Results of the legal experts committee’s work
In response to the Commissioner’s recommendation, the French Language Services Bench and Bar Advisory Committee was formed in 2010, and in 2012, it produced a pivotal report on access to justice in French that offered a wide range of possible solutions to ensure “effective and meaningful access to justice in French in Ontario”.7 The Committee’s recommendations dealt with many facets of access to justice in French, from active offer to language rights education for staff and the bilingual capacity of judges, and the Commissioner commented at length on each one in his blog in 2012 and 2013.
Since then, a steering committee was established to implement the recommendations, and in February 2013, the Commissioner received a report on some of the progress it had made, particularly in promoting the concept of active offer among court staff and educating the judiciary on language rights. The Commissioner applauds these efforts and the Ministry’s obvious determination to remedy the shortcomings documented in the report on access to justice in French.
That said, the Commissioner’s Office continues to receive complaints, some of them quite disappointing, about French-language services in Ontario’s courthouses. When a complaint is urgent (e.g., if the lack of French-language services threatens to disrupt the administration of justice), the Office’s staff tries to intervene as quickly as possible, which consumes a great deal of resources. When the problems raised are more systemic, the Office asks complainants to be patient and explains the Ministry’s step-by-step approach; however, this type of response cannot and must not continue for too long.
7Available online: http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/about/pubs/bench_bar_advisory_committee/full_report.pdf (page consulted in May 2014).