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During our audit, we sought to determine whether visitors can receive services of equal quality in English and French at national parks, national marine conservation areas and national historic sites. It also sought to verify whether the measures put in place by the Agency enabled it to fulfill its obligations under Part IV of the Official Languages Act.

We concluded that Parks Canada has made considerable efforts in terms of the active offer of bilingual services by creating and implementing the Hello! Bonjour! tool kit and integrating this concept into its service standards. We found that the training given regularly to all personnel has instilled in employees the reflex of greeting visitors in both official languages. The Agency had put this promising measure in place in order to correct the problems it was experiencing with this aspect of Part IV of the Act. It is also important to highlight the excellent work done to make extensive information available to Canadians through guides, publications, interpretive signs, videos and electronic communications.

The institution appointed an official languages champion to promote and explain linguistic duality to its Executive Board and to all personnel. It has a structure for official languages management; however, the structure needs to be evaluated to verify whether the program has been implemented effectively 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 and an accountability mechanism for the programís implementation. Parks Canada also needs to establish a performance assessment program for employees who are required to communicate with the public and who negotiate service agreements with third parties. It should 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 will also need to improve its official languages governance, especially since its activities are 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 required to provide services of equal quality in English and French to visitors.

Parks Canada must continue to be a leader in linguistic duality by taking specific and concrete measures. It 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 help Parks Canada improve the experience of visitors who wish to exercise their language rights. These recommendations, along with Parks Canadaís comments and action plan for implementing the recommendations, are listed in Appendix C. We believe that Parks Canada should implement all of the recommendations to fulfill its obligations under the Official Languages Act in terms of communications with visitors and the delivery of bilingual services.

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