Report of the Commissioner of Official Languages: too many “recalcitrant” institutions

Report of the Commissioner of Official Languages: too many “recalcitrant” institutions
Report of the Commissioner of Official Languages: too many “recalcitrant” institutions

Many federal institutions simply do not take their linguistic obligations seriously. In his latest report, the Commissioner of Official Languages, Raymond Théberge, speaks bluntly of “recalcitrant institutions.”

“This problem suggests that recalcitrant institutions do not accept the premise that they must serve members of both linguistic communities in the official language of their choice,” he judges.

At a press conference Tuesday in Ottawa, he did not identify these recalcitrant institutions. He refused to see it as a lack of will, but he spoke of the example that the senior management of the institutions must set and the extent to which they must be aware of their obligations regarding the two official languages.

Complaints

Furthermore, the number of complaints deemed admissible fell by half between the 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 fiscal years, going from 1,788 to 847. It is too early, says Mr. Théberge, to judge whether this is a an underlying trend.

“One thing is certain: this reduction does not mean that we must take our foot off the accelerator, on the contrary. We must continue this momentum, build on the progress made to date, in order to produce concrete, lasting changes and ensure the future of our two official languages, from one end of the country to the other.”

It must be said that some recent years had seen peaks in terms of the number of complaints, notably because of the speech only in English by the big boss of Air Canada in Montreal and the appointment of the Governor General, who does not speak French, is one of Canada’s two official languages, underlined Mr. Théberge.

This year, Air Canada saw the number of complaints against it decrease from 276 to 130. However, the carrier continues to be the federal institution that generates the most complaints, he noted.

The area that receives the greatest number of complaints is communications with the public, that is, language of service. Of the 847 complaints deemed admissible in 2023-2024, 533 related to language of service.

Next, it was the language of work that gave rise to the greatest number of complaints, i.e. 227 of the 847. The previous year, 207 complaints were deemed admissible for this reason.

“This year, we had a greater number of complaints regarding the language of work. So, it is not only the traveling public, but also institutions within the federal apparatus that have challenges in terms of accommodating employees to use both official languages,” lamented Commissioner Théberge.

He therefore concludes that “progress towards equality of status and use of French and English, as prescribed by Part VII of the Act, remains a major challenge”.

French-speaking minorities

Reacting to the commissioner’s report, the Federation of Francophone and Acadian Communities deplored that the tools designed to give more power to the commissioner have not yet been implemented, despite the repetition of the problems experienced.

“The commissioner mentions the new powers given to him by the Act to require that federal institutions comply with their obligations, but emphasizes that he will be able to exercise them only when the government has issued decrees to this effect. Essentially, with the Act, we gave ourselves a beautiful, high-performance car; All that’s missing is putting the key in the ignition. The key is to give federal institutions rules to follow and to confirm by decree the new powers of the commissioner,” commented the president of the federation, Liane Roy.

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