ARCHIVED - VI. RECOMMENDATIONS TO FEDERAL INSTITUTIONS

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The obligations imposed on a federal institution for the provision of a government service are not diluted when it develops a model of cooperation with a community group to facilitate the delivery of the service, regardless of the form taken by this model of cooperation.

The following recommendations are designed to support the efforts of federal institutions that are developing models of cooperation with community groups for the delivery of a service or program.

1. Monitoring of New Models of Cooperation

Projects and procedures for providing services to the official language communities through new models of cooperation often arise at the grass roots, at the local level, and this makes them more relevant to the communities. However, such an approach makes the monitoring of these models of cooperation and the analysis of possible impacts in terms of the Official Languages Act at the national level more difficult.

Since there is no central registry that documents the new models of providing service to the official language communities, the gathering of information for this study was difficult and required a large number of telephone interviews with government and community employees at the national, provincial and local levels.

It should be clearly understood that the new models of cooperation inventoried are not aimed solely at the minority official language communities. In all the cases identified, the federal institutions have developed new models of service delivery for the entire population and then adapted these models to the minority official language communities. We did not find a single new program created and introduced solely to serve a minority community.

After five years during which some 100 initiatives, pilot projects and other projects have been developed, we believe that a central agency of the federal government must establish a monitoring system for new models of cooperation that ensure the delivery of government services through community groups.

The report of the Task Force on government transformations and the official languages said, in reference to partnership with the communities: “It is important...to be cautious in adopting this type of approach, which entails the creation of a new, parallel program delivery mechanism that has not necessarily proven itself.”

The Task Force’s concerns remain well founded. In the course of this study we identified one model that we were unable to analyze. A department offered a contract to a small local community group for the delivery of a service in a locality. The community group in question informed us that it was not in possession of the contract, and the local office of the department failed to send it to us, even after it was requested.

To date, the models established are mainly in the areas of employability, economic development, and the Francophone cultural sector at the national level. Other forms of cooperation are developing gradually.

For example, the Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise, inspired by the approach recommended by Mr. Justice Chartier3 in the neighbouring province of Manitoba, has just established a “single window” in 12 communities in Saskatchewan. In each office, a bilingual employee provides services, ranging from training to job search, to the entire community in both languages; other services will be added in the years to come. The office’s language of work will be French. The offices are linked virtually. According to the director general of the Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise, this initiative is to some extent the result of federal devolution and the implementation of section 41 of the Official Languages Act.

A number of community groups have informed us of projects in preparation. The various models of cooperation will multiply in the years to come.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The federal institutions responsible must develop now the procedures required to inventory the developing new models of cooperation, on the one hand, and, on the other, ensure that these models respect the spirit and intent of the Official Languages Act.

Recommendation

That the Committee of Deputy Ministers Responsible for Official Languages assign the Treasury Board Secretariat and the Department of Canadian Heritage the responsibility for establishing, within the next six months, a central data collection system to monitor the development of models of cooperation between federal institutions and community groups that lead to the delivery of government services or programs to the minority official language communities.

That the Committee of Deputy Ministers Responsible for Official Languages assign the Treasury Board Secretariat and the Department of Canadian Heritage the responsibility for developing a management framework for models of cooperation between the government and community groups for the delivery of services in order to ensure respect for the spirit and intent of the Official Languages Act. This framework should be operational by March 31, 2001.

2. Overall Evaluation of Models of Cooperation

A number of the cases noted in this study are interesting and promising. Most of these models are recent, having been introduced in the past few years and, in some cases, only in the past few months. It is therefore still too early to fully evaluate the overall impact of these models on the communities and on the quality of service provided. It seems to us that such an in-depth evaluation could take place in two or three years, when the communities have had more experience with a variety of approaches.

Such an evaluation would make it possible to confirm the best practices, recommend the necessary adjustments, and eliminate the irritants that may have arisen.

Recommendation

That the Treasury Board, in 2002-2003, provide for an overall evaluation of the results achieved following the implementation of new models of cooperation between federal institutions and community groups that lead to the delivery of government services or programs to the minority official language communities.

3. Analysis of Community Needs and Planning of Implementation

As noted above, a community group that wishes to provide a government service must take measures for adequate preparation in the community. This requires financial resources whose size will vary with the clientele and the scope of the service.

Before introducing a new model of cooperation, a federal institution must conduct preliminary talks with the group to discuss the possible models of cooperation, conduct a needs study, and develop an implementation plan that includes, among other things, the following elements:

  • an analysis of the needs of the official language minority community for the services to be provided (demographics, level of service provided, level of service to be provided etc.);

  • support for consultation among the minority groups likely to deliver the service;

  • service delivery mechanisms (skills and training of personnel, site, periodic evaluation, etc.)

  • integration of this model of service delivery into the departmental action plan as a whole;

  • integration of this model of service delivery into the overall government strategy for the region in question;

  • transitional provisions for the resumption of delivery of the service by the government institution in anticipation of the end of the cooperation agreement.

Recommendation

That each federal institution concerned provide adequate financial resources for the conduct of a needs study and for planning the implementation of a new model of cooperation with a community agency for the delivery of a government service to an official language minority community.

