HIGHLIGHTS

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The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages conducted an audit of Parks Canada from May to October 2011 to determine how well the Agency is meeting its language obligations to visitors.

Parks Canada is the steward of national parks, national marine conservation areas and national historic sites that offer Canadians a memorable experience of our countryís national and historic treasures. Visitors care a lot about the overall quality of the services and information they receive, as well as the accessibility of the services provided to meet their needs. The network of sites under Parks Canadaís stewardship is a symbol of Canadian identity that is recognized worldwide.

Our audit had four objectives. First, we examined whether senior management was committed to implementing Part IV of the Official Languages Act. Second, we checked whether personnel provided the active offer and services of equal quality in English and French at all sites, and whether planning was effective for the provision of bilingual services. We also verified whether the Agency consulted representatives of official language minority communities in the various regions and took the results of these consultations into consideration when planning for the provision of bilingual services. Finally, we checked whether Parks Canada effectively monitored the quality of its service delivery in both official languages throughout its network.

During our on-site visits, representatives of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages received a warm welcome and were always greeted with a "Hello! Bonjour! " Employees understand their obligations regarding the active offer of bilingual services. We can confirm that the Agency has made noticeable progress in this area since 2008–2009, when it received a negative evaluation on the report card issued by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages. Providing mandatory training and educating staff about this issue have been successful.

It is also important to highlight Parks Canadaís tremendous effort to provide visitors with a wide range of high-quality communications materials in English and French, including printed documents (e.g., guides, publications, interpretive signs) and electronic communications (e.g., Web site, Facebook page, Twitter messages, YouTube videos).

Our audit found that senior management showed leadership when they developed and implemented the service standards listed in Parks Canada Service – Quality Service Standards for You, which starts with greeting visitors in English and French. These service standards are based on the establishment of a new structure that focuses on the visitor experience.

The Agency appointed an official languages champion to promote linguistic duality on behalf of the Executive Management Committee to all personnel. It has a structure for managing its official languages program; however, the structure should be evaluated in order to verify whether the program has been effectively implemented throughout the organization. The Agency must establish a formal network of official languages coordinators and define their roles and responsibilities. It also needs to monitor official languages activities more closely in the field units.

Our findings led us to conclude that Parks Canada needs to improve the management of its official languages program by developing an accountability framework, a new official languages action plan (complete with timeframes), performance indicators, an accountability mechanism for the programís implementation, and a performance assessment program for employees who are required to communicate with the public and who negotiate service agreements with third parties. The Agency also needs to revise its official languages policy in order to better reflect its realities, review and revise the language clauses in third-party service agreements, establish a formal consultation mechanism to determine the specific needs of official language minority communities, and develop formal monitoring mechanisms. It also needs to improve its official languages governance, especially because its activities are highly decentralized.

Our audit revealed that the Agency still has some challenges in terms of service delivery, mainly due to the size of the geographical area that it serves and partly due to the fact that employees are located at entrance points far away from each other. Our meetings with employees and our observations at sites targeted by the audit produced varied results. In some national parks, we noted shortcomings in the bilingual delivery of activities and interpretive programs and in the planning for the provision of bilingual services. Some sites could not provide services in the minority language for various programs, and others could provide some programs in English or French only if requested in advance, which is not always possible for visitors to do. The Agency has work to do to improve all of its services and to promote linguistic duality. We also found anomalies in the language requirements of bilingual positions, in the language profiles established for positions that involve communicating with the public, and in the bilingual capacity needed to provide services of equal quality in English and French to visitors.

Overall, Parks Canada must continue to be a leader in linguistic duality by taking specific and concrete measures. The Agency should be able to raise the bar in order to provide visitors with services of equal quality in English and French and to comply with Part IV of the Official Languages Act.

The Commissioner has made nine recommendations to improve the experience of visitors who wish to be served in the official language of their choice.

We are satisfied with the measures and timeframes proposed in the Parks Canada action plan for implementing eight of the nine recommendations. The list of recommendations by objective and the institutionís comments and action plan are in Appendix C of this report. We are only partially satisfied with the response to Recommendation 8. We believe that the Agency must implement all of the recommendations to comply with its obligations under the Official Languages Act in terms of communications with the public and the delivery of bilingual services.



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