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Ottawa Courthouse Pilot Strengthens Access to Justice in French

Province Releases Final Report on Ottawa Courthouse Pilot Project

Ministry of the Attorney General

Ontario is making it easier for French-speaking people in the Ottawa region to access French-language justice services.

Today, Attorney General Yasir Naqvi, joined by Marie-France Lalonde, Minister of Francophone Affairs, and François Boileau, the French Language Services Commissioner, was in Ottawa to release the final report on the Seamless Access to Justice in French pilot project, and announce that important changes made at the Ottawa courthouse to increase access to justice for French-speakers will be made permanent.

The pilot project, which was delivered in partnership with Ontario’s chief justices, has enhanced access to justice in French at the Ottawa courthouse by:

  • Clearly displaying information about French language rights specific to family, criminal, civil, and Small Claims Court matters throughout the courthouse
  • Informing French-speaking individuals of their French language rights at the earliest opportunity to help them navigate Ontario’s justice system and exercise their right to proceed in French
  • Actively offering services in French through greetings, public announcements and signage in both official languages, so that French-speaking court users are aware of and can access French services
  • Establishing protocols between local government officials and Ottawa judiciary to facilitate access to justice in French.

The ongoing work to improve access to justice in French for all Franco-Ontarians will be supported by a new Access to Justice in French Advisory Committee that will be established in the near future. The government is also sharing the report with French Language Services Regional Committees throughout the province.

Enhancing justice services for French-speaking people in Ontario is part of our plan to create jobs, grow our economy and help people in their everyday lives.

Quick Facts

  • The project responded to a number of recommendations set out by the French Language Services Bench and Bar Advisory committee in its 2012 Access to Justice in French report and the French Language Services Commissioner’s 2013-2014 Annual Report and will help Ontario identify best practices to enhance access to justice in French at court locations throughout the province.
  • Ottawa is a designated area under both the French Language Services Act and the Courts of Justice Act.
  • About 622,415 francophones live in Ontario, which is the largest French-speaking community in Canada outside of Quebec.
  • About 42 per cent of Ontario francophones live in eastern Ontario. The rest live in central (30 per cent), northeastern (21 per cent), southwestern (six per cent) and northwestern (one per cent) Ontario.

Additional Resources


“I would like to thank the pilot project team and the chief justices for their commitment to enhancing access to justice in French. The Ottawa courthouse will continue to proactively offer service in French and ensure that francophones are aware of their rights. Making these changes permanent is an important step in building a more accessible justice system for Franco-Ontarians across the province.”

Yasir Naqvi – Attorney General

“I would like to thank all the justice professionals who contributed to the success of this pilot project. Their efforts and commitment have resulted in the long-term viability of French-language services at the Ottawa courthouse and given us the opportunity of generalizing this approach for the benefit of the entire Franco-Ontarian community.”

Marie-France Lalonde – Minister of Francophone Affairs

“The initiatives at the Ottawa courthouse under the pilot project are now permanent, which is excellent news for francophones. The pilot project demonstrated that it is possible to improve access to justice in French with concrete measures, since we no longer receive complaints about the courthouse in Ottawa. The time has come for other courthouses in the province to benefit from the useful initiatives implemented in Ottawa to ensure holistic access to justice for all francophones.”

François Boileau – French Language Services Commissioner

“This pilot has created a unique opportunity to review and assess current judicial scheduling practices to ensure the needs of the francophone community are met. The Superior Court of Justice will continue to partner with the ministry to enhance access to justice for all francophones in Ontario.”

The Honourable Heather J. Smith – Chief Justice of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice

“The pilot project has enhanced access to justice for francophones in Ottawa. The Ontario Court of Justice is pleased to have been a partner in the pilot project and welcomes having the project made permanent to better serve all Ottawa court users.”

The Honourable Lise T. Maisonneuve – Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice


TORONTO, September 5, 2017 — In response to a notice of amendments to Regulation 515/09 concerning engagement with the Francophone community, the Commissioner, François Boileau, has made new recommendations for encouraging more productive collaboration between local health system integration networks (LHINs) and French language health planning entities.

