Three Interested Parties
How the Office Communicates with Stakeholders Ontario Citizens
|Meeting with community groups|
|Cooperative contacts with public servants|
|Formal contacts with senior officials|
|Investigation reports and annual reports|
|Members of the Provincial Parliament:|
|Recommendations by the Commissioner|
|Dialogue with the relevant parliamentary committee|
|Ongoing dialogue with ministers and MPPs|
Vision and mission confirmed
If the independence of the Commissioner’s Office has changed with regards to its position, its permanence and its influence, it has not altered its vision and mission. It is in fact the opposite, while preparing to declare independence; the Commissioner’s Office revisited and confirmed its engagement towards its audience and stakeholders.
« The Office of the French Language Services Commissioner works to ensure active, integrated delivery of French-language services in support of the development of the Francophone community and Ontarian society. »
In other words, the Commissioner’s Office’s raison d’être is to help people in Ontario receive French-language services in their dealings with the Ontario government and its service providers. In doing this, the Commissioner’s Office supports the development of Francophone and Francophile communities, and, by extension, Ontarian society as a whole.
As much as its official role is to help citizens receive the services to which they are entitled, the ultimate goal is to see the day that offering and providing French language services will simply be a matter of course. The French Language Services Actand its regulations affirm the right for Ontario citizens to obtain the services of their government in French as well as in English. This recognises the value, and consequently the need, to protect French-language in Ontario. It is something Ontarians should be proud of, but it needs to be upheld in practice, and this begins with the government’s responsibility to deliver services in both English and French, equally.
For Francophone, being able to communicate in one’s mother tongue is more than a right, it is a need. The most bilingual among us still prefer to obtain services in the language known best when it comes to sensitive matters such as health care or justice, or when one’s means are diminished, be it due to social circumstances, illness or aging. However, they will do so only ifthe option is available, and if it is actively offered.
Francophiles trying to maintain their second language, which they actively learn in classrooms, also need support and services. They may not be faced with living as a minority in Ontario, but they too are faced with similar challenges when trying to access French-language education and services.
The Commissioner’s Office has more empathy for Ontario’s most vulnerable citizens, those who are most in need of government services yet the least likely to reach out for fear of reprisals. When required to prioritize competing priorities, the Commissioner’s Office ensures that this group’s needs are on the top of its list; from immigrants unfamiliar with their new homeland, to marginalized citizens struggling to get by. The Commissioner’s Office believes that “the moral test of government is how that government treats the children, the elderly, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.” 2
« The mission of the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner is to ensure that the public receives high-quality French-language services from the Government of Ontario. Through its powers of investigation, it monitors the application of the French Language Services Act. It strongly encourages government ministries and agencies to proactively design policies and programs that are adapted to their Francophone clientele, notably through its power to make recommendations. »
An affirmation of our mission
The objectives set by an organization justify the reason for its existence. Looking at its mission under this new perspective of independence from the government, the Commissioner’s Office has identified three groups from whom support is essential to carry out its mandate: Ontario citizens at large, the Ontario government and Members of the Provincial Parliament.
The Commissioner invites all citizens of Ontario to communicate with his Office to address concerns they may have with regards to any gaps in the application of the French Language Services Act. This is not limited to instances of poor-quality direct services. It also includes broader issues such as the systemic barriers that restrict the provision of French programs and services to those who wish to live in French, in Ontario.
The Commissioner quickly sees to the most urgent cases, but does not underestimate the importance of complaints that do not require immediate intervention. For minority communities, long-term gains are often the result of an ongoing series of small victories. That is why the Commissioner relies on the continued support and constant vigilance of Ontario citizens to continue its mission.
The Commissioner’s Office works hard to maintain ongoing and active relations with its government partners who are responsible for the delivery of quality French language services.
In general, the Commissioner’s Office gets involved mainly when it receives complaints from the public or suspects a problem with regard to gaps in providing French services. Government representatives should see these interventions opportunities to enhance the government’s services and programs.
Because it is responsible for offering direct and indirect services to the public, the government must take responsibility regarding any deficiencies in the delivery of French-language services that are brought to the Commissioner’s Office. After all, the complainants that turn to the Commissioner’s Office are in fact its complainants.
The government must be as proactive with its offer of French-language services as it is in the prevention and adjustments. Indeed, the government is essential to the implementation of the recommendations made by the Commissioner in his annual and investigative reports, which implies that it must provide substantive responses and take concrete actions regarding these recommendations. For this reason, the Commissioner expects active collaboration from the Ontario government to pursue his mission.
Members of the Provincial Parliament
As the newest Officer of the Assembly reporting to the Legislature, the Commissioner’s role is to assist the elected parliamentarians in holding the government and its officials accountable for their stewardship, implementation and delivery of French language services, in keeping with the provisions and the spirit of the law.
Accordingly, the Commissioner expects the same attentive ear and sufficient resources, as well as a firm commitment from the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to pursue his mission, in addition to ensure that the government fulfills its statutory and regulatory obligations.
2Hubert H. Humphrey’s statement. Available online: http//www.hhh.umn.edu/about/HHHquotes.html (page consulted in May 2014)