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
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