Administrative tribunals are autonomous organizations whose role is to make decisions in specialized fields when citizens are unable to solve a problem themselves. There are many such tribunals (more than 230 in Ontario);(17) among the best-known are the Social Benefits Tribunal, the Landlord and Tenant Board and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.
As the Commissioner stated in his 2008–2009 annual report, administrative tribunals were created to meet a specific need requiring specialized knowledge, or simply to take some of the pressure off the courts, and they are government agencies within the meaning of the French Language Services Act. Consequently, all of the services they offer to the public must also be available in French in designated areas of the province, and their rules of evidence and procedure must be compatible with the spirit and the letter of the Act. However, complaints received by the Commissioner’s Office show clear shortcomings in this regard, from English-only correspondence to undue delays for cases to be heard in French.
The number of problems in the administration and execution of administrative justice is proportional to the size of the sector, and while the Office currently has to content itself with attending to the most urgent ones – i.e., resolving difficulties encountered by citizens on a case-by-case basis – it hopes to acquire the necessary staff and resources over the next few years to find systemic solutions to the gaps in French-language services in Ontario’s administrative tribunals.
17. For more information: http://sciencessociales.uottawa.ca/crfpp/pdf/annexes_10-2005.pdf (page consulted in May 2014).