Statement from the Commissioner on Franco-Ontarian Day 2021
September 25, 2021
25 September 2021
Since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, we have all been called upon to play an important role in protecting our individual and collective health.
(TORONTO, September 25, 2021) Since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, we have all been called upon to play an important role in protecting our individual and collective health.
This year, protecting the linguistic health of our country has also become a priority. This is a pivotal year for language rights in Canada, as major laws governing language rights in the country are being re-evaluated: The Official Languages Acts of Canada, New Brunswick, and the This link opens in a new tabFrench Language Services Act of Ontario.
The protection of Canada's linguistic health is a matter of concern for all its citizens, especially in Ontario, which has the largest number of Francophones in the country outside Quebec.
The French Language Services Act (FLSA) is the primary tool that lays the legislative foundation for French language rights and services in Ontario, and its interpretation allows us to protect and enhance them for future generations.
It is a powerful tool that must be applied to its fullest effect. My team and I regularly apply the FLSA to strengthen and improve French language services in Ontario and to make a real difference in the lives of Francophones in the province.
This year we handled hundreds of cases, which were resolved thanks to our intervention, our talented team, and the willingness of the Ontario government and the public service to work with us.
We recently launched an inquiry into the cuts to French language programs at Laurentian University, and into the way the designated institution and the Ministries of Colleges and Universities and Francophone Affairs considered their obligations as set out under the FLSA. I will be issuing a special report on this matter at the end of the investigation.
By the end of this year, I will also release my second Annual Report, and will discuss in more detail the complaints we have handled, the observations we have made, and the recommendations we propose to improve the provision of French language services in the province.
In my 2019-2020 Annual Report, I recommended that the government improve the planning process for the provision of French language services:
RECOMMENDATION 7: That each Deputy Minister table a plan to the Executive Council that reports annually on the implementation of the French Language Services Act and the quality of French language services for the ministry for which they are responsible.
RECOMMENDATION 8: That, as part of her obligation under the French Language Services Act to submit an annual report on the activities of the Ministry of Francophone Affairs to the Lieutenant Governor in Council and to the Legislative Assembly, the Minister of Francophone Affairs report annually, beginning April 1, 2022, on the plans tabled by Deputy Ministers and their implementation.
The French Language Services Act is the foundation of Ontario's Francophonie. We must use it and preserve it. In this regard, the government recently conducted public consultations on the FLSA. This is an important step to ensure that the Act remains a strong and modern tool for language rights protection.
I had the opportunity to be consulted by the Minister of Francophone Affairs, Caroline Mulroney. I pointed out to her that the FLSA must ensure the delivery of equivalent French language services, without delay. I also recommended that she review the section of my Annual Report that identifies the limitations of the Act, in order to build on them and to strengthen and improve the offer of services in French in Ontario.
The report states:
We have received many complaints about organizations that, although they appear to be a government service, do not fall under the jurisdiction of the French Language Services Act.
We were informed that some websites owned by Ontario Power Generation and some websites it administers jointly with municipalities were only available in English.
We received complaints from health care professionals regarding the French language services offered by their professional associations.
We also received a complaint about the Real Estate Council of Ontario, from a person who was looking for training in French to become a real estate agent. The sole college program recognized by the Real Estate Council of Ontario is offered only in English by Humber College.
In these cases, the process by which agency heads are appointed blocks the application of the French Language Services Act. Therefore, we cannot intervene directly under this Act.
I also reminded the Minister that the FLSA does not specifically apply to local public health units, which inhibits our ability to intervene directly to address issues of access to French language services. This is particularly the case with respect to the COVID-19 vaccination and the information issued by local public health units, although such information is essential to the health of Ontarians.
It is thanks to you, and your real-life experiences, that we are able to understand what Francophones experience when they use government services in French, and can achieve results.
I would like to thank you all and I invite you to contact us if you feel you are facing a lack of services in French. You can reach us by phone at 1-866-246-5262, by email at email@example.com, or use our online complaint form.
I wish you all an excellent Franco-Ontarian Day 2021, in good health – individually, collectively and linguistically!
French Language Services Commissioner and Deputy Ombudsman