Directive on the active offer of French-language services
The Commissioner is dumbfounded by the government’s response regarding his recommendation for a clear directive on the active offer of services in French.
On one hand, that response cites the new Regulation 284/11, which applies to government agencies who use third parties to offer services on their behalf. Even if the active offer concept were to be viewed as an integral part of the Act, it is not yet clear enough. Regulation 284/11 does not solve the issue of needed clarity as far as governmental agencies are concerned.
On the other hand, the government proposes to develop a strategy to increase civil servants’ awareness of the importance of the active offer of French-language services. This initiative, which at first may appear promising, in fact remains woefully inadequate insofar as it represents a band-aid solution to a systemic problem.
Indeed, the value of a “directive” to the government is that it is mandatory: civil servants are required to comply. Advice, best practices, procedures, tools, etc., are, in the end, only incentives to implement certain measures. In short, they remain completely optional and depend on the goodwill of each government institution, or even of each office or branch within a ministry.
And yet, when it adopted its Communications in French Directive, the government acted adequately and clearly. The government would be well advised to be inspired from this and to do the same towards the important concept of active offer.
If not, the current situation does not create an environment conducive to reaching those who are still hesitant to use services in French on a daily basis, nor to helping avert the constant threat of assimilation.
The Commissioner believes that many breaches of the Act could have been avoided with a decidedly active provision of services in French. And those breaches could sometimes have dramatic consequences, as in the fields of health care and access to justice.
Having failed to obtain a satisfactory outcome, the Commissioner will once again have to revisit this critical issue.
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