The amendments will help to strengthen the existing collaboration between LHINs and the entities; they will make that collaboration more concrete and focused than before when it comes to access to health services in French. With the planning and accountability tools that will support that collaboration, it will guarantee better delivery of health services that are adapted to the needs of Francophone patients in Ontario,” Mr. Boileau said.

In the notice, the Ministry includes a recommendation that LHINs be required to work with the entities to implement new strategies for improving access to health services in French.

While the amendments to Regulation 515/09 as proposed now by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care could have provided for a greater level of collaboration between LHINs and the entities, they do represent a major step in the right direction, and are certainly an improvement over the present situation,” Commissioner Boileau added.

The Commissioner supports the amendments as proposed now by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and reiterates that he will continue to collaborate with the Ministry and other stakeholders to ensure that Francophone patients are a priority in the healthcare system.

Quick facts

• In 2006, the Government of Ontario decentralized the health system. The Local Health System Integration Act, 2006 (LHSIA) then created 14 LHINs (Local Health Integration Networks).

• When the government created the LHINs, it did not include the needs of Francophones in health services planning at the local level, an omission that resulted in over 100 complaints being filed with the Office of the Commissioner between 2007 and 2008, and led to the preparation of a special report.

• In May 2009, the Commissioner released the Special Report on French Language Services Planning in Ontario, which prompted the government to make Regulation 151/09 concerning engagement with the Francophone community in relation to health services in French, and to create planning entities.

• In November 2016, during the process of enacting Bill 41, the Patients First Act, 2016, the Commissioner, along with many others, hoped that the role of those entities would evolve into a partnership with the LHINs for planning services in French. Unfortunately, the bill was enacted without being amended to reflect that.

• In his 2016-2017 annual report, the Commissioner recommends that the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care amend Regulation 515/09 to give the French language health planning entities a larger role in planning health services in French, particularly in relation to the integrated health services plans to be produced by the LHINs.

The Office of the French Language Services Commissioner reports directly to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Its principal mandate is to ensure compliance with the French Language Services Act in the delivery of government services.

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TORONTO, August 28, 2017 — The French Language Services Commissioner, Mr. François Boileau, welcomes with great interest the planning board’s report on the establishment of a French-language university in Ontario.

I would like to congratulate Ms. Dyane Adam and the members of the planning Board for completing a high-caliber and a totally turnkey report for the government in such a short time. I hope that the government welcomes the recommendations of this comprehensive study, because they will certainly pave the way to the establishment of a Francophone institution dedicated to excellence and innovation.” states Mr. Boileau.

The establishment of a postsecondary institution is of utmost importance to Francophone and Francophile communities of the Southwest and the rest of the province. This is clearly reflected across many reports and research studies in recent decades. The publication in 2012 of the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner’s report, No access, no future, demonstrates how the establishment of French-language postsecondary programs was of utmost importance then and how it is still relevant today.

Faced with a lack of access to quality French-language postsecondary education in Central and Southwestern Ontario, it became more than essential to increase French-language programs in areas where the Francophone population is growing rapidly and where French-language offerings are particularly limited.

Another critical point in the report is the transition towards a French-language educational continuum from secondary to postsecondary. In fact, French-language postsecondary education contributes significantly to the sustainability of the Franco-Ontarian community.

Colleges and universities are an integral part of the educational continuum and play a crucial role in the education of future professionals who are bilingual and Francophone and therefore, in the longer term, in the well-being of the province and in the competitiveness of its economy. In the minority context of the French language, they also offer an incentive to elementary and secondary students and their parents to commit to an education in French, from the outset.” adds Commissioner Boileau.

In the context of developing a new organizational identity, the report highlights a unique feature: the creation of a Francophone hub, which is in itself truly innovative. A “hub” like this will certainly set it apart across the province and internationally. The shared vision is inspiring and motivating because it refers to an approach that goes beyond education by creating opportunities for fruitful exchanges and collaborations with other institutions.

