Commissioner’s Blog

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François Boileau
French Language Services Commissioner

A Look Back at September and October

AGA 2012 du REFO | REFO's 2012 AGM

There are so many superb initiatives in French Ontario that I sometimes have trouble mentioning each one on a timely basis in my blog. Therefore, I’d like to go back to several events that I had the opportunity to attend in the last two months so that I can do them justice.

First, on September 20, I took part in the Forum on Bilingualism presented by the Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute of the University of Ottawa, after which I met with the advisory committee on the study of the bilingual capacity of the federal judiciary. During the same visit to Ottawa, I also gave a speech at the 2012 annual general meeting of the Regroupement étudiant franco-ontarien (RÉFO), which is working extremely hard to promote the full self-realization of the province’s Francophone and Francophile students.

I also met with the Regroupement ethnoculturel des parents francophones de l’Ontario (REPFO) and the Conseil économique et social d’Ottawa-Carleton (CESOC). It was an excellent opportunity to talk to the executive directors of the two organizations about Chapter 2 of my 2011-2012 Annual Report, which deals in part with Francophone immigration in Ontario. Mr. Saint-Phard Désir, executive director of the CESOC, told me how important it was to coordinate winning strategies to facilitate the integration of Francophone newcomers to Ontario as soon as they set foot on Canadian soil.

On October 20, I delivered a speech at the annual brunch of ACFO d’Ottawa, after which I participated in a panel discussion entitled “Language Rights, Policy, Practice, Challenges and Opportunities – Moving Forward” at the Canadian Parents for French Conference on Champions of Official Languages. My colleagues Graham Fraser, Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada, and Michel Carrier, Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, joined me for the occasion.

As you know, I am very concerned about the role of our natural allies, the Francophiles, especially with regard to the issues surrounding immersion schools. In this connection, I also met with the executive directors of the six member organizations of the Réseau français langue seconde, including Canadian Parents for French, on November 6. The other members of the Réseau are the Association canadienne des professeurs d’immersion, the Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers, the Society for Educational Visits and Exchanges in Canada, Canadian Youth for French and French for the Future. Our discussions at the meeting were extremely rewarding.

I would also like to mention that a member of the Commissioner’s Office team, Mohamed Ghaleb, Senior Analyst, Research and Monitoring, took part in a panel discussion on Ontario and its Francophone immigration strategy at the Executive Directors Forum of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) on October 23.

On October 24, I gave a presentation to the students of St. Mildred’s Lightbourn School in Oakville on the value added that French provides throughout one’s career and one’s life.

Then, on October 25, I attended the graduation banquet held by the French Language Institute for Professional Development of the Ministry of the Attorney General and the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

I am very proud of the fact that the Commissioner’s Office remains so actively engaged in the community, and I am grateful to all the organizations that give the Office VIP status. The members of the Commissioner’s Office team and I attended a number of other events in September and October, of course, but I can’t include them all, because the list would be go on and on and on!

Finally, I would like to extend somewhat belated congratulations to the recipients of the Ordre des francophones d’Amérique 2012, especially Mariette Carrier-Fraser and Jeanne Beaudoin, both of whom I know very well. Each of them has made an exceptional contribution to the development of Francophone minority communities, and I salute them both.

Behind the Scenes of Access to Justice in French

On August 2, 2012, I posted a blog to inform you that the French Language Services Bench and Bar Advisory Committee had officially released its report on Access to justice in French in Ontario. I emphasized the importance of this report as it suggests concrete, concerted measures to address the shortage of bilingual judges in Ontario. It also offers ways of making every federally or provincially appointed member of Ontario’s judiciary more knowledgeable about language rights.

The next day, I posted a second blog and a news release on this report. I later brought up the issue in more detail on September 12 and 13, 2012. I pointed out that the Attorney General established the Committee following a recommendation I made in my 2008-2009 Annual Report.

This leads us to the joint media release the Ministry of the Attorney General and I sent out yesterday to announce the establishment of a steering committee that will review and develop an implementation plan that responds to recommendations outlined in the report Access to justice in French.

I am pleased with the commitment of the Honourable John Gerrestsen, Attorney General of Ontario, which he expressed at a meeting we had on October 16, 2012. This joint news release ― a first as far as I’m concerned ― shows without doubt how seriously he considers the report Access to justice in French, its conclusions and recommendations. This must be reassuring for Ontario justiciable Francophones.

This news release also unequivocally reminds the Ministry of the Attorney General’s public servants of how much of a priority the report Access to justice in French really is. The Attorney General and I also agreed to meet again next year to discuss progress.

Today, I commit to release a series of eight blog posts (minimum) ― one per week ― to go over each one of the report’s 17 recommendations. To be continued next week!

Denis Hubert-Dutrisac Will Retire in 2013

Denis Hubert-Dutrisac

The President of Collège Boréal, Mr. Denis Hubert-Dutrisac, announced today his intention to retire in September 2013. Talk about news!

Denis has been presiding over the destiny of Collège Boréal since January 2006 and, without any fear of being wrong, he can safely say mission accomplished. His style may be quite straightforward, but his never-ending energy, his contagious passion, his enthusiasm, his profound vision and his constant commitment testify of remarkable efficiency. Boréal enjoys an excellent reputation and is very present within communities, especially in the North and in Central-South-western Ontario.

