Recurring official languages issues: Commissioner offers federal government solutions for sustainable results
Tabling of the 2018–2019 annual report and the position paper on modernizing the Official Languages Act
For immediate release
Gatineau, Quebec, May 9, 2019 – Year after year, numerous official languages-related problems are raised and debated, and year after year, they remain unresolved. This situation is cause for great concern and shows the very real need to modernize the Official Languages Act. Today, Commissioner of Official Languages Raymond Théberge tabled his 2018–2019 annual report, which provides an overview of the current state of official languages and includes his recommendations for long-term progress. The Commissioner also released his position paper, which includes his recommendations for modernizing the Act.
In 2018–2019, many federal institutions continued to fall short of meeting their language obligations. There is a lack of clarity regarding institutions’ roles and responsibilities with respect to official languages, which prevents them from meeting their obligations fully. In addition, the Act does not provide enough tools or guidance to ensure consistent, uniform application of the rights and obligations therein.
According to the Commissioner, the Act needs to be modernized to become relevant, dynamic and strong: it must be reflective of contemporary Canadian society, keep pace with societal and technological changes, and come with effective application tools. For example, because implementing and interpreting Part VII of the Act (Advancement of English and French) continue to pose significant challenges, the Commissioner is recommending that regulations be developed for Part VII, which would help clarify certain concepts and set parameters to guide federal institutions in taking positive measures.
Changes like this would help federal institutions better understand and meet their obligations under the Act, which is why it is critical that the federal government introduce a bill to modernize the Act by 2021 at the latest.
The 4 recommendations in the annual report and the 18 recommendations in the position paper on modernizing the Act are avenues of action for ensuring effective protection of Canadians’ language rights and promotion of linguistic duality throughout the country.
Next month, the Commissioner will be launching the Official Languages Maturity Model, an essential diagnostic tool for federal institutions that will provide tailored assessments of their strengths and weaknesses to help them continue to improve their compliance with the Act.
“In 2019, half a century after the Official Languages Act was passed, it is unacceptable that federal institutions are still not able to fully meet their language obligations and that Canadians’ official languages rights are still being infringed. Today, I’m offering solutions to these recurring issues through the recommendations in my annual report and in my position paper on modernizing the Act. Today, I’m calling on the government to provide strong leadership and put its words into action by implementing my recommendations to ensure real long-term progress for official languages and linguistic duality.”
- In 2018–2019, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages received a total of 1,087 admissible complaints under the Official Languages Act.
- Of that number:
- 550 involved communications with and services to the public (Part IV);
- 212 involved language of work (Part V);
- 22 involved equitable participation (Part VI);
- 12 involved the advancement of English and French (Part VII);
- 285 involved the language requirements of positions (Part XI, section 91); and
- 6 involved other parts of the Act (Parts III and IX).