TORONTO, April 16, 2019 – The French Language Services Commissioner of Ontario François Boileau submitted his twelfth and final annual report today. Entitled Epilogue of a Franco-Ontarian Institution, the report covers the activities of the Commissioner’s Office from April 1, 2018, to March 31, 2019. While the report does look back at the events of November 2018 that led to the elimination of the independent commissioner position and the Commissioner’s Office, it remains focused on the future and highlights the main areas in which action is needed to preserve and sustain Ontario’s Francophone communities.
The leap backward from 2018
The report is critical of two decisions made by the government: the abolition of the independent commissioner position and the Commissioner’s Office, and the withdrawal of the promised funding for the Université de l’Ontario français (UOF). According to the Commissioner, the transfer of his functions to the Office of the Ombudsman is a step backward for the Franco-Ontarian community, since his promotion, awareness-raising and proactive advice within the machinery of government are compromised. The new “commissioner,” who will be an employee of the Ombudsman, will not have the same latitude in setting priorities and taking early action to advance language rights.
“The Office of the French Language Services Commissioner is a vital institution for the Franco-Ontarian community. With the elimination of the Office, the community is losing a pillar and its means of communicating with senior officials of the public service,” said Commissioner Boileau.
The withdrawal of funding for the UOF is equally detrimental. As indicated in the report entitled No Access, No Future, there is still a desperate need for French-language postsecondary programs in Central-Southwestern Ontario. An entire chapter of the report is dedicated to supporting the Université de l’Ontario français and emphasizing its importance.
Present and future issues and battles
Francophones received unwavering support from the Commissioner in areas such as health, justice and access to education. In this final report, the Commissioner reviews the substantial advances made as a result of his studies, the 27 investigations and investigation reports and, above all, the opinions and advice he provided to the Ontario government regarding public policy. In addition, the Commissioner always made time for meetings with the community to listen to what people had to say about their challenges.
“We must never lose sight of the fact that behind our reports, studies, public policies and government decisions, there are real people trying to live their lives and keep their language and culture. If we have been able to help them in that worthy effort, we will have fulfilled a large part of our role as language commissioner,” said Mr. Boileau.
The report also reviews the main conclusions of the 2018 symposium entitled Looking Ahead, Getting Ready on various key issues and the vitality of the Franco-Ontarian community between now and 2028. Lastly, the report emphasizes the need to modernize the French Language Services Act, which is still just as outdated today, in 2019, as it was in 2016.
In 2018-2019, the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner processed 435 complaints and inquiries, more than half of which were admissible.
Like past annual reports, this report contains a number of recommendations, dealing with designation, active offer, health, immigration, justice, and secondary and postsecondary education.
The French Language Services Commissioner’s last day in office will be April 30, 2019.
The Office of the French Language Services Commissioner monitored compliance with the French Language Services Act in the provision of government services and communication with the public. Under the Restoring Trust, Transparency and Accountability Act, 2018, that function is reassigned to the Ombudsman of Ontario as of May 1, 2019.
Lead, Strategic Communications / Office of the French Language Services Commissioner
Toronto – There is a profound sense of sadness in the hearts of all Ontario Francophones following the announcement of the passing of Mr. Gaétan Gervais. Ontario’s French Language Services Commissioner, Mr. François Boileau, would like to honour his memory and join other grieving Francophones to commemorate one of the most outstanding figures in the history of our country.
“Gaétan Gervais left an invaluable legacy for Francophone citizens of Ontario. In Francophone Ontario, he is a model for having successfully demonstrated the value of Franco-Ontarian studies, by combining his passion for history with his vision of Franco-Ontarian identity,” stated Mr. Boileau, French Language Services Commissioner. “He raised that famous green and white flag for the first time on September 25, 1975. Forty years later, this rallying symbol not only helped shape the future of the French language, but also instilled a sense of pride and solidarity in Francophones everywhere across the province,” he added.
After an impressive career, Mr. Gervais was able to dedicate himself to the full-time service of Ontario Francophonie. Guided by his passion for French Canadian history, he made an enormous contribution to planning a space devoted to the research and development of Franco-Ontarian studies, notably with the creation of the Institut Franco-Ontarien, the Revue du Nouvel-Ontario and the Cahiers Charlevoix.
“Historians write history. In addition to writing history, M. Gervais played an important role in our history.” added the Commissioner.
At this difficult time, the Office of the French Language Commissioner’s team extends its most sincere condolences to Mr. Gaétan Gervais’ family, and close friends.
