1.11.1. Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs
The current functions of the Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs are specified in section 11 of the French Language Services Act. The Minister’s primary function is to administer the Act. Other functions involve the development and coordination of the government’s policies and programs relating to Francophone affairs and the delivery of French-language services. The Act states that for this purpose, the Minister may prepare and recommend policies and programs in accordance with the government’s priorities for the provision of French-language services. The Minister may also coordinate, monitor and oversee the implementation of programs for the provision of French-language services and programs relating to the use of the French language.
In addition, the Minister may make recommendations on the funding of such programs, require the formulation and submission of plans, and fix time limits for their formulation and submission.
These powers given to the Minister are very positive. The Act also requires the Minister to submit a report on the activities of the Office of Francophone Affairs to the Lieutenant Governor in Council at the end of each fiscal year. The report must also be tabled in the Legislative Assembly.
In other words, the Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs is required to communicate and demonstrate to the public how all these powers are being used. The Commissioner has raised this point in recent years and reiterates it here: one way of making the work of the Minister and the Office of Francophone Affairs more transparent is to fulfill its obligation to submit annual reports, as the Act provides in section 11(3).
188.8.131.52. Promotional role
One of the elements that is missing from the Act is the essential role of promoting it, and especially of promoting language rights and citizens’ ability to demand service in French.
In his 2009-2010 annual report, the Commissioner made a recommendation that the government develop an ongoing strategy to promote the offer of government services in French to Francophones throughout Ontario. In the federal Official Languages Act, there is an entire section devoted to the promotion of the linguistic duality. In New Brunswick, where the Premier is responsible for implementing the Official Languages Act, the government must prepare a plan setting out how it will meet its obligations under the Act, including measures to ensure the equality of status of the two linguistic communities and the equality of public services in the two languages.
On the basis of these ideas, the Commissioner recommends that the amended French Language Services Act give the Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs the mandate to develop policies and programs to promote:
- the use and development of the French language in every sector of Ontario society;
- increased learning of, proficiency in and vitality of the French language;
- public awareness and appreciation of the history, use, status, importance and diversity of the French language in Ontario;
- increased production and use, in every sector of Ontario society, of French-language materials in every type of media;
- public understanding of the Act and its associated regulations;
- recognition of and support for the French language on the national and international scene and by the private sector, including legal recognition.