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Success stories

It has become common place for the Office of the Commissioner to highlight, in its annual report, a sample of success stories pertaining to official languages. This year’s success stories can be grouped into four main categories:40

  • Promoting the federal administration as a bilingual workplace

  • Using English and French in the workplace

  • Improving service delivery to the public in the language of the linguistic minority

  • Promoting English and French

Promoting the federal administration as a bilingual workplace

Some federal institutions work with post-secondary students to recruit bilingual staff. For instance, the Public Service Commission of Canada and Human Resources and Social Development Canada cooperate on a train-the-trainer initiative in Quebec. The goal is to promote the Commission’s recruitment program among bilingual post-secondary students. Each May and June, an average of 150 students take a one-week training course that presents the public service as an employer of choice. In doing so, the Commission has increased the number of bilingual post-secondary students applying for summer jobs and full-time positions in federal departments in the province.

The Public Service Commission of Canada also employs student ambassadors in various universities in Quebec to promote the federal public service as an employer of choice. The Canada Revenue Agency has a similar project underway.

Using English and French in the workplace

Some institutions show great innovation in the way they hold their meetings. In November 2006, Fisheries and Oceans Canada decided to alternate between English and French during its management meetings. This practice aims to develop the second-language communication skills of senior managers. Since this initiative was launched, weekly meetings of the executive committee have been held alternately in English and in French, and documentation is distributed in both official languages. Given the considerable effort committee members are making to perfect their language skills, the initiative can be considered a resounding success. The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority has drawn inspiration from this practice, and since January 2007, the language in which mandatory management meetings are held alternates between English and French.

Furthermore, Statistics Canada has produced an information kit on bilingual meetings and made it available to meeting organizers and chairs. It has also produced a video entitled An Unpleasant Meeting—Une réunion désagréable, which illustrates the pitfalls of a bilingual meeting gone wrong.

Statistics Canada has also launched a pilot project to encourage bilingualism within the institution. Three organizers were hired to ensure work processes were respected and teamwork was successful. These people identify specific problems and propose solutions in order to promote and maintain a workplace conducive to the use of both official languages. Evaluation of the pilot project is set to begin in the spring of 2007.

Improving service delivery to the public in the language of the minority

Some institutions have found ways to improve language training for their staff. For example, the Canada Border Services Agency, in cooperation with the private sector, universities and colleges, has implemented an effective language training program. The project included negotiating agreements with the Canada School of Public Service and other departments to share materials and human resources. This is a fine example for other departments that rely on the Canada School of Public Service for language training.

Moreover, Statistics Canada has set itself the goal of ensuring that all supervisory positions be filled by bilingual employees as of April 1, 2007. Its transition plan included opening an on-site training centre to deal with any significant outstanding problems and ensuring that employees meet the language requirements as soon as possible. At Statistics Canada, director and section head positions are already bilingual imperative, while deputy head positions will follow suit in April 2007.

At the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation, training for new employees includes a component on official language awareness. What’s more, to ensure services in both languages are of comparable quality, the Museum has added questions about official languages to the detailed questionnaire it will give visitors twice a year. The Museum plans to survey nearly 500 visitors annually. Lastly, the Museum has a five-year plan ensuring regular validation of the language skills of all employees in bilingual positions. All of these factors help ensure quality service in both official languages within the institution.

To improve access to justice in both official languages as well as communications with the public and service delivery, the Group of Federal Tribunal Chairs41 created a working group on official languages. The group meets regularly to share the knowledge and experiences of various federal tribunals. Among other things, it has developed a general policy framework on official languages that can be used and adapted as needed by each of the tribunals to take their distinctive characteristics into account. The steps taken by federal tribunals is proof of their desire to have a better understanding of the nature of the obligations imposed on them by the Act in terms of the administration of justice, especially regarding their obligation to make their decisions available in both official languages.

Parks Canada’s field unit in Jasper, Alberta, provides free office space to the local Francophone association in exchange for French courses for its employees and members of the local community. Since fall 2004, the association has offered two to three courses per year, and each course attracts 35 to 45 participants. Classes run 2.5 hours per week and are carried out over a period of eight weeks.

Service Canada's “Franco-allô” initiative, which was created in 2004, is another success story. This weekly forum, initially aimed at bilingual employees at the institution’s Edmonton branch, is now open to all federal employees and students of the Canada School of Public Service who want to improve their French skills. About a dozen participants (not always the same people) get together during their coffee break to speak in French. Participants are also invited to do exercises to prepare them for the next meetings. The group leader, a Service Canada employee, sends out weekly e-mails about the activities of Alberta’s Francophone community and a list of difficulties in the French language.