From 1981 to 1987, Gaétan Gervais was an assistant professor at Laurentian University and was also appointed as Director of the Comité de l’enseignement en français to revise and develop French language university programs.
Between 1994 and 2013, he received many honours, including the Order of Canada, the Mérite Horace-Viau Award, and the Ordre du mérite Franco-Ontarien awarded by the Association canadienne-française de l’Ontario (ACFO)
In 2012, the Conseil scolaire Viamonde inaugurated a secondary school in Oakville, Ontario, which bears his name.
The Office of the French Language Services Commissioner reports directly to Legislative Assembly of Ontario and its mandate is to ensure that the delivery of government services complies with the French Language Services Act.
TORONTO, July 18, 2018 – Ontario’s French Language Services Commissioner, François Boileau, presented today his 11th Annual Report to the new Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, the honourable Ted Arnott. The report, Looking ahead, Getting ready, covers the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner’s activities from April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018, and makes 14 recommendations, including one to the effect that the province should adopt an action plan on the development of Francophone communities and the promotion of the French language in Ontario.
For his report, the Commissioner asked seven experts to write about several issues that affect or will affect the delivery of French language services, including demography. Unlike last year’s report, which reviewed the 10 previous years, this one projects the Francophone population forward to 2028, and calls upon the government to prepare itself. Many demographic scenarios are examined. The best-case scenario shows that by 2028, in spite of expected growth in Ontario’s Francophone population in absolute figures, the proportion will continue to decline, relative to the province’s total population.
The Commissioner therefore calls upon the government to take action.
According to Commissioner Boileau: “The findings are alarming. We need to prepare for a scenario in which we will have some serious catching-up to do, notably on Francophone immigration and the aging of the population. A provincial action plan for developing Francophone communities and promoting French in Ontario would be a first step towards a long-term solution. I agree that it is ambitious, but it is also essential. It would give the ministries a framework and indicate the desired collective direction. The new Ford government needs to field the ball and immediately seize this opportunity.”
The Commissioner made another seven recommendations on Francophone immigration and six more on demography, health, the production and dissemination of French-language digital content, the digital transformation of the government-citizen relationship, the restructuring of in-person public services and tomorrow’s workforce.
“My advisory role is one of the most important assigned to me under the French Language Services Act. More than ever, the annual report includes valuable advice. Daring to think 10 years ahead is a perilous exercise at best. The very words used in the title, Looking ahead, Getting ready, are action verbs recommending that we face up to reality and do what has to be done. My goal is to mobilize public policymakers and engage Francophone communities in taking strong collective action,” concluded the Commissioner.
In 2017-2018, the Commissioner’s Office dealt with 315 complaints and requests for information, over two-thirds of which were admissible.
The report refers to 28 best practices, honourable mentions and initiatives that promote the delivery of French language services.
The French Language Services Commissioner is one of nine independent officers of the Legislative Assembly.
The mandate of the Commissioner’s Office is to ensure that government services are delivered in compliance with the French Language Services Act.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: Consult the annual report at flscontario.ca, in the “Publications” section.
TORONTO, April 11, 2018 – Ontario’s French Language Services Commissioner François Boileau today announced the findings of the investigation into government advertising, which showed that the advertising model currently practised is inadequate to support Francophone media. The report makes it clear that it is now, in 2018, essential for the Government of Ontario to take concrete action to improve communications in French with a view to expanding services in that language and contributing to the development of the entire Francophone community.
According to Commissioner Boileau, “Eight years after the adoption of the Communications in French Directive and Guidelines, many government ministries and agencies continue to breach their obligations by repeatedly failing to publish their communications in French in French-language media. As a result, Ontario’s Francophones have not had full access to government information.“
The Communications in French Directive and Guidelines introduced an important and flexible mechanism for including French language services in government communications. Several shortcomings remain, however. The complaints received about Ontario government advertisements in the province’s Francophone media (traditional and digital) made it clear that the existing process was not leading to compliance by the government with the statutory requirements or protocols for preparing and distributing government advertising.
The Commissioner further pointed out that: “Francophone media, including newspapers, television, radio and the Internet, contribute to the vitality and sustainability of the Franco-Ontarian community. They provide Francophone Ontarians with relevant information in their own language. Greater awareness on the part of advertisers and other players in the advertising industry is not only highly desirable, but essential.”
Following an exhaustive analysis of current policies and processes, the Commissioner’s report ended with six recommendations to Secretary of the Cabinet and Clerk of the Executive Council, and the Minister of Francophone Affairs. The report recommended introducing a new communications in French regulation, reviewing the guidelines, and providing more targeted training. It further recommended the establishment of an advisory committee to provide the Ontario government with better guidance on how to comply with its statutory obligations with respect to the design and distribution of government advertising.