I will always remember that he opened the doors of Boréal’s facilities and campuses to help me meet so many people in the first few years of my mandate as Commissioner. There will surely be ample time to properly thank him for his enormous contribution to the Franco-Ontarian community of everywhere in the Province. While I do wish him a good retirement, I do want to take this opportunity to reiterate my profound gratitude and my sincere thanks. By the way, I sincerely doubt that he would be able to slow down, but I do wish him some rest in his retirement, even though he will stay very active.

Independence of the Commissioner: for Independence in Legal Terms

As promised, this week, I am going over the reasons why the independence of the Commissioner is essential to provide him with independence in legal terms.

As I mention in my 2011-2012 Annual Report, as a government agency, and because it is not independent, the Commissioner’s Office cannot, in theory, seek independent external legal advice other than from the Attorney General of Ontario because it is not independent.

The Attorney General’s lawyers are trained to provide solid and objective legal advice and to respect the rule of law. Indeed, I have received such advice that has turned out to be quite useful.

That being so, however, to dispel any possible perception of a lack of independence from government – including on legal matters – I arrived at a Memorandum of Understanding with the Office of the Attorney General that allows me to seek external legal advice on matters concerning the interpretation of the French Language Services Act.

This agreement, however, is not foolproof. In fact, it can be cancelled at any time by one of the parties, in which case the Commissioner would no longer be able to seek external legal advice and would therefore lose the appearance of acting independently from the government.

If the Commissioner were to report directly to the Legislative Assembly, the situation would be quite different because the Commissioner would then possess the full manoeuvring room required to request external and independent legal advice.

Next week, I will go over the financial accountability and ability to act that relate to the independence of the Commissioner.

Tour in Ottawa: Centre Jules-Léger, Centre Séraphin Marion in Orléans and Fondation franco-ontarienne

Programme - Fondation franco-ontarienne | Program - Fondation franco-ontarienne

Match contre les Grandes Étoiles du hockey de la ligue nationale | Game against the National Hockey League’s Greatest Stars

Sabine Derbier

Sabine Derbier

Last Friday, I visited the Centre Jules-Léger in Ottawa. This institution is unique as it ensures the delivery of preschool, elementary and secondary school, residential and consultation services to French-language school boards and Francophone families with children having learning disabilities, who are deaf or hard of hearing, blind or visually impaired or deaf and blind.

Almost 100 professionals and paraprofessionals ensure the delivery of these services to the Francophone community and over 700 students have completed one of the Centre’s programs since 1979.

I was highly impressed by this tour and deeply moved by the staff’s commitment to actively contribute to the learning experience and well-being of these young Francophone citizens. Their commitment is contagious and generates great results for our youth. I wish to congratulate them for their exceptional contribution to the development of Franco-Ontarian youth.

I urge you to consult Centre Jules-Léger’s website to know more about its broad range of initiatives. As to myself, I will certainly go back.

While in Ottawa, I also delivered a presentation to approximately 50 members of Centre Séraphin-Marion in Orléans. It was great to discuss current challenges in the delivery of French-language services in the health sector. I also emphasized why seniors play an active role in identifying failures in the application of the French Language Services Act et how they can improve French-language government services. I wish to thank Centre Séraphin-Marion’s staff and members for their warm welcome!

Lastly, I ended this tour in Ottawa by playing a game against the National Hockey League’s Greatest Stars. This game was organized by the Fondation franco-ontarienne. Frankly, I really enjoyed my experience as goalie for the foundation’s team. What a remarkable initiative. The experience of a lifetime!

Although I took part in this event strictly on a personal level, I am sharing a few pictures with you just to show you how much of a success this initiative was. Our team (finally) lost 10-5 to the Greatest Stars. They were sport and put on the brakes as this could easily have been a massacre. Read this article from L’Express d’Ottawa to know more.

Independence of the Commissioner: for Involvement of the Members of Parliament

This blog follows last week’s in which I explained why an independent Commissioner is essential to avoid any political interference.

As you may already know, the French Language Services Act is a quasi-constitutional statute. This means that this statute takes precedence over all other legislation passed by the Legislative Assembly, apart from other quasi-constitutional statutes such as the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Human Rights Code. Would it not, therefore, be natural for members of the Legislative Assembly to be asked to actively participate in the implementation of the French Language Services Act, a statute that is so important for Ontario?

Indeed, if the Commissioner were to report directly to the Legislative Assembly, it would mean that he would be directly responsible to the members of the Legislature who had chosen him in the first place. MPPs would thus be in a position to ask the Commissioner – and other key players, such as the Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs and any other interested parties –, to provide them with explanations.

It has already been 25 years since the members of the Legislative Assembly unanimously voted to adopt the French Language Services Act. Would it not therefore be natural for MPPs to be able to obtain updates on the implementation of this statute directly from the Commissioner?

In addition, having an independent Commissioner who reports directly to members of the Legislature would go a long way to maintaining the interest of public servants and senior officials in complying with the Act. The reason for this is simple: the Commissioner would no longer be “serving” the government but would be serving all members of the Legislative Assembly, and therefore the population of Ontario.

As I mention in my 2011-2012 Annual Report, the Commissioner’s messages would continue to be heard, not only by the government but also by members of the public service who are responsible for implementing the Act on a daily basis.

Next week, I will go over the reasons why the independence of the Commissioner is essential from a juridical point of view.