“In the case of government services delivered by a third party, the application of the Act may not be accurate or fully reinforced.”
Annual Report 2007–2008
“When a ministry receives a proposal from a private company or not-for-profit organization to participate financially in a project, services delivered to the public as part of this project fall within the letter and the spirit of the Act.”
Annual Report 2008–2009
“The time has come for the government to get down to business and make some very important decisions in order to eliminate the loopholes in the way the ministries meet their linguistic obligations when dealing with third parties.”
Annual Report 2009–2010
“[There is an] absolute necessity of closing the loopholes regarding services that private service providers provide to the public on the government’s behalf.”
Annual Report 2010–2011
“A government ministry or agency that offers services to the public through a third party must still honour its obligation under the Act to provide French-language services.”
Annual Report 2011–2012
“The Commissioner is so concerned about this issue that he recommended that the government make sure that any public-private partnership take French-language services into account.”
Annual Report 2012–2013
It isn’t out of misguided tenaciousness that every year the Commissioner raises the issue of French-language service delivery by providers that are hired and funded by the Ontario government. His determination is due to the importance – and persistence – of the problem.
In Ontario, the government hires agencies to carry out some functions for which it would normally be responsible. Under various pretexts, however, many of them have managed to shirk the various government agencies’ obligations under the French Language Services Act. And despite regulations designed to fix the problem, it is still not over.
For that reason, the Commissioner recommended, in his first report in 2007–2008, the adoption of “a clear regulation to govern the delivery of French-language services under a contract with a third party who has agreed to provide services on behalf of a government agency or under a new public-private partnership”. It is also for that reason that he revisited the issue in his 2009–2010 annual report, urging the government to “follow up on his recommendation and […] to create a regulatory framework for services offered by third parties”.
The appeal was heard, and the government adopted a regulation concerning services provided by third parties on behalf of ministries and other government agencies. The Commissioner publicly applauded the fact that the regulation required not only the provision of services in accordance with the French Language Services Act but also the active offer of French-language services (which the Commissioner continues to advocate, not just for third parties but also for government ministries and agencies).
While the regulation applied to all new contracts as of July 1, 2011, contracts already in place between ministries and their third parties were given a three-year grace period. In other words, government agencies were required to comply with the regulation starting on July 1, 2014.
At the time this report was being written, the deadline was fast approaching, and the Commissioner’s Office was happy to be able to say that good progress was being made.
For example, the Office of Francophone Affairs led an interministerial working group to assist government agencies through the implementation process and develop the necessary resources to guide and support the reporting process prescribed in the regulation, which seemingly helped ministries and agencies solve implementation problems in a cooperative and coordinated manner.
Moreover, it appears that the majority of government agencies introduced mechanisms and processes to ensure the adoption of a systematic approach and compliance with accountability mechanisms throughout the implementation period.
Most ministries apparently amended the existing French-language service clauses or added one or more clauses to be inserted in new French-language service agreements with third parties providing French-language services on behalf of the ministries to ensure compliance with the requirements of the new regulation. Nevertheless, there is a serious threat on the horizon.