According to Mr. François Boileau, “The Université de l’Ontario français is a genuine investment in the future of Francophones from a cultural, economic, and social point of view, which will undoubtedly contribute to the prosperity of the province and of Canada.”

Through its uniqueness and its governance by and for Francophones, the institution will fulfill all of the conditions required for it to be designated under the French Language Services Act.

This is an important message for Francophones. Despite the fact that the designation under the French Language Services Act seems logical to some, it is an excellent idea to designate the institution and that this also is included in the recommendations before it is even established. I am very eager to work with the university when the time comes.” states Mr. Boileau.

Quick facts

• In Ontario, there are three bilingual universities (as well as their affiliated and federated institutions), and 19 that offer courses and university programs in French or partially in French.

• In their respective reports entitled No access, no future and Moving forward, the Commissioner and the Expert Panel on French-Language Postsecondary Education both recommended that the government establish a new secretariat to determine the need for postsecondary educational services and programs for the Francophone population in Central-Southwestern Ontario.

• In 2015-2016, about 29% of the total cohort of Francophone students from French-language school boards came from the CSO.

• It is estimated that almost half of Ontario’s Francophone population will live in the Central-Southwest of the province by 2020. Of all the Francophone communities in Ontario, the one in the Central-Southwest has the highest growth rate.

The Office of the French Language Services Commissioner reports directly to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, and its primary mandate is to ensure that the delivery of government services complies with the French Language Services Act.


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TORONTO, August 21, 2017 — In a brief submitted to the Minister of Francophone Affairs, the Honorable Marie-France Lalonde, the Commissioner of French Language Services, Mr. François Boileau, reminds her Ministry and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care that there has been a breach of the French Language Services Act with regard to the revocation of the designation of Penetanguishene General Hospital.

The process required under the French Language Services Act was not respected, and the government players are therefore in breach of the Act. This situation perfectly illustrates the impact that the lack of accountability and compliance verification has on the offering of French-language services: these Ministries were not thorough and the patients were the ones who suffered. It is unfortunate that Francophone patients are prejudiced and are not able to access health care services in their language,” states the Commissioner Boileau.

Before eliminating the designated services offered by Penetanguishene General Hospital, the North Simcoe Muskoka Local Health Integration Network was required to ensure that all reasonable measures were taken to comply with the Act. The Ministry of Francophone Affairs and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care also had the obligation to respect the process required under the Act for revoking a designation.

Commissioner Boileau emphasizes that “this overdue public consultation serves no purpose because it is taking place nine years after Penetang Hospital’s designated services were eliminated. Also, the mere fact that Georgian Bay General Hospital was ordered to request its designation is not a ‘reasonable measure’ within the meaning of the Act.”

In his brief, the Commissioner also recommended a series of specific measures to remedy this situation, and to prevent future violations. Among other things, these recommendations seek to improve accountability, organizational efficiency, and the prompt identification of compliance deficiencies in the delivery of French-language services.


Quick facts

• The Office of the Commissioner received 19 complaints about the closure of Penetanguishene General Hospital, all filed in November 2014.

• According to Ontario Regulation 398/93, Penetanguishene General Hospital is designated under the French Language Services Act for admitting, reception, ambulatory services, people systems, and business office services. It was not until July 2017 that these same services were designated at Georgian Bay General Hospital.

• Penetanguishene General Hospital closed its doors in March 2016.

• At the end of 2016, the Office received nine new complaints about the inadequate delivery of the designated services by Georgian Bay General Hospital.


The Office of the French Language Services Commissioner reports directly to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, and its primary mandate is to ensure that the delivery of government services complies with the French Language Services Act.

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TORONTO, July 31, 2017 — French Language Services Commissioner François Boileau is delighted with this morning’s announcement by Premier Kathleen Wynne that Francophone Affairs would become a standalone ministry.

