Protocol for Dealing with Complaints with Laurentian University

I am pleased to announce the signing of a protocol for dealing with complaints under the French Language Services Act (FLSA) between my office and Laurentian University. As you know, since 1 July 2014, Laurentian University is designated under the FLSA. Thus, this establishment has the obligation to ensure accessibility and provide certain designated French-language programs and services that meet the standards of the Public Service of Ontario. The partial designation of Laurentian University focuses on French-language services at the Sudbury campus and the provision of programs in French leading to 13 degrees at the bachelor, master and doctoral levels.

With this protocol, the University is committed in particular to make its designation known to the public as well as the services they are entitled to and also to publicize its obligations relating to its designation, as well as the process for dealing with complaints.

Even if the Commissioner’s Office may receive complaints, it is important to note that the protocol provides that all complaints must first be addressed to the Office of the Associate Vice-President of Research and Francophone Affairs at the University in order to report a deficiency in French-language services. However, complainants may report a deficiency at any time or in case of dissatisfaction with the response received from the University. You may read the Protocol here under the tab Partial Designation.

This Protocol has been in effect since Laurentian University’s designation. The highlights had been agreed to between the University and my office in 2012. This reflects a proactive and collaborative approach which in my opinion is a model for the rest of the province.

Protocol on Complaints With The Law Society of Upper Canada

Last weekend, I had the privilege of signing a protocol with one of the largest justice institutions in Ontario, and certainly in Canada. The Law Society of Upper Canada is essentially an organization whose mission is to protect the public and ensure that lawyers and paralegals practising law in the province are properly licensed, trained and governed. The Law Society’s independence in carrying out its work is absolutely crucial. However, there is a legal debate, yet to be tested in the courts, as to whether, for the purposes of the French Language Services Act, the Law Society can be regarded as an institution of the Legislature, which would allow my office to receive complaints and investigate the French-language services that the Law Society provides to the public and to its members.

Needless to say, engaging in such a legal debate would be, at a minimum, a very lengthy, costly process; in addition, the results would be risky, and the ultimate outcome would probably be known only at the highest levels of the judiciary. That’s why I am so proud of the Law Society today. Its leaders have understood that the public interest is best served by the opening of a constructive dialogue with the Commissioner’s Office in order to properly serve the public and the Law Society’s members. The protocol is an act of maturity and respect between two organizations that care about the endeavour to improve the delivery of high-quality French-language services. This innovative action is also a further demonstration of the change in tone and attitude that started some time ago in the Law Society. Though only in the past year, the Law Society established a Law Practice Program (LPP) in both English and French. Yet the French version of the LPP is not just a translation, as is often the case elsewhere. This new program was designed entirely in cooperation with the University of Ottawa, based on the specific needs of the Franco-Ontarian community. In addition, the Law Society adopted a new regulation on French-language services in the last few months. And now it has signed a protocol with the Commissioner’s Office, when it had no obligation to do so.

Let’s be clear: this in no way means backing down from our respective positions, as mentioned by some media outlets. The protocol makes this quite plain. Rather, the aim is to initiate this dialogue and make it constructive, despite the inevitable disagreements that we will have over time. I can already see that professional training will be one of the first issues that we will have to deal with.

What type of complaints will be involved? It can vary. The Law Society provides many different services to the public and to its members. There is professional training, as I just mentioned, but also documents, translation of website pages, and direct assistance to the public and the Law Society. At no time, however, will the Commissioner’s Office process individual complaints against Law Society members for failing, for example, to follow the rule of professional conduct regarding the duty to inform members of the public of their right to a trial in French.

That said, the good faith is evident, and the will to take positive action indisputable. With these two elements, we can move forward, and I am confident that our new partnership will be a success. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the unerring leadership of the two treasurers, Tom Conway and Janet E. Minor, without whom none of this would have been possible. The same goes for the CEO, Robert Lapper, who quickly realized and thoroughly grasped the great importance of taking positive action. He provided his outstanding staff with the necessary instructions to carry out the discussions between the Commissioner’s Office and the Law Society. Of course, many others deserve a sincere vote of thanks, but for the moment, they will have to be content with this nameless recognition.

This protocol is also a precedent for other professional associations, an issue that I have mentioned in several previous annual reports. I hereby extend an invitation to those other professional associations to engage in a similar endeavour. A word to the wise!

A signed letter of agreement with Elections Ontario

I am happy to announce the signing of a letter of agreement with Elections Ontario to ensure that Francophones, at least those within the 25 designated regions under the FLSA, will have problem-free access to voting in the next provincial election, on June 12, 2014.

We have taken this proactive approach in order to accelerate the complaints resolution process regarding the provision of French-language services during this election.

Elections Ontario has demonstrated to us that it has put in place all the necessary measures for a problem-free vote. All signage, tools and other documents for voters as well as all required training materials for election staff are ready, in both English and French.

However, these efforts by themselves cannot succeed without the active participation of Francophones and Francophiles alike. That is why I am appealing to them to apply for one of the 70,000 election staff positions, to request their services in French during this election, and to promptly report any problems either to Elections Ontario, at 1 888 668-8683 or at, or to the Commissioner’s Office at 1 866-246-5262 or at

Please Join me in Welcoming our Francophile Friends

CPF ON 3On Saturday, October 26th, I was thrilled to be among some of my favorite Franco-Ontarian allies at the Canadian Parents for French (Ontario) Symposium on French as a Second Language, and I am proud to announce that I signed a Memorandum of understanding with their organization’s President Mary Cruden (see the news release).

This represents my belief, and wish, to see Francophones and Francophiles, two groups with shared interests and similarities, moving forward and working more closely to strengthen our rich Ontarian heritage.

Signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick

The Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, Michel Carrier, and I just sent out a joint news release to announce the signing of an agreement that will help our offices improve the protection and promotion of language rights.

I am delighted that the citizens of New Brunswick and Ontario can count on our combined strengths to guide our respective governments toward pragmatic solutions and lasting improvements.

It is worth noting that recently Michel Carrier and I each signed a cooperation agreement with the Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada, Graham Fraser.

Excellent News on the Official Languages Front in Canada and New-Brunswick

At least three excellent news were announced yesterday on the official languages front in Canada and New-Brunswick. Firstly, the Prime Minister of Canada announced the nomination of Mr. Graham Fraser for reappointment as Commissioner of Official Languages for a three-year term effective in October. I welcome this great news and look forward to pursuing our efficient collaboration.

Secondly, Commissioner Fraser and his New Brunswick counterpart, Commissioner Michel Carrier, marked yesterday the 20th anniversary of the amendment of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to include section 16.1. This section recognizes the equality of New Brunswick’s two official language communities and gives both communities the right to their own educational and cultural institutions.

Lastly, Michel Carrier and Graham Fraser also announced the signing of an agreement that will enable both offices to expand their cooperation in order to optimize their support to the citizens, communities and organizations that they serve. As per the memorandum of understanding I signed with Mr. Fraser in November 2012, this agreement will allow both offices to carry out joint studies and promotional activities.

I wish to congratulate Commissioners Fraser and Carrier for these great accomplishments!