchange best practices with colleagues around the globe. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my former colleague Graham Fraser, the Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada, for both his contribution and his invaluable support throughout his term in office.
What I am most proud of, however, is our ability to respond quickly to complaints from the most disadvantaged members of our society: a mother of two unilingual children does not have to add to the stress on her entire family because the social worker assigned to her does not understand French; a person caught up in a justice system that does not offer him the services in French to which he is entitled can ask our office for help, knowing that we will take prompt action; and a patient who does not understand the nature of his interactions with medical personnel immediately gets our full attention.
We have had no shortage of things to keep us busy over the last year. First, the office moved. We have physically separated from the government and our email address has also changed (email@example.com). Our new offices, located near Queen’s Park, are modern, functional and inviting. The large Albert Roy conference room is also open to any community organization that would like the use of a multipurpose room with the best of modern technology. We are very proud to be able to provide the community with this additional option.
The Office of the French Language Services Commissioner has hired no fewer than seven new staff members, taking us from six to 14 employees in just two years, a great accomplishment. Also worth noting is that eight of our employees were not born in Canada, making our seven-man — seven-woman office amazingly representative of Ontario society.
I am also proud to report that we have cleared the entire backlog of certain complaints that had built up over the years. We have implemented a new procedure for processing complaints that is simple and effective and allows for collaboration with the various ministries and other government bodies consulted during the process. The Office of the French Language Services Commissioner is (finally!) in the process of creating a proper database, which will allow us to take effective action and maintain the ties we have worked hard to establish.
We will now be able to be more proactive, rather than reactive. Incidentally, we are currently putting the finishing touches on our strategic plan for the next three years, and I will be pleased to outline it when it is ready. The public has seen our proactive involvement on important issues like Bill 41, the Patients First Act, and Bill 89, which reformed children’s aid societies. These are two concrete examples of how we intend to be more involved in preventing problems before they arise, rather than reacting to them once they occur.
None of this would have been possible without the full support of the Legislative Assembly, and in particular the Board of Internal Economy, which is responsible for all officers’ operating budgets. We could not have achieved all of this progress without the unwavering support of the Ontario Public Service — the deputy ministers responsible for implementing the French Language Services Act (FLSA), the Chief Administrative Officers, the French Language Services Cluster Managers and Coordinators, and all of the other public servants who serve the Ontario public every day to the full extent of their resources and with integrity and respect.
The members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) also deserve special recognition. They had no obligation to enact a French language services law, let alone appoint an independent commissioner with responsibility for overseeing the administration of that law. Our MLAs do not always get the credit they are due. In this report, I would like to pay tribute to the Honourable Madeleine Meilleur, who has played an important role and whose example has shown generations of young women what it means to take “our place.” One factor that has contributed to the significant progress is the active listening by the government. We do not always agree, and we often have to revisit issues, but in politics, the art of the possible can be practiced only where the opportunity presents itself. I must also extend hearty thanks to not only the current government but also the opposition for their excellent contributions, which have often helped us to move forward.
The Office of the French Language Services Commissioner has never been the work of just one person. It is thanks to the entire team that we have built a solid and credible reputation and are seen as sometimes bold, but always pragmatic, and striving, first and foremost, to make a real difference in people’s lives. We have always been fortunate to have with us people who are passionate, motivated and extremely competent. The present team is no different, although I would add that it is stronger than ever. Special thanks go to our Executive Director, Jean-Gilles Pelletier, for a very productive year. Thanks too to Mary Jane, Hermann, Touria, Elisabeth, Mélina, Joseph and Yves-Francis for choosing to work with us. They have joined Anne, Mohamed, Jocelyne, Yves-Gérard and Marta, and together, we are the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner team. I am indeed fortunate!
As we are celebrating our tenth anniversary, I would also like to thank my former colleagues, Marie-Eve, Claude, Madelina, Guyla, Simon, François-Michel, Alison, Sorinna and Kim, who worked at the Office over the last decade. As well, I thank all the interns and students for their often invaluable contributions.
Finally, I would like to extend well-deserved thanks to the people of Ontario. Without your complaints, your trust and your unwavering support, we could not do our work as effectively or, most importantly, as passionately. You motivate us every day, and we are all grateful to you. Keep requesting services in French and constantly innovating, and never hesitate to call on us. Thank you.