Archived - Public service gets failing grade, says Graham Fraser

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Ottawa, November 2, 2010 – The second volume of Commissioner of Official Languages Graham Fraser’s 2009–2010 annual report confirms that federal institutions are failing to provide Canadians with adequate service in both official languages have not created an equitable workplace and are falling well short in promoting Canada’s linguistic duality.

“Federal institutions should willingly, instinctively and proactively fulfill their responsibilities under the Official Languages Act,” said Mr. Fraser. “As most leaders can attest, success in any endeavour does not happen by accident. It requires knowledge, leadership, planning, assessment, and execution.”

Volume II of Commissioner Fraser’s annual report focuses on federal institutions’ compliance with the Official Languages Act. This includes the number of complaints received in the past year, and a review of the performance of 16 federal institutions during the annual report card exercise.

“Not only is it in the best interest of the Canadian public, official language minority communities and public servants, but above all, living up to official languages responsibilities is in the best interest of the country,” stated Mr. Fraser.

Examples of good practices are presented in the report and demonstrate that, regardless of their size, how frequently they interact with the public or how often they provide services through third parties, all institutions subject to the Official Languages Act should be able to improve their performance.

“Unfortunately, too many institutions wait until they have received a complaint or a very poor score on their report card before making half-hearted efforts in offering services in both English and French,” said Mr. Fraser. “Such an approach diminishes the trust the Canadian public has put in federal institutions.”

This year’s report card results illustrate that, in the areas of service to the public, language of work and support for official language communities, there are serious inequalities in the performance of the federal institutions evaluated.

Only 10 out of 16 institutions were able to provide bilingual service more than 80 percent of the time where required. Worse still, only 2 of 16 greeted the public in person in both English and French (known as “active offer”) more than 60 percent of the time. Some of the more glaring examples of poor service to the public came from Health Canada, Industry Canada and Public Safety Canada.

In many institutions, more than one fifth of employees belonging to official minority communities in designated bilingual areas reported being dissatisfied with being able to use their preferred official language at work. For the Canadian Border Services Agency, Health Canada and Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, the satisfaction rate is even lower. Employees belonging to the linguistic majority across the country are also affected by this neglect: many committed individuals are refused the language training they need to serve the public adequately or qualify for supervisor positions.

“The vision of a public service where English and French enjoy equal status as languages of work has still not been achieved,” said the Commissioner. “Few have taken measures to ensure employees are comfortable using the official language of their choice in preparing e-mails, reports or memos. Poor planning and inadequate follow-up are the main culprits.”

Every federal institution has a duty to promote the use of English and French across Canada. But since 2006–2007, federal institutions have made little progress on these obligations. In fact, out of the 16 federal institutions reviewed, 10 received a grade of D or E. Only four institutions received an A.

The Commissioner has determined that the problem lies in federal institutions’ lack of a clear understanding of their obligations and their failure to plan their programs and activities with official language communities in mind.

“Federal institutions are effectively at a standstill in promoting and supporting official language minority communities,” said Mr. Fraser. “There appears to be a lack of adequate leadership across the public service, and missing evidence of a clear desire to work with community partners.”

Unlike previous years when the annual report consisted of a single document launched in the spring, the 2009–2010 annual report has been published in two volumes. The first volume, released on May 25, 2010, discussed language of work, official languages governance, the vitality of official language communities and second-language learning. Volume II, released today, consists mainly of data on complaints and reports 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 For more information or to schedule an interview with the Commissioner, please contact:

Nelson Kalil
Manager, Media Relations
Telephone: 613-995-0374
Cellular: 613-324-0999
Toll-free: 1-877-996-6368

2009–2010 Annual Report Volume II Recommendations

  1. The Commissioner of Official Languages recommends that the Minister of Transport table a new bill as quickly as possible to protect and uphold the language rights of the travelling public and Air Canada employees, and make Jazz directly subject to the Official Languages Act.

  2. The Commissioner of Official Languages recommends that the deputy heads of federal institutions take all of the necessary measures to ensure that people who contact offices with bilingual service delivery obligations are informed, unequivocally, that they have the right to use English or French. Institutions should evaluate, in particular, whether new active-offer strategies allow them to better inform Canadians of the language-of-service rights,

  3. The Commissioner of Official Languages recommends that federal institutions take specific and long-term measures to ensure that their employees are able to use the official language of their choice in written communications.

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