4. Control and Accountability Mechanisms

The federal institution must ensure that any model of cooperation serves the public interest and achieves its strategic and operational objectives. During the preparatory phase, it must therefore ensure that the model of cooperation to be introduced respects the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Official Languages Act and the Regulations.

Recommendation

That each federal institution concerned ensure in all cases that appropriate control and accountability mechanisms are put in place during the planning and implementation of a new model of cooperation with an official language minority community or one of its agencies for the delivery of a service. These mechanisms must, among other things, guarantee respect for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Official Languages Act and the Official Languages Regulations.

5. Respect for the Principle of Equality

There has as yet been no evaluation of all of the models of cooperation inventoried to determine whether the services provided to the minority are equivalent to the services provided to the majority. As we have seen, a few years must still pass before such an evaluation.

In some cases, we observed that federal institutions make provision for and support the training of the employees of the community group that delivers the services. The contractual terms provide for evaluations of the quality of services provided; these terms are explicit in specifying that the services provided to the minority must be of a quality equivalent to the services provided to the majority.

Any model of cooperation between a department and a community group for the delivery of a government service must not call in question the provisions regarding the principles of equality and standards of quality. It is the responsibility of federal institutions to ensure that the service provider meets the requirements of the Act.

Consequently, whatever the model chosen, it must ensure the real equality of English and French, equality of access to service for each of the linguistic groups, and service of equal quality in each official language.

Recommendation

That each federal institution concerned ensure full respect for the principle of equality which is at the heart of the language rights of Canadians and for the quality standards applicable to the delivery of a government service by a community group.

That the federal institution concerned ensure that the employees of the community groups that deliver the service acquire and integrate the required professional and linguistic skills.

That the federal institution concerned periodically conduct a formal evaluation to measure the quality of the services provided by the community group and to ensure their equality.

6. Long-term Stability of the Provision of Service

The most important concern in all the models examined is the perpetuity of the service. Aside from the framework agreements, which are multi year, the models of cooperation identified in this study take the form of annual grant agreements. This is the case with the London-Sarnia regional ACFO and all the examples of this type.

Such arrangements present serious risks. Should the grant to the community group not be renewed, clients will again have to go to the offices of the federal institution in question. In many cases, the local office does not have the linguistic capacity on site. This is what motivated it to develop a model of cooperation with the community group in the first place. At another level, the community groups that provide the service develop a corporate memory that is important for ensuring the quality of service provided. They know the clients and their needs and establish contacts with the institutions of the community. The offices are well broken in, and the rough patches have gradually been smoothed out. The rapid closing of such an office after the non-renewal of a grant would mean the loss of this corporate memory and oblige a department to develop a knowledge of the community once again. In such a situation, the risk is great that clients will experience an erosion of their minority language rights.

The end of a cooperation agreement between a community group and a department for the delivery of a government service to an official language minority community must not, at any time, compromise the principles of equality and quality of the service provided. These agreements must therefore form part of a coherent departmental framework that contributes to the advancement toward equality of the official language communities.

It is ill-advised to proceed by means of an annual grant agreement for these models of cooperation, unless these grants are firmly established in a coherent framework and in a well-considered department strategy for the development of the linguistic minorities.

When a new model of cooperation is established it is therefore necessary to foresee how the government service will be reabsorbed into a department if this model of cooperation should come to an end.

We have not seen such transitional provisions in the models of cooperation established on an annual grant basis.

In its strategy, a department will have to provide for a transition period in the event of the non-renewal of the grant that enables a community group to deliver one of its services. One year of transition seems to us to be a reasonable and equitable period both for the group in question and for the department. During this period, the department might repatriate the files and prepare to offer the service directly or by means of another model of cooperation, and the group might reorganize its operations. For the citizens receiving the service, the transition should take place without a loss of the quality of service provided.

An interdepartmental and intergovernmental approach might lead to multi-year agreements of three or five years and thereby ensure greater stability. Canadian Heritage might have an important role to play in this area pursuant to section 43 of the Official Languages Act.

In all cases, the agreements must provide that all the established terms and conditions apply up to the final point of service delivery and that the community group will provide the service directly or by subdelegation or subcontracting.

Recommendation

When any model of cooperation by which a community group, directly or by subcontracting, ensures the delivery of a government service, each federal institution concerned must ensure that the delivery is planned on a multi-year basis. Such a model of cooperation must be part of a coherent framework and well-considered departmental strategy to promote the vitality of the communities. The federal institution must provide for a reasonable transition period in the event of the non-renewal of a model of cooperation. In this case, the federal institution must also establish appropriate mechanisms for reabsorbing the service in a way which promotes the advancement toward equality of English and French.


3 The Honourable Justice Richard Chartier. Above All, Common Sense, report and recommendations on French-language services in the government of Manitoba, May 1998. This report sets out the concept of community service centres to house the employees of certain departments whose services have been deemed essential by the French-speaking community. The internal language of communication will be French. Mr. Justice Chartier’s approach is based on territorial or community bilingualism and on the principle of improving client service.

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