Commissioner’s Blog

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François Boileau
French Language Services Commissioner

Retirement of Commissioner Katherine d’Entremont

We learned last week that the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, Ms. Katherine d’Entremont, is planning to retire in July.

I have had the pleasure of collaborating with her since her appointment in 2013. Indeed, a few months after she took office, Access to Justice in Both Official Languages: Improving the Bilingual Capacity of the Superior Court Judiciary was published. She jumped in with both feet and worked extensively with my office and the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada (in the days of Mr. Graham Fraser).

We also worked on a regular basis on other files, such as the active offer of French language services, Francophone immigration, and French language services in general.

We are also members of the International Association of Language Commissioners, of which I am very proud!

We also spoke out in a common voice on a number of occasions to promote an increase in Francophone immigration outside Quebec, in particular by calling for a concrete action plan to obtain tangible results.

Our situations are certainly different, but we share the same passion for our respective mandates. We were able to observe her exceptional contribution to promoting the development of members of both of New Brunswick’s official language communities throughout her professional career. Through her numerous investigations and her actions, she demonstrated how seriously she took her position as Commissioner of Official Languages. When there was a language-related injustice, she and her team intervened as quickly as possible to condemn it.

Dear colleague, I hope that you enjoy this well-deserved retirement, and know that I am happy and privileged to have had the opportunity to work with you over the last five years.

A “grande dame” of the Francophone community retires

For over 30 years, Jocelyne Samson has dedicated body and soul to the Ontario Public Service, and more specifically its Francophone clientele. The time has come for her to return to good health and focus a little on herself and her family.

When Jocelyne was hired at the Office of the Commissioner in February 2008, after I called her to offer her the position, she was the one who interviewed me! She did not want to work for someone who was not committed to the development of Ontario’s Francophone community. I hope I have not been too much of a disappointment to her! To me, however, that anecdote spoke volumes about her strong personality: if she could talk to her future employer that way, I knew that she would never hesitate to voice her opinion, and the bonus was that she would not have accepted responses submitted by ministries that were not really interested in finding long-term solutions for complainants. In fact, she often used the word “deplorable” to describe what ministries and other government agencies did or did not do.

Speaking of complainants, I have yet to meet a single person who did not have great things to say about Jocelyne’s work. She is indefatigable – I had to persuade her not to write to complainants on the weekend (so she would mischievously send out a series of ready-made emails at 7:00 Monday morning). She is a hard bargainer – she quickly gained a reputation among our government partners for proving that the Office of the Commissioner was not here just for window dressing. She is irreproachable – the quality of her work spoke for itself. For a long time, she was the only person at the Office of the Commissioner who handled investigations, and still, complainants were always kept abreast of the results of our investigations.

I also want to highlight Jocelyne’s high ethical standards, her strength of character, her convictions, her passion as a communicator, her unwavering commitment to the Franco-Ontarian community, and her deep affection for the Office of the Commissioner.

The one thing I can think of to say is little indeed to describe Jocelyne’s contribution to the success of the Office of the Commissioner, but I will take my chances: thank you.

Jocelyne, I wish you a very long and unbelievably well-deserved retirement. Most importantly, may you have good health and let your family and friends pamper you now.

 

 

Passing of M. Noble Villeneuve

We are saddened to learn of the passing of Mr. Noble Villeneuve. He was 79 years old.

Mr. Villeneuve served as MPP for the riding of Stormont–Dundas–Glengarry and East Grenville. In his long political career, he held the cabinet positions of Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs from 1995 to 1999.

On behalf of the team at the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner, we extend our most sincere condolences to his family, friends and loved ones.

Looking back on the 2017 congress of the Assemblée de la Francophonie de l’Ontario (AFO)

I’m taking advantage of a #ThrowbackThursday to reminisce about my weekend at the congress of the Assemblée de la francophonie de l’Ontario (AFO) on October 28, 29 and 30. Once again, it was a weekend full of reunions and discussions on topics that are important to Ontario’s Francophones and Francophiles.

During my stay in Ottawa, I participated as a panellist in the workshop on revision of the Act. Many people are already taking part in the debate. I presented once again the recommendations I made in my 2015-2016 annual report regarding a modernized French Language Services Act. Other groups are also demanding an amended Act, in some cases going even a bit further than what I recommended. That’s a good thing: the debate is well and truly joined.

In the evening, we were treated to a lovely reception plus a comedy show. Several good young comedians are clearly ready for the big time. And laughter was just what the doctor ordered for the delegates.

Saturday’s AFO awards ceremony was another great success. A wonderful evening in an enchanting setting surrounded by planes and helicopters of yesteryear. I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate the award recipients:

  • Linda Cardinal: Pillar of the Francophonie Award
  • Fédération de la jeunesse franco-ontarienne, Regroupement des étudiants franco-ontariens and Association des communautés francophones d’Ottawa (FESFO-RÉFO-ACFO Ottawa): Franco-Ontarian Horizon Award
  • Tréva Cousineau: Florent Lalonde Award

You’ve made a great contribution to the Francophonie over many years, and you’ve left your mark on it in a very special way in the past year. The ceremony was an excellent way of honouring the recipients and all those who were nominated.

I’d also like to express my gratitude and deepest appreciation to the AFO for the special ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the Commissioner’s Office. I will remember the sage advice of AFO president Carol Jolin, who encouraged us to continue working with the community and to ensure the continuation and improvement of French-language services across the province.

