Archived - Graham Fraser Concerned about Government’s Laissez-Faire Approach, Calls for More Assertive Leadership
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ottawa, May 25, 2010 — In his fourth annual report, released today, Commissioner of Official Languages Graham Fraser expressed his concerns about the impact of the government’s laissez-faire approach to official languages in the federal public service.
“The disappearance of much of the support the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat provided to federal institutions for official languages may have significant negative repercussions,” said Mr. Fraser. “Many of those responsible for official languages in federal departments and agencies fear that this massive loss of expertise will have a profound effect on their institution’s ability to properly enforce the Official Languages Act.”
In recent years, the government has considerably reduced the staff that the Centre of Excellence for Official Languages makes available to the public service. The Commissioner believes that with this new approach, it is more important than ever that senior managers in federal institutions live up to their responsibilities.
“Although it is too early to assess the final impact these changes will have on how the federal government fulfills its obligations, I think it’s a shame that these changes were adopted without consulting, for example, those responsible for official languages in the federal departments and agencies,” said Mr. Fraser. “It’s not a good start for an initiative that is fundamentally risky. Senior management must demonstrate vision. If these managers act without any clear plan to ensure results, we can expect setbacks.”
In his report, which includes an entire chapter on the language of work of public service employees, the Commissioner also emphasizes that the government’s behaviour is far from exemplary in the way it treats its own employees. “Managers don’t realize that maintaining a work culture that, in many cases, is totally unilingual hinders the public service’s efforts to offer quality bilingual services to the public,” added the Commissioner.
Graham Fraser pointed out that graduates need to be well prepared to work in an environment where linguistic duality plays a central role: “Forty percent of the jobs in the federal public service require bilingualism. The private sector also has significant bilingual and multilingual labour needs. The federal government must work with the universities and provincial governments so that students across Canada have access to better second-language learning opportunities.”
“The presence of French and English manifests itself differently from one region to another, but it must become a distinguishing feature of Canada’s identity, an intrinsic characteristic defining the country,” said the Commissioner. “Decisions that could affect Canada’s linguistic duality need to be carefully assessed. The decision-making process must be transparent.”
In his report, Graham Fraser also reiterates the responsibilities of all federal institutions to Anglophone communities in Quebec and Francophone communities in the rest of the country. But the financial support often comes late—too late to be of any real help.
“Thousands of people in various organizations are working to strengthen the vitality of official language communities,” said Mr. Fraser. “The heads of some of these agencies have gone so far as to use their own credit card to pay for their agency’s expenses while waiting for government funding.”
Unlike previous years when the annual report consisted of a single document launched in the spring, the 2009–2010 annual report comes in two volumes. The first volume, which is being released today, sheds light on language of work, official languages governance, the vitality of official language communities, and second-language learning. The second volume, to be released in the fall, will consist mainly of data on complaints and report on the performance of various federal institutions.
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The full version of the report is posted on the website of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages at http://www.officiallanguages.gc.ca/. For more information or to schedule an interview with the Commissioner, please contact:
Manager, Media Relations
2009-2010 Annual Report Recommendations
1. The Commissioner recommends that, with regard to the implementation of the Protocol for Agreements for Minority-Language Education and Second-Language Instruction for 2009–2010 to 2012–2013, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages actively encourage all provinces and territories to consult all concerned associations and groups so that the bilateral accords can be more effectively designed and applied, and their impact appropriately assessed.
2. The Commissioner recommends that the Minister of Canadian heritage and Official Languages report, by March 31, 2011, on the actions that he has taken to speed up the signing and implementation of collaboration agreements and other agreements between the federal government and official language minority communities. The Minister is asked to indicate in his report how he has ensured that community organizations receive one quarter of their funding by April 1 of each fiscal year.
3. The Commissioner of Official Languages recommends that the Prime Minister take all required measures to ensure that new initiatives in alternative modes of service delivery (privatization; partnership or decentralization agreements) do not adversely affect the language rights of Canadians—in particular, members of official language minority communities.
4. The Commissioner of Official Languages recommends that the Clerk of the Privy Council make the use of English and French as languages of work in federal institutions a genuine priority within the framework of any initiative related to public service renewal and improved services for Canadians. Specifically, the commissioner recommends that senior officials manage the human resources of their department or agency by applying the most promising practices advanced in Monique Collette’s report. The Commissioner also recommends that deputy ministers be asked to report on the measures they have taken to provide their staff with more opportunities to work in the official language of their choice.