With the holidays, and the New Year, fast approaching, this is the perfect opportunity to take a look back at what the Commissioner’s Office was doing in 2016!
A review of our publications
Our Special Report – Active Offer of Services in French: The Cornerstone for Achieving the Objectives of Ontario’s French Language Services Act was published in May 2016 (an executive summary is available). I can’t repeat often enough how important this report is, since it is so closely tied to one of my major objectives for the revision of the French Language Services Act. All too often, Ontarians have to request services instead of having the choice of responding to the offer of service in either language. For that reason, active offer is an integral part of my request for a revision of the FLSA.
The second publication, Annual Report 2015-16: FLSA 2.0, is the most important report, in my view (an executive summary is available). It contains an overview of the French Language Services Act’s history, application and raison d’être, which clearly shows that times have changed and Francophone needs have evolved since 1986. The Act made possible many historic advances for Francophones, but it could do more. As a reminder, here are my three main recommendations: Ontario as a single designated area, active offer of service in French, and the integrated, almost organic vision of the French Language Services Act. At the #LSF30 symposium on November 18, the Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs formally pledged to revise the Act. We still don’t know the details, but I’d say that’s a pretty good start!
The third and last publication of the year is entitled When the most elementary becomes secondary: Homework Incomplete (Follow-up on the report). In 2011, we produced a report concerning the many complaints we had received about the lack of high schools in the Greater Toronto Area, especially the eastern part. We received a response from the Ministry of Education in February 2012. Four years later, we carried out a follow-up to show what progress had been made since the Ministry’s 2012 response. In our recommendations, we stressed how important it was for the Ministry to provide the GTA’s two school boards with additional resources so that they could buy land and build a new school or enter into discussions with the English-language boards. The recent opening of the new French-language high school in Hamilton is a great example of cooperation between the French-language public and Catholic boards. Toronto’s French high schools will soon be at full capacity. The schools are having trouble accommodating new students because of a lack of space, and it will jeopardize the survival of the French language if we lose students from the secondary school system.
We did a lot more than produce reports in 2016. This was a particularly momentous year for the Commissioner’s Office. We moved to new offices, and we grew from a team of six to a team of 14! Modern new office space, but above all, very functional office space. We are particularly proud of our new offices, and we are even happier to have guests. Our doors are open to community organizations, including Francophone community organizations.
Human resources with expertise in a wide variety of fields, which helped us recruit top-notch people, the cream of the crop, as I like to call them! With this new team, we will be able to focus on introducing a new complaints management system to minimize processing delays and, above all, be more proactive.
Despite these major changes, we have continued to do our work – handling complaints, meetings with political and community leaders, speeches, breakfast meetings, lunch meetings, cocktail parties, conferences, training courses and so on. We had the opportunity to work not only with many government officials (ministers, deputy ministers, MPPs, public servants and so on) but also with members and key leaders of the Francophone community. We continued to promote the importance of updating the French Language Services Act to reflect our reality, and many people have responded favourably to the need to put the issue on the legislative calendar and move quickly so that Francophones will have an act that is consistent with their new reality and meets their needs.
In 2017, we will continue to talk about the importance of updating the Act and the importance of active offer. We will be visiting organizations, schools and public servants to educate them about the Act, its application, its purposes and the consequences for Ontarians. We will be more visible than ever across the province and on social media (Facebook and Twitter). By the way, I urge you to share the superb video produced by Improtéine to explain FLSA 2.0. In closing, on behalf of the entire team at the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner, I wish you an excellent holiday period and a happy, healthy 2017 full of joy and success!