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: