An Organizational Story
1.1.3 National and international relations
While the 2009 Conference on the 40th Anniversary of the Official Languages Act, the 2010 International Conference on Language and Territory and the 2011 Conference on 25 years of the French Language Services Act were significant events for the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner in its first few years, participation by the Commissioner’s Office in events of that magnitude reached new heights in 2012. In July, at the very first Forum mondial de la langue française [world forum on the French language] in Québec, the Commissioner participated in a discussion entitled “Le français dans les espaces méditerranéens et nord-américains” [French in the Mediterranean and North American regions]. A few months later, at the Rendez-vous 2012 International Symposium in Thunder Bay, he gave an address to about 100 delegates in the medical field from a wide range of countries as part of the conference’s French-language component. In his speech, he emphasized the importance of providing quality health care to their countries’ official language minority communities in their language.
In an October 2012 interview on the TFO program Carte de visite, historian Jean-Louis Roy, former secretary-general of the International Organisation of La Francophonie, stated that “Ontario is one of the societies that do the most for Francophones.”11 As an organization that fights for progress in this area, the Commissioner’s Office has made some headway since its establishment by gradually gaining notoriety on the Canadian and international scenes. As a result, it is now being called upon with increasing frequency to interact with jurisdictions that, like Ontario, aim to support the development of their official language minority communities.
For example, in November 2012, the Commissioner was invited by the New Israel Fund of Canada to meet, in Toronto, with the leaders of Sikkui, an organization seeking equality between Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens. A few months later, the Commissioner met with a delegation responsible for implementing Sri Lanka’s official languages law. As is promoted in Ontario, the Sri Lankan government and Sikkui hope to achieve equality for citizens of their respective linguistic minority, as well as equitable access to communications in both official languages, which is why they wanted to learn more about the French Language Services Act.
Meeting with a delegation from Sri Lanka
In the same vein, the Commissioner’s Office also worked with interprovincial and international media outlets that try to keep their audiences informed of developments concerning the provision of French-language services in Ontario. In the summer of 2012, for example, the Commissioner announced his position regarding the lack of access to French-language postsecondary education programs in Central-Southwestern Ontario on Radio Canada International,12 a first, and gave a synopsis of his first two terms on Radio-Canada Manitoba.
The Commissioner is honoured by the fact that his Office is increasingly being asked to share its expertise in language rights with other highly committed organizations in the national and international communities. For the Commissioner, the growth of the Office’s reputation over the years is much more than a sign of the credibility of its initiatives. It also attests to the capacity of Ontario’s Francophonie to inspire other minority language communities around the world.
11The show aired on October 7, 2012. Available online: http://www3.tfo.org/videos/00176983/carte-de-visite-jean-louis-roy (page consulted in May 2013).