Commissioner’s Blog

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François Boileau
French Language Services Commissioner

Today, we’re dissecting the statistics

It’s finally here – the day we’ll be able to examine the first statistics from the 2016 Census. Our team has been studying the figures in detail since this morning so that we can prepare a brief overview of the data. Here are some of the statistics that drew my attention.

Linguistic diversity
The figures don’t lie: 7.7 million people (22% of the Canadian population) reported an immigrant mother tongue. There is no denying that linguistic diversity is growing in Canada. The proportion of the population reporting a third language as their mother tongue increased from 21.3% in 2011 to 22.9% in 2016. A third language is a language other than English or French, which means that non-official languages are growing rapidly in Canada as a whole. As a logical consequence of this trend, the proportion of people who speak more than one language at home rose from 17.5% in 2011 to 19.4% in 2016.

Mother tongue still declining?
According to the data published this morning, the number of Canadians reporting either English or French as their mother tongue is down slightly from 2011. In 2016, 78.9% of the Canadian population had one or both official languages as their mother tongue, compared with 80.2% in 2011 and 82.4% in 2001. In other words, the proportion has been declining since 2001. What does this mean? Yes, linguistic diversity has increased, which could certainly account for part of the trend, but it would be really interesting to dig deeper and identify the other key factors.

A record high for English-French bilingualism!
As we have just celebrated our 150th anniversary, I’m very pleased to see that the linguistic duality is burgeoning, attaining a record 18% in 2016. It’s true that this increase comes from the province of Quebec, but we also see increases in most other provinces and territories as well. In Ontario, the proportion rose from 11% to 11.2%.

French at home
It would appear that we are tending to speak French at home less often. This is reflected in all of the figures for Canada, including Quebec. The proportion of the Canadian population using French at home was 23.3% in 2016, compared with 23.8% in 2011.

On another note, the demographic weight of Canadians outside Quebec who can carry on a conversation in French remained steady in 2016 (10.2% compared with 10.3% in 2011). It is worth noting that the actual number increased by nearly 160,000. It is interesting that these data differ when you look at the figures based on the entire country (including Quebec): the proportion was down slightly (from 30.1% to 29.8%), while the absolute number continued to climb.

What about Francophones outside Quebec?
Another important point. Even though the number of Francophones outside Quebec was up by 14,000 compared with 2011, the proportion declined slightly from 4% in 2011 to 3.8% in 2016 (1,021,310), mainly because of  immigration. Naturally, these trends vary from province to province.

Nevertheless, we see that the number of people in Ontario whose first official language spoken is French was up more than 6,000 (6,795) from 2011, which is a decline from 4.3% to 4.1%. The growth in absolute terms was not accompanied by a percentage increase because of the continued growth of Ontario’s population, due in large part to immigration.

Inclusive Definition of Francophone (IDF)
The data published today do not take the IDF variables into account. As previously noted, this approach, which has been used to count Ontario’s Francophone population since June 2009, is one of the province’s most ambitious measures. This new inclusive definition of “Francophones” reflects the new diversity of Franco-Ontarians, regardless of their place of birth, ethnic background or religion.

In 2011, based on the IDF, the Francophone population was 611,500, or 4.8% of Ontario’s total population. Based on today’s numbers, it is more than likely the new figures based on the IDF from the Ministry of Francophone Affairs will probably see an increase in the number of Francophones in Ontario.

Our infographic
Over the next few days, we will be examining all of the other relevant statistics so that we can provide you with a clearer picture of the use of French in Ontario. Our well-known infographic will be updated to reflect the new data from the 2016 Census as soon as the IDF data become available. In the meantime, you can view the current version on our website.

Tribute to a proud francophone advocate from Northern Ontario

It is with deep sorrow that we have just learned of the passing of Marius Ouellette, whom has lost his fight to cancer at age 79.

The francophone community has lost a great contributor and a very active member. He is one of the founding members of French radio stations in Ontario, took active roles in the Mouvement des Intervenant.e.s en Communication Radio de l’Ontario (MICRO).  He was also active as an administrator with the Assemblée de la francophonie de l’Ontaio (AFO).

He was well known in Northern Ontario, where he worked as a music teacher for many years. Many students got the opportunity to appreciate and benefit from the teachings of this great teacher.  All related to his devotion for the francophone community. Fellow-citizens also saw him in action and enjoyed his talents through the many choir and band shows shows in which he took part.

