Independence of the Commissioner: for Administrative Independence

Today, I am concluding my series of blogs on the independence of the Commissioner by addressing this question from an administrative point of view.

The majority of the population is not aware that on an administrative level, the Office and its Commissioner, like the Office of Francophone Affairs, are required to change ministry, based on the other responsibilities of the Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs.

As a result, when the Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs was also serving as Minister of Community and Social Services, the Office and the Commissioner were administratively linked to this ministry for matters related to human resources, IT services, support for the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, and numerous other requirements related to the daily operations of an office. Over the years, it has therefore developed connections, contacts and operating methods which facilitate the management of day-to-day activities, especially for an office as small as the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner, which is often somewhat forgotten within the large ministries.

In December 2011, when the new cabinet was sworn in after the election, the Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs remained the same but also became the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, dropping her responsibilities as the Minister of Community and Social Services.

Consequently, with just one move, both the Office of Francophone Affairs and the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner were required to change their line Ministry… and once again start everything from zero. This was simply a repetition of a previous situation when the minister responsible was also serving as the Minister of Culture.

Over the last weeks, I have been addressing the importance of the independence of the Commissioner for reasons of political non-interference, involvement of members of Parliament, independence in legal terms, financial accountability and ability to act and administrative independence.

Well, for all of these reasons, I have recommended to the Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs that an amendment to the French Language Services Act be introduced by March 31, 2013, specifying that the Commissioner will report directly to the Legislative Assembly. You can refer to this recommendation in my 2011-2012 Annual Report.

I obviously wish to get back to you as soon as possible with good news relating to this matter. However, I am still waiting for the government’s response to this recommendation.

In the meantime, if you would like to know more about this recommendation, the interview I recently gave to Gisèle Quenneville for TFO’s Carte de visite has been uploaded to Youtube.

In conclusion of this series of blog posts, I wish to share this quote taken from the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick’s 2011-2012 Annual Report entitled From words to actions officially released on October 11, 2012: “The Commissioner [of Official Languages for New-Brunswick] is an officer of the Legislative Assembly and is independent of the government.” I have nothing more to say!

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