The Commissioner invites the government to take responsibility for the active offer of French-language services to disadvantaged populations

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TORONTO, June 5, 2013 — French Language Services Commissioner François Boileau recommends that the Ontario government develop an action plan to ensure that disadvantaged populations — such as seniors, children and newcomers — have genuine access to French-language services, in keeping with the letter and the spirit of the French Language Services Act. This issue is the subject of the first recommendation in the Commissioner’s 2012-2013 Annual Report, entitled A New Approach, which was submitted today to the Honourable Madeleine Meilleur, Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs.

Over the years, the Commissioner has noticed only a very small number of official complaints involving members of disadvantaged populations. However, a combination of unofficial reports and internal observations indicates that not all programs and services intended for these populations are fully delivered in accordance with the letter and the spirit of the French Language Services Act by the government and those acting on its behalf.

“Because of their situation, disadvantaged populations are less likely to file complaints. Yet they are the most vulnerable to the risks resulting from any deficiencies in the delivery of French-language services. It is paramount, therefore, that the government take responsibility for these more vulnerable citizens,” said the Commissioner.

In the same vein, the Commissioner believes that it is unrealistic to expect a disadvantaged citizen to demand service in French whenever it is not actively offered. Consequently, he revisits the issue in his second recommendation, urging the government to issue a directive on the active offer of French-language services.

“The government’s guidelines on active offer advise ministries and other government organizations to actively offer services in French. However, advising that French-language services should be actively offered to a child in need or a person with mental health problems, for example, is far from sufficient. For their sake, active offer must be mandatory, and for that, a directive is needed,” said the Commissioner.

The Annual Report’s third and final recommendation is, once again, that a directive on the development and implementation of a human resources plan for French-language services be issued to all ministries, government agencies and other entities that provide French-language services on the government’s behalf, and that this plan include concrete measures for the designation, appointment, training and retention of staff.

The Commissioner also expresses his wish that the member municipalities of the Association française des municipalités de l’Ontario (AFMO) will adopt a municipal by-law or regulation formalizing the use of French in the delivery of their programs and services.

In addition to the three recommendations it contains, the 2012-2013 Annual Report, A New Approach, provides a review of six-year history of the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner and explains how factors such as the growth of Ontario’s Francophone population and the Office’s limited human and financial resources are today bringing the Commissioner to adopt a new approach to guide its actions and its interactions with complainants, ministries and other government organizations.

QUICK FACTS

  • The position of French Language Services Commissioner was established in September 2007 following an amendment to the French Language Services Act.
  • Over the last six years, the Commissioner has made no less than 46 recommendations to the Ontario government.
  • The Office of the French Language Services Commissioner received 349 complaints in 2012-2013, nearly one complaint per day. Since 2007, the Commissioner’s Office has received 1,818 complaints, 1,514 of which were investigated.
  • In his 2009-2010 Annual Report, the Commissioner recommended that the government issue a directive on the active offer of French-language services.
  • In response to that recommendation, the government produced a guide on active offer and developed a set of guidelines, which are not as binding as a directive.
  • The French Language Services Commissioner published the government’s responses to the six recommendations in his 2011-2012 Report Annual, Straight Forward, on May 27, along with his comments and analysis.

The Office of the French Language Services Commissioner is an agency of the Ontario Government that is responsible for ensuring compliance with the French Language Services Act in the delivery of government services. The Act was passed unanimously by the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in November 1986.

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LEARN MORE

You can view the interactive version of the French Language Services Commissioner’s 2012-2013 Annual Report on the new website of the Commissioner’s Office, www.flsc.gov.on.ca/.

Simon Côté, Public Relations and Communications Officer
Office of the French Language Services Commissioner
Phone: (416) 314-8247 or 1-866-246-5262 (toll free)
E-mail: communications.flscCSF@ontario.ca

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