Mr. Ouellette passed on his love for the Francophonie through the teaching of music and his devotion to many organizations, friend and fellow-citizens, but also to his family. Indeed, his passion was well appreciated and valued by his son Pierre Ouellette, Director of French Language services, for Radio-Canada, Ontario.

Many of the organizations for which he dedicated his time recognized his efforts and contributions: the Rotary Club, the Kapuskasing’s Chamber of Commerce, and the Compagnie des Cents-Associés francophones. He also received the title of Chevalier of the Ordre de la Pléiade in 2010.

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

Endorsing the preliminary recommendations of the Far North Electoral Boundaries Commission

The Far North Electoral Boundaries Commission, established in 2015 by the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, is currently studying the possible creation of new ridings in Northern Ontario. Specifically, its mandate is to evaluate whether the boundaries of Kenora-Rainy River and Timmins-James Bay should be redrawn so as to create one or two additional ridings.

There are a number of reasons for this redistribution, including the need to ensure that each riding has roughly the same number of voters, since every vote should have the same weight in all parts of the province.

However, in the case of the Commission’s work, the importance of redistribution is also based on the need for the political representation of Indigenous and Francophone communities. Those communities have a particular history and interests, and it is important to consider every available avenue to ensure that one of their members has a seat at Queen’s Park.

As shown by its preliminary report, the Commission has taken those needs seriously. After multiple consultations in the region, including in the Indigenous and Francophone communities, it is recommending the creation of two additional ridings. As a result, the entire Far North of Ontario would be covered by four ridings: Kenora-Rainy River, Timmins, Mushkegowuk and Kiiwetinong.

The Commissioner’s Office supports the Commission’s recommendation regarding the creation of these new ridings, since it reflects the importance of the political representation of Indigenous and Francophone communities.

The Commission is expected to complete its work this fall, and a bill incorporating its recommendations is likely to be introduced by October 30. During the consultations, we submitted a brief to the Commission to contribute to its discussions and ensure that the importance of the political representation of Francophones is considered in the redistribution process.

 

We therefore recommend

  • that the Commission maintain its recommendations concerning the new ridings of Kenora-Rainy River, Timmins, Mushkegowuk and Kiiwetinong, as described in its preliminary report; and

 

  • that the Legislative Assembly pass a bill incorporating the recommendations concerning the new ridings of Kenora-Rainy River, Timmins, Mushkegowuk and Kiiwetinong, as described in the Commission’s preliminary report.

16-17 Annual Report: A highlight of the foreward

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.

 

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 (flsc-csf@flscontario.ca). 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.

pratiquO, an innovative professional development program!

This is a golden opportunity to celebrate a noteworthy announcement by the Common Law Section of the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law. Today marks the official launch of pratiquO, a brand-new centre that will provide continuing professional development in French for jurists, paralegals and other justice system workers so that they can meet the continuing professional development requirements of the Law Society of Upper Canada.

It’s an excellent opportunity to acquire new skills and in particular to pick up new tools that will help professionals deliver more active, proactive, high-quality service in French.
As part of my job, I have frequently reiterated the critical importance of training for anyone who provides services in the justice sector. Lawyers and paralegals are often the first point of contact, so it’s vital for them to be fully conversant with the language rights of Francophone litigants so that they can serve them properly. The Rouleau-LeVay and Thorburn reports both confirmed these essential principles.

Among the resources that the centre offers are lectures and workshops, online courses and the Juriblogue. The latter is the product of a partnership with jurisource.ca, a project of the Association des juristes d’expression française de l’Ontario (AJEFO).

The pratiquO lectures will facilitate access to continuing professional development in French and will be given by experts from many different fields of law. They will be accompanied by dynamic, interactive workshops on French legal writing and terminology.

The online courses will be available on pratiquO web portal (www.pratiquo.ca). It’s an excellent way to access training courses anytime anywhere.

Juriblogue will host a one-of-a-kind platform. Whether it’s legal commentary or current events in French, this new platform will also feature the latest news in the legal world and at the same time provide the opportunity to play an active part in analyzing and discussing topical issues with a view to supporting and especially promoting language rights in French.

I am particularly pleased to see that this new program will offer a range of resources for Ontario that will unquestionably provide better access to justice in French.

I salute the ongoing commitment of Professor Alain Roussy and his team, Interim Dean François Larocque and the involvement of the University of Ottawa, the Attorney General, the Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs and the Law Society of Upper Canada at all levels. I would also like to recognize the dedicated participation of the jurists who agreed to assist in this fine venture by lending their expertise to improve French-language services. When I look at all these admirable initiatives, I sincerely believe we are on the right track.

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!