Notes for an appearance before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages regarding the 2014–2015 Main Estimates

Graham Fraser - Commissioner of Official Languages
May 8, 2014, Ottawa, Ontario

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Mr. Chair, honourable committee members, good morning, bonjour.

It is a pleasure to appear before you today to present the Main Estimates for the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages.

The Office of the Commissioner has a budget of $20.8 million to carry out its mandate during the 2014–2015 fiscal year. This amount includes $13 million in salaries, or 62.8% of the Main Estimates. Our workforce consists of 170 full-time equivalents.

Our operations are divided into three program activities: protection of Canadians’ language rights, promotion of linguistic duality and internal services.

Before we examine these activities in detail, a word about our recent move is in order. On March 17, we relocated all of our employees in the National Capital Region to new offices at 30 Victoria Street in Gatineau.

The decision to move from our downtown Ottawa location was made about a year ago for the following reasons:

  • to foster cooperation and share common services with other agents of Parliament already located at 30 Victoria Street, notably the Chief Electoral Officer, Privacy Commissioner and Information Commissioner;
  • to embrace the new work environment known in the public service as
    Workplace 2.0, which is more conducive to collaboration between employees; and
  • to take advantage of lower rental costs resulting from a smaller office footprint, which in total represents about $800,000 in annual savings for my office for the taxpayer.

An advance against future appropriations was provided to fund the costs associated with the Office of the Commissioner’s move in 2013–2014.

Protection of language rights

To protect the language rights of Canadians, the Office of the Commissioner investigates and resolves complaints, conducts audits, evaluates the performance of federal institutions and intervenes before the courts when appropriate. The expenditures planned for this activity in 2014–2015 are $6.8 million, which amounts to 32.8% of the total budget.

Over the current fiscal year, my office will carry out audits of the Canada Border Services Agency, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, Elections Canada and the Treasury Board Secretariat. In addition, we will begin an audit of the Canada School of Public Service, we will publish follow-ups to our audits of Air Canada and Industry Canada, and we will begin a follow-up to our audit of Parks Canada.

I will continue to intervene before the courts on behalf of Canadians. For example, we are currently awaiting a Supreme Court ruling in the Thibodeau v. Air Canada case and the case against CBC/Radio-Canada is still active.

In total, more than 400 admissible complaints are filed with my office every year. We will continue our ongoing efforts to reduce the length of our investigations. Recent efforts to improve our investigation process have included the launch of a web complaint form and a client satisfaction survey.

Promotion of linguistic duality

Expenditures linked to the promotion of linguistic duality account for $6.5 million, a sum that represents 31.5% of the total budget. To promote Canadian linguistic duality, the Office of the Commissioner communicates regularly with parliamentarians, official language minority communities, federal institutions and the Canadian public.

Our research, our studies, our distribution of information products and our exchanges with many key stakeholders and community representatives contribute to the promotion of linguistic duality among Canadians, which is an integral part of my mandate.

Among our many planning activities, we will continue to work with federal institutions and organizing committees to help them integrate linguistic duality into the various activities leading up to the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017. Canada’s official languages are an important part of the country’s history and a key component of its future.

We want to take a closer look at immigration in official language minority communities, as well as early childhood issues. In both cases, we will collaborate with governmental and community organizations already at work in these domains.

We will intervene with federal institutions to follow up on the recommendation of our August 2013 study concerning the bilingual capacity of the superior court judiciary. On a related note, we are organizing a conference on access to justice with the Bar of Montreal.

Internal services

Our third program activity, internal services, allows the Office of the Commissioner to assemble resources that support the organization as a whole, including asset management, finance and human resources management. This activity has been allocated a budget of $7.4 million, which constitutes 35.7% of our total budget. These services, essential to any organization, ensure that taxpayers’ dollars are used efficiently and transparently.

In addition to completing the logistical and administrative arrangements associated with the recent move to Gatineau, we will explore opportunities for further collaboration with other agents of Parliament on the delivery of the Office of the Commissioner’s internal services, while upholding our mandate and maintaining our independence.

We will also migrate to the Government of Canada’s PeopleSoft human resources information system, harmonize our employee performance management program with the Treasury Board Secretariat’s new directive on performance management, and implement the shared case management solution for small departments and agencies. Lastly, we will develop additional technological tools to improve efficiency and employee workflow.

Mr. Chair, honourable committee members, thank you for your attention. I would be pleased to discuss any aspect of our operations in more detail.

Thank you.

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