Promoting English and French

In an effort to encourage the development of linguistic communities, the Canada Border Services Agency informs official language community associations, committees and media about its job opportunities. In addition, the official languages coordinator for the Toronto region meets with college and university students in the French-speaking areas of Sudbury, North Bay and Timmins to promote job opportunities in the Agency.

Another initiative that should be mentioned is the Citizenship and Immigration Canada-Francophone Minority Communities Steering Committee. This committee is co-chaired by Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations, who is the official languages champion, and a representative from the communities chosen by the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada. The steering committee, in turn, has formed a committee to coordinate and promote the implementation of the Strategic Plan to Foster Immigration to Francophone Minority Communities (2006–2011). Both committees work in partnership with the provinces, territories and communities.

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency financed the PERCÉ (Programme d’entrepreneurship régional, communautaire et économique) program. Proposed by economic community groups, the project aims to counter the exodus from rural regions by making young people in Prince Edward Island’s Acadian and Francophone communities aware of the economic possibilities and cultural wealth of their region. It also aims to encourage youth to return to the province to complete their university studies in French. Carried out over the summer, the project offered job-search training, career counselling services and seasonal internships of 10 to 12 weeks. It also paired Island businesses with students to make it easier for young people to return to the province. Last year, ten young people participated in the PERCÉ program.

For its part, Service Canada also sought to reverse the exodus of young people with a project entitled Youth-Turn …Come Home to the Gaspé! This project was designed to work in tandem with the provincial government’s Youth Action Strategy 2005–2008. The idea of pairing students and businesses was also the focus of a project created by the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec. Entitled Opportunities through Internship, it gives young Quebec Anglophones a chance to work as an intern in Montréal in an English-speaking environment.

The Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec has also financially supported a two-year pilot project to measure the vitality of Quebec’s Anglophone communities. The project was carried out in cooperation with three groups: Carleton University, the Centre for Innovative & Entrepreneurial Leadership (CIEL) and the Réseau d’investissement social du Québec. The project has established approximately 100 community vitality indicators in the areas of education, culture, and economic and social development. The partners also ensured the support and tele-training of participating communities.

In terms of promoting linguistic duality and the equality of status of English and French, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has distinguished itself by organizing themed tours of the hidden face of Quebec in cooperation with Quebec City’s English-speaking community. By way of guided tours, this project highlights the Anglophone community’s historic contributions to the city. Parks Canada and Service Canada participated in the project under Canadian Heritage’s Interdepartmental Partnership with Official Language Communities (IPOLC). Fisheries and Oceans Canada have provided financial support, and one of its representatives has participated in the project’s working committee, which is made up of members of Anglophone organizations, including the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec (LHSQ).

Regarding the promotion of linguistic duality, the work of Industry Canada must also be commended. It supported an initiative launched by Canadian Parents for French (British Columbia and Yukon branch) to create a new, highly interactive web site. This site is the primary source of information for Anglophones seeking training opportunities in French. In a similar vein, Industry Canada has worked closely with the British Columbia Société du développement économique to create a web site for Francophone tourism in the province and various activities related to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

The official languages champions at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, in cooperation with the NCR official languages champion, organized a noteworthy event at the Ottawa central office in February 2006, allowing them to highlight the Agency’s commitment to official languages. An invitation was sent to all employees at the Agency’s Ottawa offices, and more than 300 came to an information booth set up in the entrance of the central office. Each person received an information kit containing, among other things, a toolkit filled with suggestions on how to maintain bilingual skills, hold bilingual meetings and ensure voice mail respects requirements with regards to service to the public. In total, coordinators prepared and distributed over 6,000 information kits throughout the Agency’s administrative regions.

Lastly, the efforts of Justice Canada, Manitoba Justice and the Association des juristes d’expression française du Manitoba (AJEFM)—three partners responsible for launching the campaign entitled Accès aux services juridiques en français—should be applauded. Thanks to financial support from the two levels of government, the AJEFM launched an awareness and promotional campaign entitled Mon droit, en français, mon choix. The Institut Joseph-Dubuc, a French-language legal training centre, was also a partner. The project aims to support Francophones working in the legal profession in Manitoba and increase awareness among Manitoban youth, senior citizens and Aboriginal peoples about accessibility to the judicial system in French.

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