Bilingual services provided by the Canada Border Services Agency slow to improve

For immediate release

Gatineau, Quebec, June 19, 2019 – Commissioner of Official Languages Raymond Théberge today published a report on the follow-up to the audit of the delivery of bilingual services to travellers by the Canada Border Services Agency. The institution has made progress in many areas where shortcomings were noted in 2015, but the situation remains worrisome.

Four years later, the recommendations made in 2015 have not all been fully implemented, and the Agency is unable to completely meet its official languages obligations. Consequently, the institution still cannot provide services of equal quality in English and in French to the travelling public even when it is required to do so.

Although the Agency has implemented new recruitment and training practices to help it provide services of equal quality in both official languages, improvement on the ground has been slow to materialize.

In addition, the institution is still not tracking passenger numbers at airports in order to provide bilingual services at those airports where there is significant demand for them. Moreover, the Agency’s lack of a formal and anonymous mechanism for monitoring its services to the public is depriving the institution of information it needs to improve.

As a result, despite the limited progress that has been made, the institution still has a lot of work to do. More than ever, it will have to show determination and creativity to rectify the shortcomings that were identified.

The Official Languages Maturity Model, for instance, could help the Agency do just that. This modern and user-friendly tool, accessible through an electronic platform, can provide federal institutions with an overview of their current official languages practices to help them understand their strengths and weaknesses, in addition to suggesting a way forward for continuous improvement.

Quote from the Commissioner:

The Canada Border Services Agency is on the front lines to ensuring the safety and security of Canadians. When Canadians and travellers understand border services officers’ instructions, they are better able to respect them. As a result, if the Agency were to provide services of equal quality in both official languages, there would be greater compliance upon entry to the country. I therefore encourage the Canada Border Services Agency to address the shortcomings raised in my follow-up report and to implement innovative solutions to meet its commitments and provide Canadians and travellers with services of equal quality in English and French.

Raymond Théberge, Commissioner of Official Languages
 

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Recommendations

Recommendation 1

The Commissioner of Official Languages recommends that the Canada Border Services Agency annually review official data on the number of passengers at airports where services are provided and take action to:

  1. provide services of equal quality in both official languages at airports with over 1 million emplaned and deplaned passengers, and
  2. inform the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat of any changes to the bilingual designation of offices at airports subsequent to the review.

Recommendation 2

The Commissioner of Official Languages recommends that the Canada Border Services Agency:

  1. determine and monitor the number of bilingual superintendents needed to ensure service of equal quality in both official languages at designated bilingual points of entry, and
  2. use this information to ensure the sufficient capacity of bilingual superintendents at designated bilingual points of entry.

Recommendation 3

The Commissioner of Official Languages recommends that the Canada Border Services Agency develop and conduct targeted recruitment activities to promote bilingual front-line service positions. These recruitment activities should be directed toward bilingual audiences across Canada, including official language minority communities.

Recommendation 4

The Commissioner of Official Languages recommends that the Canada Border Services Agency provide ongoing second-language learning opportunities to bilingual border services officers in all regions to help bilingual officers learn the technical job-related terminology required for their work and to maintain their second-official-language skills.

Recommendation 5

The Commissioner of Official Languages recommends that the Canada Border Services Agency:

  1. at headquarters, define and communicate to all service employees what is required to provide service of equal quality in both official languages;
  2. at all designated bilingual ports of entry, adapt and implement shift planning and port procedures as needed so as to ensure that service of equal quality in both official languages is actively offered and provided for all of its service activities at all levels of inspection during all hours of operation; and
  3. at headquarters, verify that the above-mentioned procedures have been implemented at all designated bilingual ports of entry.

Recommendation 6

The Commissioner of Official Languages recommends that the Canada Border Services Agency:

  1. ensure that it fully understands the needs of official language minority communities by developing a formal national process to communicate with these communities across Canada, and
  2. develop and adopt a formal mechanism that takes the needs of official language minority communities into account during service planning and modification.

Recommendation 7

The Commissioner of Official Languages recommends that the Canada Border Services Agency conduct an immediate review of its services in order to determine whether they satisfy the principle of substantive equality and, following the review, adapt its services, as necessary, to meet the needs of official language minority communities.

Recommendation 8

The Commissioner of Official Languages recommends that the Canada Border Services Agency:

  1. implement, across its entire organization, reliable and anonymous monitoring of the active offer of service and the delivery of services of equal quality in the official language of the traveller’s choice, and
  2. use the results of that monitoring to improve services in both official languages.
Date modified:
2019-07-09