In the previous editions of my annual report, I attempted to initiate a dialogue with MPPs by trying to explain in greater detail what we do in the Commissioner’s Office, for example, by focusing on what our complainants are experiencing. I believe that over the years, we have managed to show what a serious impact not receiving high-quality French-language services can have on the lives of our fellow citizens, especially those in vulnerable situations.
Hence, I paid particular attention to ensuring that our recommendations had, in the vast majority of cases at least, systemic implications, in hopes that the government would put in place optimum conditions so that Franco-Ontarians would trust their government enough to ask for services in French. The government often responded positively, and improvements followed.
When faced with these systemic problems, which the members of my team and I observed, the first — and often only — reaction is to turn to the source of the obligations, the French Language Services Act (FLSA
This year, we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the good old Act. It has never undergone a major revision, and I believe now is the right time to modernize it. Bringing it up to date will make it even more useful to Francophones and the government. Accordingly, this annual report is mainly focussed on that important step. It was a pivotal year for Ontario’s Francophonie in 2015, with the festivities surrounding the 400th anniversary of the French presence in Ontario. That momentum must not be lost, and in a minority context, if you’re not moving forward, you’re falling back.
It has also been a watershed year for the Commissioner’s Office. First, in addition to being a founding member of the International Association of Language Commissioners, it joined the Association des Ombudsmans et Médiateurs de la Francophonie in Québec City. We are happy to be able to learn more best practices with the help of international colleagues, and we will actively pursue the acquisition of new knowledge. In return, the Commissioner’s Office will offer the expertise it has acquired in a number of areas, of which I am obviously very proud.
Second, in July 2015, the Legislative Assembly approved funding allocations that will enable us to stop being mostly reactive and be more proactive, to do more monitoring, to stop falling behind in the processing of some of our complaints, and to explore the possibility of becoming a true centre of excellence in services to minority language communities. Our small team has been absolutely exceptional over the years, and I want to extend my warmest thanks to every member of our staff. Third, since January 2016, we have had a new Executive Director, Jean-Gilles Pelletier, who will lead the Commissioner’s Office where it needs to go. I hope you enjoy reading this ninth annual report, and here’s hoping for FLSA 2.0!