With the proclamation of its independence during its seventh year of operation, the Commissioner’s Office experienced a defining moment in its history. Independence means that the organization must now stand on its own two feet, as it no longer receives support from the government. Since the Office is now separate from the government, it will have to invest considerable resources and time in building itself up over the coming years. This transition is a critical moment: the Commissioner must ensure that the Office has all the resources it needs to be able to carry out its legislative mandate, now and in the future. This transition is necessary in order to proceed directly toward the establishment of a new institution.
While the Office’s independence has altered its position, permanence and influence, its vision and mission have not changed. On the contrary, in preparing for its independence, the Office re-examined and confirmed its commitment to the public and its stakeholders.
To guide its actions over the next few years, the Office engaged in a strategic planning exercise in the fall of 2013 to define some “major strategic focuses”. Thus, the Office was able to set some short-, medium- and long-term goals that remain relevant for the organization, regardless of the circumstances. This discussion also led to the identification of “priority sectors” – areas where shortcomings in French-language services are suspected, or issues that we want to keep in mind because of their importance to the advancement of the Francophone community.
There could not have been better news in Francophone affairs than the adoption of Bill 106, <em>French Language Services Amendment Act (French Language Services Commissioner), 2013, since it is so important on various levels for the Commissioner’s post to report to the Legislative Assembly, in particular to guarantee freedom from political interference, engage parliamentarians, have legal independence, ensure financial accountability, and exercise administrative independence and a capacity for action.
With the establishment of a permanent institution for Francophones through the independence of the French Language Services Commissioner, 2013–2014 was marked by a major step forward for the development and vitality of Ontario’s Francophonie. A permanent presence in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario is a historic advance in recognizing and safeguarding the rights of Ontario’s Francophones and of Ontarian society as a whole.
“The Commissioner plays a key role in ensuring a broad and teleological interpretation of the rights guaranteed by the Act, and he must be fully independent to fulfill this role soundly and effectively.”
Mtre. Paul Le Vay, President, AJEFO