ARCHIVED - Ottawa, March 30, 2009

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Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada must cultivate better relations with official language communities, says Graham Fraser 

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) must take additional measures to better serve producers from official language minority communities, states the Commissioner of Official Languages.

“Farmers who know their land know the best time to plow, what to plant, when to harvest and the best way to go about it,” said Graham Fraser, upon the release of an audit report published today. “The same goes for planning and implementing programs and services for Canadian producers in the language of their choice.”

Commissioner Fraser is pleased with the Supreme Court’s ruling a few weeks ago in Desrochers. “There was a difference of opinion between AAFC and the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages with regard to the scope of AAFC’s obligations to take into account the specific needs of official language minority communities when developing and delivering services for these communities. This recent ruling clarifies the issue and AAFC, like other federal institutions, must act accordingly.”

The federal, provincial and territorial governments share responsibility for developing and implementing a Canadian agricultural policy. Commissioner Fraser therefore recommends that AAFC consult with the communities in order to have a greater influence on provincial and territorial governments to better meet specific community needs.

“As the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages audit report points out, renewing agreements between the federal, provincial and territorial governments in the context of a new national agriculture policy gives AAFC the opportunity to clarify its expectations in terms of communications and services in both official languages,” explained Mr. Fraser.

The Office of the Commissioner conducted an audit on services to the public provided in both official languages by AAFC offices designated to provide bilingual services. The audit found that the bilingual capacity of these offices at times falls short, particularly in Western Canada. However, all the offices audited in Quebec were able to provide satisfactory service in English, both by telephone and in person.

The Commissioner made eight recommendations to help AAFC fulfill its responsibilities under the Official Languages Act. The Department has already taken some measures to implement the recommendations.

“AAFC has taken some corrective measures since we shared our results with the organization. It must implement formal mechanisms to identify and overcome the technical and structural issues that are keeping it from improving active offer and delivering bilingual services,” added the Commissioner.

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The audit and recommendations can be found on the Web site of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages.

For more information, please contact:

Robin Cantin
Manager, Media Relations
Telephone: 613-995-0374
Cellular: 613-324-0999
Toll-free: 1-877-996-6368