ARCHIVED - V. RECOMMENDATION TO COMMUNITY GROUPS

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To date, practically all the examples of new models of cooperation have arisen from efforts by community groups that have approached a federal institution because they wanted to ensure better government service to their community.

Direct provision of a government service by a community group has several advantages, both for the community and for the group in question. The community, for its part, has easier access to government services in its language and in places that are familiar to it. For example, the synergy created in the area of employability and human resources development substantially strengthens the community’s social fabric and increases its capacity for self-reliance. In addition to creating a number of new jobs, the group providing the service enjoys considerable financial advantages which enables it to better support the vitality of the community.

Despite these obvious advantages, the provision of a government service by a community group, regardless of the form or model of cooperation chosen, is not a simple matter and cannot be improvised.

Certain government services, moreover, can be difficult for a community group to offer; these include the collection of confidential data, the maintenance of order, and certain social services.

The leaders of the community groups consulted have differing opinions about these methods of cooperation to deliver services. A number of community stakeholders have pointed out a major concern, namely that the provision of government services through a community group relieves a department of the obligation to provide the service in both official languages in its offices. Others fear a decline in the quality of service.

Some say that we might see competition develop between community groups that want to provide government services as a result of the financial benefits that might accrue. Some people do not see why certain community groups provide a government service when there is no evident link between the services provided and the group’s mission, particularly if the principal mission of a group is to lobby the government. For example, these people see a danger in an association that plays a role as the spokesperson for a community at the political level becoming the provider of a government service and thereby compromising its freedom of action.

Finally, others question the fact that, in some cases, a minority community group delivers a government service in both official languages to the entire population and see in this a practice that could exacerbate the cultural and linguistic problems experienced by the minority communities.

This shows that the development of models of cooperation between a department and a community group for the delivery of a government service is not to be recommended for all possible services or for all groups.

Any community group interested in initiating negotiations with a department to provide government services must therefore proceed with caution. A group that represents the community must ask itself a number of basic questions before embarking on such a path, the most important of which is the following: does it retain its full freedom to lobby and make requests of government institutions if it becomes a service provider on their behalf?

In such a case, it would be to the group’s advantage to create a new independent entity that would become the government service provider so as always to retain its full capacity to act.

It seems to us that the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada (FCFA) offers a particularly interesting model in this regard. For some years it has directed the analyses of the Comité d’adaptation des ressources humaines de la francophonie canadienne. The structure established as a result, the National Committee for Canadian Francophonie Human Resource Development, is completely independent, and the FCFA retains its full freedom of action as a political representative at all levels.

A sectoral group must also ask itself questions before undertaking the delivery of a government service. For example, if it undertakes the delivery of too many  government services, can it still maintain its ability to deliver the community services for which it was created?

A fundamental question therefore is: in what circumstances is it desirable to establish models of cooperation that enable an official language minority community group to ensure the delivery of a government service?

The preference goes to models of cooperation governed by bipartite or multipartite partnership agreements. Such agreements are the result of serious negotiations and have passed through many levels of approval before being signed; the services to be provided, the responsibilities of each party, and the procedures for their delivery are clearly defined.

It is also preferable that these services be delivered by community agencies whose primary, if not only, mandate is the provision of the service in question. This is the case with the National Committee for Canadian Francophonie Human Resource Development at the national level and of Éducacentre at the provincial level. Each organization has been created expressly to deliver a particular service.

In the absence of a partnership agreement or a community group with such a primary mandate, it seems to us that the direct provision of a government service by a community group must be seen as a last resort when a department has exhausted all other alternatives for providing the service directly in full compliance with its linguistic commitments. This situation is encountered in the provision of service at the local level in the smallest communities where there is little possibility of establishing an independent agency. This is the case of the London-Sarnia regional ACFO.

Community groups that embark on such a path must also show diligence.

In all the examples listed in this study, the sponsoring groups carried out major preparatory work before submitting a project to a department. They consulted extensively with the target population and other community groups to ensure that the service was necessary and desired. They carried out a major needs study before proposing well-considered action plans to the federal institutions.

The community project managers whom we consulted fully understand the responsibilities incumbent on a government service provider. We noted administrative rigour and a concern to provide the best possible service to the target clientele.

Finally, the community group that provides a government service is subject to the law and must, in particular, ensure compliance with the Official Languages Act within the established models of cooperation. All the evidence suggests that a community group that did not fully provide service in the minority language would contravene the Official Languages Act. It must therefore ensure in its negotiations that it obtains the resources required to provide service equivalent to that offered to the majority community.

Recommendation

Any community group that wishes to establish a model of cooperation with a federal institution to provide a government service must:

  • ensure community support and coordinate its efforts with those of other community groups;
  • conduct a needs study and do implementation planning;
  • preferably, establish an independent agency that will provide the service; and
  • ensure that this new model of cooperation contributes, by the quality of the service provided, to the advancement toward equality of the minority and majority communities.

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