French Language Services Act

In Ontario, the French Language Services Act confers upon members of the public the right to receive services in French from the provincial government, notably in the designated areas. Every government ministry and agency in these areas must offer French-language services to their clientele, even if their offices are located outside the designated area. Thus, regardless of where government offices are located, it is the location of the clientele that determines the offer of French-language services in the designated area.

Under the Act, the Commissioner receives and handles complaints from the public with respect to inadequate French-language services from the Ontario government. The Commissioner may make recommendations to the Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs by means of his annual report.

The Act does not include municipalities in its government agency definition. The Commissioner may not conduct investigations of complaints over matters that fall within the jurisdiction of the federal government or in the private sector. Only provincial government agencies are subject to the Act.

During the 20th century, the issue of French schools largely dominated the political scene in French Ontario, particularly during the first three decades. Regulation 17, which was adopted in 1912, prohibited the use of French in schools until 1927.

In 1972, the Government of Ontario adopted a policy with respect to the delivery of French-language services. Henceforth, it was required to translate all documents intended for public distribution and to provide written responses in French to requests for information. Seven years after this policy came into force, the Public Service Commission adopted a policy with respect to hiring bilingual staff.

The French Language Services Act was adopted unanimously on November 6, 1986; however, it did not come into force until 1989.

Until 2007, the Office of Francophone Affairs received and handled complaints related to the delivery of French-language services by the Government of Ontario. Today, this role is assumed by the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner, the second provincial commissioner after New Brunswick’s Commissioner of Official Languages.