Addressing Complaints Relating to Designated Agencies

As part of my series of blog posts about designated agencies, I am today emphasising how complaints should be addressed.

As I explain in my 2011-2012 Annual Report, designated agencies are required to provide high-quality French-language services just like ministries and government agencies, and they are required to have policies and procedures to address complaints about the delivery of these services.

For example, designated agencies in the health sector are, under the terms of their Service Accountability Agreements with the Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs), required to submit a French-language services report to the LHINs, in order to assess the progress being made in the implementation of French-language services and to identify any possible gaps. However, this report should also ideally be shared with the new French-language health planning entities and made available to the public.

I support this approach that holds designated agencies accountable, and recommend that citizens make their complaints directly to those agencies. However, complaints can also be presented to the Commissioner’s Office, which may require the institution named in the complaint to answer questions of a more systemic nature. In fact, once it has been designated, the agency falls under the authority of the Commissioner, who may conduct an investigation in the event of a failure to comply with the requirements of the French Language Services Act (FLSA) regarding the availability and accessibility of French-language services.

But with the current process, these service providers are not subject to any monitoring or ongoing government assessment. Of course, some of the agencies have been designated a long time ago. Let’s take the example of a government agency that would have been designated 20 years ago. Is its current staff even aware that beyond the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner, its clients can file complaints directly to this designated agency should they want to in case of any perceived failure to comply with the FLSA? Are they still in a position to receive and manage these complaints? Some are and some aren’t.

This is precisely why I recommended the Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs to ensure that designated agencies equip themselves with a mechanism for resolving disputes that is made available to the users of services.

Next week, I will go over the merger of a designated agency with a non-designated agency in detail. What happens when such an operation goes through and what are the obligations under the French Language Services Act? Do not miss this blog post!

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