“This is excellent news for Ontario’s Francophone residents. This new status will undoubtedly give Francophone Affairs more influence in the Ontario government, but it will also revitalize Ontario’s Francophonie. I hope that this will result in better access to French-language services for all Francophones in Ontario and help the Ministry enhance its role as a catalyst for the government and the community,” said François Boileau.

According to the Premier, the new ministry will promote the use of a Francophone lens to advance and strengthen French-language services while celebrating Francophone culture in Ontario and the rest of Canada. The province’s new observer status in the International Organisation of La Francophonie will allow it to further promote its rich French language heritage at the global level.

“This new entity demonstrates the government’s intention to increase the visibility of Ontario’s Francophonie and its importance in society. This new status will surely pave the way for advances on a number of current issues, including the revision of the French Language Services Act, as well as for as well as for allocation of new funding,” added François Boileau.


• The Office of Francophone Affairs was established in 1986. It became the Ministry of Francophone Affairs, a standalone ministry, on July 31, 2017.

• In 2007, the Office of Francophone Affairs assisted in the establishment of the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner, which became independent in 2014.

• With a population of 612,000, Ontario’s Francophone community is the largest Francophone community in Canada outside Quebec.

• For more than 30 years, Ontario’s Francophone community has had the right to receive government services in French, under the French Language Services Act.



The Office of the French Language Services Commissioner reports directly to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Its principal mandate is to ensure compliance with the French Language Services Act in the delivery of government services.


TORONTO, May 30, 2017 – François Boileau, the French Language Services Commissioner of Ontario, reports on the progress made and the impact of his office’s actions over the last decade in his 2016-2017 annual report. The report, entitled Taking a stand, was presented yesterday to the Hon. Dave Levac, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.

In his tenth annual report, the Commissioner reviews his office’s actions, and the impact those actions have had, since 2007. The report highlights 22 specific instances where progress has been significant in the areas of health, justice, citizenship and immigration, education, children and youth services, and direct services to the community.

“I am proud of the systemic impact we have had on societal debates and the value that the Office of the Commissioner has added to the public service. We have literally taken a stand, by raising systemic issues that are important to the people of Ontario through the growth in the number of French-language post-secondary programs, the creation of new schools; the adoption of an inclusive definition of the term “Francophone”; a Communications in French Directive, and through the independence of our office,” said Commissioner Boileau.

The Commissioner is also pleased to underline that the Attorney General of Ontario intends to create an advisory committee on access to justice in French. The committee will report directly to the office of the Attorney General, which is excellent news to the Commissioner.

The report also highlights 20 problems that persist in relation to government services in French. For his tenth annual report, the Commissioner therefore makes ten recommendations, including that Regulation 515/09 on the role of health planning entities be amended; that the evaluation of the pilot project on access to French language services at the Ottawa Courthouse be made public and that assurances be given that it will have concrete effects elsewhere in the province; that a Francophone immigration advisory committee be created; and that the rights of children set out in the Supporting Children, Youth and Families Act, 2016, in particular the right to receive services in French from children’s aid societies, be confirmed.

The Commissioner ends his report by urging the Minister responsible for Francophone Affairs to honour her commitment to revising the Act, so that Ontario remains at the forefront when it comes to French language services. He also stresses that in the last ten years, as the French language services ombudsman, his office has become a credible reference, at both Canadian and international level, notably as a founding member of the International Association of Language Commissioners.



  • In 2016-2017, the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner examined 301 complaints, of which 214 were determined to be admissible.
  • The report contains a record number of exemplary practices, honourable mentions, and noteworthy initiatives in French language services.
  • Almost 95% of the admissible complaints over 10 years were founded.
  • The French Language Services Commissioner is one of nine independent officers who report to the Legislative Assembly.


The Office of the French Language Services Commissioner reports directly to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Its principal mandate is to ensure compliance with the French Language Services Act in the delivery of government services.


FOR FURTHER INFORMATION Consult the annual report at, in the “Publications” section.