News: Direct Services to the Public

A plea for revision of the French Language Services Act

Yesterday, I presented to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, the media and the public the fruit of several months of reflection and hard work: my ninth annual report as French Language Services Commissioner.

I am very proud of the 2015-2016 report, and I sincerely hope it will be endorsed by the Francophone community, for whose benefit it was conceived. I also hope that it will be favourably received by the Ontario government, from the standpoint of improving the services it provides to French-speaking Ontarians.

This report, entitled FLSA 2.0, is – dare I say – my most important one so far. As its title indicates, the report lays the groundwork for what could be a comprehensive revision of the French Language Services Act, if the government agrees to implement the recommendations I am making.

The Act came into being 30 years ago this year. While it was considered progressive in 1986, that is no longer the case today. The face of the Francophonie has changed. Cultural diversity has taken hold. Attitudes are different, as are modes of communication for that matter. I therefore believe that modernization of the Act is necessary, perhaps even critical, so that it will better meet the needs and aspirations of the 612,000 citizens who make up Ontario’s Francophone community.

The report submitted yesterday contains three main recommendations for the Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs: (1) that the Minister propose to the Legislative Assembly a comprehensive revision of the French Language Services Act; (2) that the process of revising the Act be initiated during the current session of parliament, no later than the fall of 2016, as part of the Act’s 30th anniversary; (3) that the Minister launch, without delay, a mechanism for consulting the residents of Ontario, particularly the Francophone community, as a first step in the process of revising the Act.

This last point is particularly important to me. I believe that a project of this scale requires consultation with the Franco-Ontarian community and its stakeholders, and that they must be involved from the outset.

The report also contains 16 recommendations on specific issues, including the Act’s statement of purpose, the use of the Inclusive Definition of Francophone, active offer, social media, designation of areas, government agencies, the roles of the Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs, the French-language services coordinators, and my own role. All these recommendations are important, in my view. However, I encourage you to read them in context, by clicking on the link below to the complete annual report.

Since the Commissioner’s Office was established in 2007, receiving complaints from the public concerning the provision of French-language services by the provincial government has been the core of its mission. This year, we processed 229 complaints. I urge you once again, my fellow Ontarians, to submit your complaints to us whenever you feel that your right to be served in French has been ignored. That is the most effective way to achieve progress. I can assure you, your voice matters.

In 2015, we celebrated the 400th anniversary of the French presence in Ontario. Will 2016 be the year that the process of revising the French Language Services Act gets under way? For all of us, I hope so. Make way for FLSA 2.0.

 

Read the annual report here.

 

A few media articles:

 

English media

http://www.citynews.ca/2016/06/01/commissioner-wants-french-services-available-everywhere-in-ontario/

http://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/commissioner-wants-french-services-in-all-of-ontario-not-just-designated-regions-1.2926786

http://globalnews.ca/news/2735244/commissioner-wants-government-services-available-in-french-in-all-of-ontario/

 

French media

http://www.lapresse.ca/le-droit/opinions/editoriaux/pierre-paul-noreau/201606/01/01-4987450-le-legs-majeur-du-commissaire-boileau.php

http://www.lapresse.ca/le-droit/politique/politique-ontarienne/201606/01/01-4987319-plaidoyer-pour-le-francais-partout-en-ontario.php

http://www.lapresse.ca/le-droit/politique/politique-ontarienne/201606/01/01-4987473-une-vaste-reforme-de-la-loi-8-proposee.php?utm_categorieinterne=trafficdrivers&utm_contenuinterne=cyberpresse_meme_auteur_4987319_article_POS3

http://www5.tfo.org/onfr/le-csf-de-lontario-veut-une-refonte-complete-de-la-loi-8/

http://ici.radio-canada.ca/regions/ontario/2016/06/01/009-rapport-boileau-refonte-loi-services-francais-ontario.shtml

http://www.lactualite.com/actualites/kathleen-wynne-reformera-t-elle-la-loi-sur-les-services-en-francais-en-ontario/

Honourable Mention: OLG Supports Nine Dedicated Francophone Events Across the Province

With $44,000 in sponsorship money, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation supported nine dedicated Francophone events across the province this year. The funds supported festivals, film, concerts, dance and business luncheons in French in Toronto, Ottawa and Sault Ste. Marie. OLG’s growing commitment to the Francophone community is reflected in a 96% increase in funding over two years. This heightened support not only helps grassroots organizations and the Francophone community that attends these events; it also promotes the events in diverse, far-reaching and appealing ways within the broader community.

The Honourable Mentions Series is a series of 11 blog posts that the Commissioner is releasing to individually recognize the leadership shown by government ministries and agencies that have made efforts to expand the delivery of high-quality French-language services, as listed in his 2013-2014 Annual Report here.

