Significant gaps identified in services provided to Canadian electors

For immediate release

Gatineau, Quebec, May 14, 2019 – The Commissioner of Official Languages, Raymond Théberge, published a follow-up report today on the audit of services provided to electors in English and French by the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada.

In this follow-up report, the Commissioner acknowledges that Elections Canada’s commitment to improving services in areas of significant demand represents some progress in terms of fulfilling the institution’s obligations. However, Elections Canada must now put these words into action in order to comply with its linguistic obligations.

In response to the nine recommendations in the 2015 audit report, Elections Canada committed to putting in place a number of measures to ensure service delivery in both official languages to electors nationwide.

However, the follow-up showed that, four years later, the recommendations have been only partially implemented. Elections Canada has yet to formalize its core governance documents, such as its official languages accountability framework, its official languages action plan for the 2019 election and its official languages policy for field staff.

This situation is worrisome as, with the next general election just a few months away, there is a risk that the measures set out in these documents will not be integrated into Elections Canada’s practices in time to see positive results.

In order to address shortcomings in the application of the Act by federal institutions, the Commissioner released his position paper on the modernization of the Official Languages Act on May 9. The position paper includes a set of clear recommendations for the federal government aimed at ensuring that the updated Act is relevant, dynamic and strong.

Quote from the Commissioner:

The Office of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada must show leadership and make official languages a priority to ensure that all Canadians feel free to exercise their fundamental right to vote in the official language of their choice. This year will mark the 50th anniversary of the Official Languages Act, and as these issues show, a modernized Act with an effective governance structure is needed to lead federal institutions, like Elections Canada, to more fully comply with their obligations under the Act.

Raymond Théberge, Commissioner of Official Languages
 

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Additional information

Recommendations

Recommendation 1

The Commissioner of Official Languages recommends that Elections Canada develop an official languages accountability framework and communicate the framework to election officers and workers and employees working at headquarters and the enquiries centre. This accountability framework must:

  1. specify the roles and responsibilities of election officers and workers who must serve electors in English or French at all returning officers’ and assistant returning officers’ offices, mobile polling stations and polling places, including advance and central polling places;
  2. identify and present the roles and responsibilities of headquarters employees involved in the implementation of Part IV of the Official Languages Act, both in the Human Resources Branch and in the Electoral Events Sector, including enquiries centres established for returning officers’ offices and electors;
  3. specify how the persons responsible will be held accountable.

Recommendation 2

The Commissioner of Official Languages recommends that Elections Canada establish and implement a new action plan for Part IV of the Official Languages Act before the 2015 federal general election and communicate this plan to election officers holding key positions throughout the network and at headquarters. The new plan must:

  1. include deadlines, performance indicators and concrete measures that take into account all of Elections Canada’s activities related to services to electors, including the activities of election officers and workers and those related to federal by-elections, federal general elections and referendums;
  2. include an accountability and follow-up mechanism;
  3. be communicated to key persons, such as the managers responsible for ensuring bilingual operational services at headquarters, returning officers, assistant returning officers and field liaison officers.

Recommendation 3

The Commissioner of Official Languages recommends that Elections Canada develop a new official languages policy and communicate it effectively to headquarters employees and election officers and workers, including returning officers, assistant returning officers and field liaison officers. This policy must:

  1. take into account the structure and particularities of Elections Canada and the requirements set out in Part IV of the Official Languages Act;
  2. be communicated, during by-elections, federal general elections and referendums, to headquarters senior management and managers, as well as returning officers, assistant returning officers and field liaison officers, who must then communicate it effectively to other election officers and workers.

Recommendation 4

The Commissioner of Official Languages recommends that Elections Canada develop and implement a plan for recruiting bilingual returning officers and bilingual field liaison officers. This plan must:

  1. include measures to revise the work descriptions and statements of work of returning officers and field liaison officers in order to include mandatory language skills;
  2. include a provision to remind returning officers that they must designate election officer positions, particularly the position of central poll supervisor, at mobile polling stations and polling places, including advance and central polling places, in order to ensure that they can provide service of equal quality in English and French to electors at all times.

Recommendation 5

The Commissioner of Official Languages recommends that Elections Canada consistently add the obligations set out in Part IV of the Official Languages Act to all training manuals and in-person and on-line training sessions for election officers and workers.

Recommendation 6

The Commissioner of Official Languages recommends that Elections Canada establish an official process enabling it to effectively provide service in person of equal quality in English and in French at all times during electoral events. This process must:

  1. include the development and implementation of a service procedure that includes the active offer and delivery of services of equal quality in both official languages at all times at returning officers’ and assistant returning officers’ offices, mobile polling stations and polling places, including advance and central polling places where electors go to vote during federal by-elections, federal general elections and referendums;
  2. be communicated to returning officers, assistant returning officers and field liaison officers, who will then communicate this new process to other election officers and workers;
  3. be implemented before the 2015 general federal election.

Recommendation 7

The Commissioner of Official Languages recommends that Elections Canada implement a process to staff election officer and worker positions that must be bilingual. This process must:

  1. identify the election officer positions that must be bilingual within its network to ensure the sufficient presence of bilingual election officers and workers on all shifts in returning officers’ and assistant returning officers’ offices, mobile polling stations and polling places, including advance and central polling places;
  2. include specific measures to staff these positions to achieve concrete results in terms of bilingual service delivery to electors;
  3. include specific measures to make returning officers accountable in this regard.

Recommendation 8

The Commissioner of Official Languages recommends that Elections Canada develop an official mechanism for creating closer ties with official language minority communities to request their advice and support and to promote the recruitment of bilingual election officers and workers. This official mechanism must:

  1. include a procedure for communicating with official language minority communities at the national, provincial and regional levels;
  2. include formal communications with official language minority communities during the planning and promotion stages of recruitment campaigns for bilingual election officers and workers.

Recommendation 9

The Commissioner of Official Languages recommends that Elections Canada:

  1. establish a structured monitoring mechanism to ensure the availability and quality of services provided in person in English and French at all of its points of service;
  2. use the information gathered during its monitoring activities, including information obtained over the telephone, to correct any shortcomings observed and, in doing so, improve the bilingual service provided during future electoral events.
Date modified:
2019-05-14