The commissioner asks the governement to mandate all Children’s Aid Societies to offer services in French
TORONTO, April 13, 2017 – François Boileau, the French Language Services Commissioner, presented a brief today to the Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario on Justice Policy calling for amendments to Bill 89, the Supporting Children, Youth and Families Act, 2016, to guarantee equivalent services in French in all regions and ensure that services are actively offered.
A child or young person who is not able to speak French with Children’s Aid Society (CAS), and therefore does not have access to professionals who are capable of providing services in the child’s or young person’s own language, is in an extremely vulnerable position. This is contrary to the very purpose of Bill 89, Supporting Children, Families and Youth: to promote the best interests, protection and well-being of children and take into account their cultural and linguistic needs.
“All the upheavals experienced by a child or young person when an intervention by a Children’s Aid Society takes place have a destabilizing effect. Going through this experience in a language that is not their own can exacerbate behavioural, social and emotional problems. Bill 89 offers an excellent opportunity to protect vulnerable francophone children and remedy the legislative oversights that still jeopardize the language rights of francophone children, young persons and families. A child will never request services in French, let alone know their rights, and it is therefore of paramount importance that these services be actively offered,” Mr. Boileau added.
In his appearance before the Committee, the Commissioner also reiterated the importance of preventing the harm that can result from language barriers. The issue of active offer of services in French by Children’s Aid Societies in Ontario is a subject that has been of concern to the Office of the Commissioner since he was first appointed, since it affects the well-being of Ontarians in general, and more specifically of francophone children and young persons.
- Child protection services in Ontario are delivered by 48 children’s aid societies funded by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services.
- In his Annual Report 2009-2010, the Commissioner recommended that the societies actively offer services in French throughout the province and not only in designated regions.
- During the consultations organized by the Ministry, participants in the 2015 review of the Child and Family Services Act stressed that access to CAS services in French is essential for children and youth to remain connected to francophone culture.
- The Office of the Commissioner is making three recommendations:
- That section 15 of Bill 89 be amended to provide that all children’s aid societies be mandated to offer services in French;
- That section 15 of Bill 89 be amended to impose an obligation on children’s aid societies to actively offer services in French; and
- That in the event of amalgamations under section 46 or 47 of Bill 89 between a children’s aid society designated under the French Language Services Act and a society or societies that are not designated, the Minister impose an obligation to include a plan for transfer of the designation.
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 brief at csfontario.ca, in the “Publications” section.