Resolution 2015

Much has been written about the Lynda and Michel Thibodeau case (Thibodeau v. Air Canada) over the last few years. As you may remember, the couple filed several complaints with my colleague the Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada regarding the lack of services in French on Air Canada’s international flights. However, in a five-to-two judgement, the justices of the Supreme Court of Canada held that passengers who do not receive service in French or English on Air Canada’s international flights are not entitled to damages in the event of a language rights violation, by virtue of a relatively obscure international convention regarding the award of damages on international flights.

Despite this very disappointing, yet very limited decision, in which the consequences for the offenders are far from satisfactory, we can still learn a useful lesson from it: the importance of filing complaints. Reports to organizations responsible for defending citizens’ rights against infringement by the authorities remain the only democratic instrument that we have for gathering evidence that may ultimately be used in legal action, if we have to go that far. After all, in a minority context, it has often been because of legal victories that we have made a number of advances in language rights. And if we’re not advancing, we’re falling back!

Although the situation in Ontario is somewhat different, I cannot help but emphasize the importance of filing a complaint with our office. Because if a ministry, a government agency, a government service provider or an organization designated under the FLSA is unable to communicate effectively with or provide adequate service to citizens in French, when they have an obligation to do so, it must be reported.

I therefore challenge you this year to add to your list of resolutions a pledge to file a complaint with the Commissioner’s Office or with my federal colleague whenever you do not receive service in French. My aim is not to go to court – in any case, I don’t have the power to do so. But we are here to support you, and we can’t do that if we don’t know where the deficiencies are. It is up to all of us to roll up our sleeves and continue the progress made by the Franco-Ontarian community.

Honourable Mention: “Getting Your Ontario Driver’s Licence” Video Series

In an effort to rethink the way that it serves the needs of young drivers, the Ministry of Transportation produced a series of four videos entitled “Getting Your Ontario Driver’s Licence.” These videos, available on YouTube, explain the different requirements of each level of graduated licensing, and effectively offer the information in a more appealing way for those who prefer videos to reading plain text. Over 40 Francophone public service volunteers and road safety partners were part of the collaboration effort to produce the video series, and they certainly had a significant impact on the quality and diversity of these products, as they are well adapted to the needs of a growing young Francophone audience.

With more than half of all new drivers being 25 years or under, developing these online products was a logical way to enhance our young drivers’ level of understanding, not to mention an effective way to cater to the technophile generation! Well done!

The Honourable Mentions Series is a series of 15 blog posts that the Commissioner is releasing to individually highlight initiatives by government ministries and agencies that demonstrate efforts to expand the delivery of high-quality French-language services, as listed in his 2012-2013 Annual Report. The full list of honourable mentions and the relevant blog posts are available here.

Honourable Mention: ServiceOntario’s e-Learning Tool

As part of its commitment to providing Ontarians with excellent service, ServiceOntario and the Ministry of Government Services have developed an e-learning tool on the active offer of services in French for ServiceOntario staff. The training was scheduled to be completed by all the ServiceOntario staff in the divisions of Customer Care, Business Development, Central Services, Service Delivery Strategy and Business Improvement.

This excellent initiative focuses on providing support and enabling ServiceOntario staff to comply with the active offer of services in French. The e-learning tool uses an interactive approach and consists of three modules, each one approximately 15 minutes in length. The individual modules target front line ministry staff, analyst roles, and third party service providers, and is designed to address the specific needs of each of those roles based on their unique functions.

The Honourable Mentions Series is a series of 15 blog posts that the Commissioner is releasing to individually highlight initiatives by government ministries and agencies that demonstrate efforts to expand the delivery of high-quality French-language services, as listed in his 2012-2013 Annual Report. The full list of honourable mentions and the relevant blog posts are available here.

Honourable Mention: ServiceOntario’s French Language Service Resource Corner

Last year, the Central Office Branch of ServiceOntario launched the French Language Service Resource Corner. This great initiative was inspired by a bilingual employee who worked with his colleagues to promote French-language services. The goal of the French Language Service Resource Corner is to enhance the active offer of French-language services by the front line staff; an issue that is certainly of great importance as I have discussed it in the past. By providing his colleagues with information about French-language services in the Ontario Public Service and conducting language sessions to equip his peers with commonly used French phrases, this exceptional employee’s efforts have helped to create a welcoming atmosphere for Francophones who visit ServiceOntario.

Based on positive feedback from staff, a resource centre was launched earlier this year at another ServiceOntario branch in the Central Region, and there are plans to open more resource corners at other ServiceOntario offices across the region.

This is an example of someone who took it in his own hands to help improve the situation of active offer of French-language services to help benefit a whole community. With nearly 300 service centres processing over 48 million transactions every year, this action will undoubtedly go a long way in improving the efforts of our government to provide adequate service to the Francophone population.

The Honourable Mentions Series is a series of 15 blog posts that the Commissioner is releasing to individually highlight initiatives by government ministries and agencies that demonstrate efforts to expand the delivery of high-quality French-language services, as listed in his 2012-2013 Annual Report. The full list of honourable mentions and the relevant blog posts are available here.