The unveiling of the very beautiful drawing touched me deeply. It’s certainly a fine representation of the first 10 years of the Commissioner’s Office.

 

 

 

What’s new in immigration?

The issue of immigration has generated much debate in the last few weeks, and I don’t think I’ve provided you with an update on the subject in a while.

I was recently invited to give the closing remarks at the forum of the Central-Southwestern Francophone Immigration Support Network, and I believe that the message I delivered was clear. The province of Ontario cannot achieve its Francophone immigration target without the federal government’s leadership and commitment. In fact, the two levels of government have signed an agreement, and this is a step in the right direction. As part of the Canada-Ontario Immigration Agreement, a specific Annex on Francophone immigration is under development with a goal of unveiling the annex next March and which, I hope I can believe, will clearly state that the 5% target for Francophone immigration to Ontario will be incorporated into all categories of federal and provincial immigration programs.

One of the objectives listed in Annex A to the Canada-Ontario Immigration Agreement is that the governments want “To increase the number of French-Speaking Immigrants to Ontario.” This annex is specific to the Provincial Nominee Program, which gives the province an important role in selecting its immigrants on the basis of its labour market needs.

The Provincial Nominee Program lets the provinces create sub-classes based on their needs. This is what Ontario did when it created its Express Entry French-Speaking Skilled Worker Stream, which is for French-speaking skilled workers who are proficient in English and want to live and work permanently in Ontario. This stream enables the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program to nominate individuals who have the required education, skilled work experience, language ability, and other characteristics to help them settle successfully in Ontario and integrate into the province’s labour market and communities. Applicants must, of course, be eligible for the federal Express Entry pool.

The agreement between the two levels of government provides for a number of evaluation and accountability measures. This is an excellent opportunity for the Commissioner’s Office to monitor the efforts and initiatives undertaken by the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration of Ontario (MCI) to achieve its target, and to ask the Ministry questions about it.

 

What’s happening at MCI?

We are continuing to work with the Ministry. A hot topic is the U.S. government’s recent announcement that it was terminating the Temporary Protected Status granted to many immigrants, including Haitians, in the United States. Many Francophone community leaders have stated that the new flow of immigrants would be an opportunity for Ontario to pursue its Francophone immigration target. I certainly plan to pay close attention to this issue over the next few months. That said, it’s important to remember that the rules regarding refugee claimants continue to apply and that many of them do not satisfy all the refugee criteria.

So while we understand that the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration is ready to support an influx of Haitian refugee claimants should one materialize in Ontario, the ministry emphasizes that entry into the country is clearly defined by federal legislation and criteria; and that prospective refugee claimants need to be mindful of the legal means for entering the country.

There will be many important discussions in 2018. Of particular interest to me is the establishment of a pilot project called Destination Ontario francophone in Algeria and Morocco. It’s a promising step. In March 2018, Ontario will host the second Ministerial Forum on Francophone Immigration  to follow up on the one held recently in Moncton.

A member of the investigations team, Élisabeth Arcila, travelled to Timmins to attend the provincial forum of the Francophone Immigration Support Networks. Francophone organizations made a number of observations. They complained that Anglophone organizations were not referring newcomers to Francophone networks. It would also appear that we are missing opportunities to provide proper orientation for French-speaking newcomers when they arrive at Canadian airports.

There is good news from the Mobilité francophone program. Some 955 applications for residence have been approved. In the Express Entry pool, about 3.9% of those invited to apply for permanent residence are French-speaking. In addition, MCI has a new team responsible for Francophone immigration, internal coordination and coordination of the federal-provincial relationship for the purposes of developing and implementing the announced measures.

There are a lot of new developments concerning immigration, but much follow-up will have to be done over the next few months and we look forward to continuing to follow these developments closely.

Forum on French-language health services

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the forum on French-language health services organized by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC). Those present included not only the Minister, though he was there only to kick off the discussions, but also senior managers of the MOHLTC and the Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs), the French Language Health Planning Entities, and the members of the French Language Health Services Advisory Council. It was only the second time such a forum has been held (the last one was in 2014). One of the good things to come out of the meeting was certainly Minister Hoskins’s commitment to make the forum an annual event.

At the meeting, everyone was brought up to date on the latest regulatory changes (Regulation 515/09), and an effort was made to renew the relationship between the LHINs and Planning Entities and focus on the common goal of improving access to French-language health services. It is important to work together to assist Francophones who do not have equitable access to French-language health services in their area and are unable to find out which health service providers or professionals might help them and where they are located. In my brief talk, I attempted to address these particular issues. It is important to bear in mind that the LHINs have been around for just 11 years, and the Entities 7 years. That is not very long, but it is well past time to stop ignoring the mistakes that have been made for so many years. The key word is “collaboration.” The intent of the amendments made in the Regulation is clearly to ensure that the Entities are seen as the LHINs’ partners, and not as mere subordinates.

What’s more, the MOHLTC has published a new guide on French-language health services requirements and obligations. The guide is extremely well designed, and I am very hopeful that it will help all those who were not present at this important meeting to better understand the roles and responsibilities of all parties in the health system and the need to truly focus on integration and collaboration as they go about their work. I have been told the Guide will be available on the MOHTLC website soon.