1.5.1. Examples of the outdated definition’s impact
The majority of the members of the boards of directors of corporations such as Hydro One and Ontario Power Generation are not appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. As a result, those corporations are not required to provide French-language services under the current statute. While the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act, 1996 apply, the French Language Services Act does not. In fact, it was in this context that the Commissioner recommended in 2009-2010 that any statute authorizing privatization contain specific clauses expressly indicating that the rights prescribed in the Act shall continue to apply.
The same goes for public health units, about which the Commissioner’s Office receives many complaints. In his 2009-2010 annual report, the Commissioner recommended that public health units implement the Act when all or part of the funding is provided by the province. However, to this day, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care position remains that the French Language Services Act does not currently apply to boards of health/public health units, as the definition of “government agency” under the Act does not include municipalities or local boards as defined under the Municipal Affairs Act.
Another sector that is currently outside the Commissioner’s purview is education. School boards do not satisfy the current criteria. Yet, the Commissioner constantly receives complaints about this sector, which is so critical for the development of Francophone communities and the vitality of the French language in Ontario. Quite recently, Ontario’s lawmakers realized this and gave the provincial ombudsman the power to deal with complaints from the public about school boards. This would not be duplication of effort; rather, it would ensure that the right officer investigates complaints pertaining to his/her area of expertise. This would make the Commissioner’s powers not only more comprehensive but also more strategic and effective in areas affecting the promotion of the French language in Ontario.