« 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
2Hubert H. Humphrey’s statement. Available online: http//www.hhh.umn.edu/about/HHHquotes.html (page consulted in May 2014)