In 2009, the Commissioner launched an investigation into an English-only flyer distributed during the H1N1 influenza A pandemic by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
This investigation led in 2010 to the adoption of the Communications in French Directive and Guidelines, requiring all ministries and other government agencies to consider the needs of Francophone communities in planning their communications with the public. The purpose of these policies was to ensure enhanced planning and oversight for communications intended for Ontario Francophones.
The Directive also provides for the Ministry of Francophone Affairs to organize online and face-to-face training for communications staff at government ministries and agencies.
According to the experts consulted, in Ontario, government advertising on the web now represents a significant share (28%) of overall advertising by government ministries and agencies. For the 2015-2016 period, digital advertising by the government totalled $11.7 million, almost double the amount spent on government advertising in print media. While this leads to substantial savings for the government, it deprives the Francophone media of revenue crucial to their survival.
The Office of the French Language Services Commissioner reports directly to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and its mandate is essentially to ensure that government services are delivered in compliance with the French Language Services Act.
Toronto, Tuesday, March 13, 2018 – The Office of the French Language Services Commissioner is pleased to announce that a memorandum of understanding (MOU) has been signed with the Ontario College of Teachers. This MOU will lead to improved collaboration, with the goal of ensuring fluidity in the management of complaints about French language services offered in connection with the services provided by the College.
“I am very pleased to be able to collaborate with the College of Teachers. This will provide an opportunity to optimize the process in order to better respond to the needs of complainants,” said French Language Services Commissioner François Boileau.
The MOU sets out the terms on which the Commissioner may refer a complaint to the College for investigation and describes the process for dealing with the complaint, which will promote equitable access to French language services for the Francophone community. The College will conduct an investigation into each complaint it receives from the Commissioner in a timely, efficient and fair manner. The College will inform the Commissioner of the outcome of its investigations into all complaints referred by him, including any measure taken by the College to address them.
This is the second MOU that the Office of the Commissioner has signed with a professional governing body, the first being with the Law Society of Ontario in 2014.
The Office of the French Language Services Commissioner and the Ontario College of Teachers have agreed to focus on French language services to both the public and members of the College, rather than on jurisdictional issues.
TORONTO, March 7, 2018 – Today, Ontario’s French Language Services Commissioner François Boileau announced the release of a special study on the current status of the agency designation process under the French Language Services Act and Regulation398/93. The report’s conclusions confirm that it is essential for the Ontario government to modernize this important mechanism in order to enhance French language services and to contribute to the development of the entire Francophone community.
According to Commissioner Boileau, “By optimizing and improving the agency designation process, we will be able to promote better services in French in a manner that meets the expectations and needs of Ontario’s Francophone populations”.
The study’s findings identified a number of obvious shortcomings that undermine the provision of services in French; these include the failure to promote designation, the slow processing of applications, the disparity in support provided to agencies seeking designation, and the shortcomings of the accountability mechanism for designated agencies. Consequently, the provision of French language services did not increase in several essential sectors and were often of lesser quality.
Mr. Boileau added that: “This study provides concrete solutions for each of the shortcomings identified in the designation process, not only in terms of increasing the number of designated agencies in the province, but also in considerably improving the availability of French language services in several activity sectors”.
In the mindset of being able to provide quality French language services that give due consideration to the needs and concerns of Francophones, this study’s goal was to take stock of the legislative mechanism and come up with recommendations on how to improve it.
In Ontario, agency designation is a legal and administrative process that follows the rules and procedures prescribed in the French Language Services Act and Regulation 398/93, as well as the directives from the Ministry of Francophone Affairs.
The revamping of the designation process is part of the mandate letter from the Premier to the Minister of Francophone Affairs.
There are currently 245 designated agencies in Ontario, 84 of which fall under the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. Most of these agencies have limited designation for a specific program.
The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, through the Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs), adopted an administrative procedure that consists of identifying certain health care providers for the purpose of offering French language services. The purpose of this administrative procedure was to better prepare them for submitting a designation application.
While approximately 201 agencies were identified by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, few have sought designation.
The study of the designation process was largely based on interviews with ministerial stakeholders and agency directors, and on quantitative data produced by the French Language Health Services Network of Eastern Ontario.
The office of the French Language Services Commissioner reports directly to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and its mandate is essentially to ensure that government services are delivered in compliance with the French Language Services Act.