Profound changes needed in the federal public service to ensure effective bilingual services to Canadians
Tabling of the 2020–2021 annual report
Gatineau, Quebec, June 1, 2021 – The glaring lack of bilingual capacity within the federal public service has resulted in many shortcomings in terms of official languages—shortcomings that have existed for too long.
Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada Raymond Théberge tabled his 2020‑2021 annual report today. The report provides an overview of the current state of official languages and presents solutions to help the federal government meet its language obligations, especially in emergency situations such as the current health crisis.
In his report, Commissioner Théberge notes that the COVID‑19 pandemic has highlighted systemic problems within federal institutions. These institutions are having problems establishing the proper language requirements of positions, which is preventing them from providing effective services in both official languages and from creating a work environment that is conducive to the use of both English and French. The Commissioner also notes in his report that federal public servants do not always feel comfortable using the non-predominant official language at work.
The Commissioner is deeply concerned about the major impact the pandemic has also had on official language minority communities, particularly by weakening their community services sector as well as their arts and culture sectors. These communities need the federal government’s support to help them mitigate the impact of this pandemic, now and in the years ahead.
During times of crisis, the limited capacity of federal institutions to provide services to the public in both official languages becomes apparent. If a federal institution has underestimated the level of language skills required for its employees, despite the tasks and duties of their positions, then during an emergency situation, those employees will likely be unable to respond to the public with the same attention to detail and quality of service in both official languages.
- In 2020–2021, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages received a total of 1,870 admissible complaints under the Official Languages Act.
- Of these complaints, 138 were related to the COVID‑19 pandemic. The majority of these complaints involved government communications with and services to the public.
- Of the 1,870 admissible complaints:
- 693 involved communications with the public and service delivery (Part IV);
- 173 involved language of work (Part V);
- 13 involved equitable participation (Part VI);
- 16 involved the advancement of English and French (Part VII);
- 968 involved the language requirements of positions (Part XI, section 91); and
- 7 involved other parts of the Act (parts II, III and IX).