Follow-up on the Report: Recommending a Detailed, Engaged and Relevant Annual Report on the Affairs of the OFA

This is a series of blog posts that the Commissioner is releasing to follow-up on the annual report and to individually highlight some parts of it that remain current. We will have the occasion during the fall to add more information on the interactive version of the report available here.

The Commissioner’s Office received a response to the recommendations in my last annual report. In my view, that response, is highly unsatisfactory.

For example, let’s go back to the first recommendation in my 2012-2013 Annual Report, which was that the Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs develop an action plan to ensure that disadvantaged populations have genuine access to the French-language services they need.

In response, the government dismissed the recommendation, stating that it did not consider the development of a separate action plan at this time to be the best way of ensuring that Francophones in vulnerable groups have access to French-language services. In other words, let’s keep the status quo; it seems to be working just fine. Evidently, I do not share the same view.

It is true that only a very small number of official complaints involve members of disadvantaged populations. However, a combination of unofficial reports and internal observations suggests that not all programs and services intended for those populations are delivered in full compliance with the letter and the spirit of the French Language Services Act by the government and those acting on its behalf. Moreover, it is an undisputable fact that members of disadvantages groups will less likely complain when dealing with authorities, let alone know their own language rights.

That said, as Commissioner, I am not responsible for implementing the Act, nor for ensuring that there is a dialogue between the government and the public. That is the job of the Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs. In my view, it is desirable for her to do more to discuss with members of the public the government’s action plans and vision for the delivery of French-language services. For this reason, I am recommending that the Minister submit to the Legislative Assembly a detailed, engaged and relevant annual report on the affairs of the Office of Francophone Affairs. This annual report would provide an update on actions undertaken with respect to each duty assigned to the Minister and the Office of Francophone Affairs under the Act, and it would be submitted to Parliament as specified in the Act. This is not only a question of transparency to the public but also one of accountability. What gets measured gets done.

That was surely the intent of the lawmakers back in 1986. The FLSA was not drafted with the sole purpose of making sure all documents would be translated. Its purpose is about developing policy, programs and services adapted to the need of full development of Francophones.

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