ARCHIVED - VIA Rail Canada 2005-2006

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2005-2006 Fact Sheet

Factors and criteria

Summary of substantiating data



a) An accountability framework, an action plan and accountability mechanisms are in place (5%)

VIA Rail is currently conducting a complete overhaul of all its official languages (OL) policies, directives, practices and procedures.

VIA Rail does not yet have an OL accountability framework however, an OL work plan/action plan includes the development of a framework for evaluating the implementation of OL. The broad outlines of this plan were presented to some 50 VIA executives, including the Executive Committee, at its meeting on November 9, 2005. The President and Chief Executive Officer of VIA Rail personally committed to making VIA a model for other Crown corporations and federal agencies in the area of OL.

b) Visibility of official languages in the organization (5%)

OL are not included in existing strategic documents; only the internal OL action plan refers to OL. However, the President's message in the next annual report will include a statement that official languages are an integral part of how VIA Rail serves its customers.

An internal cross-functional committee that reports to the Executive Committee is responsible for co-ordination of corporate efforts around the various parts of the Official Languages Act.

The Executive Committee regularly receives a report on the implementation of the OL program. In addition, the OL program has two co-champions; the Vice President, Operations, and the Vice President, Human Resources, both of whom sit on the Executive Committee. The Internal OL Committee meets regularly (approximately every six weeks) to discuss implementation of the Act.

The various mandates assigned to internal auditors do not always take OL into account. However, VIA reports that it monitors customer satisfaction concerning service in both OL by conducting surveys on a number of customer service aspects, including the language component.

c) Complaints (5%)

Complaints concerning OL are sent to the OL coordinator. Following the policy overhaul, VIA plans to refer complaints concerning service to the public directly to the Director, Customer Service. VIA will also conduct communication, training and information campaigns targeting managers and employees; VIA wants to ensure that its representatives are fully familiar with OL policies.

The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages (OCOL) has not identified any systemic problem.

Service to the public - Part IV

a) Bilingual services advertised to the public and sufficient bilingual staff (4%)

VIA's bilingual points of service (bilingual train stations and routes) are listed in BUROLIS. On the trains, bilingual employees wear a pin identifying themselves as bilingual. VIA has a bilingual 1-800 number that is published nationally in the White Pages. During the course of observations of service in-person and on the telephone performed in the fall of 2005, OCOL representatives noted that BUROLIS was not up to date, particularly in the case of point of service no. 1506. VIA Rail will update the offices listed in BUROLIS in the winter of 2005.

VIA was not in a position to provide the information as to whether it has sufficient bilingual persons at each of its designated bilingual points of service to ensure adequate service in both OL. However, VIA reports that it has 1,598 employees who deal directly with the public and customers: 996 employees (62.3%) can do so in both official languages.

b) Findings on active offer and service delivery (15%)

According to the observations of in-person service made by OCOL in the fall of 2005, active visual offer was present in 77% of cases, active offer by staff was made in 8% of cases, while service in the language of the linguistic minority was adequate in 77% of cases.

According to the observations of service on the telephone made by OCOL in the fall of 2005, active offer of service by staff or by an automated system was made in 80% of cases, while service in the language of the linguistic minority was adequate in 90% of cases.

c) The service agreements delivered by third parties or in partnership provide for the delivery of bilingual services (2%)

Contracts contain a bilingualism requirement and the Contracting Division is responsible for policing contracts.

d) Bilingual services quality monitoring (4%)

The service manager on the train is responsible for ensuring bilingual service by the team. The service manager briefs his or her team of conductors and train crew before the team gets on the train. VIA frequently sends out train inspectors who ride the route, note any discrepancies and monitor the service manager's performance.

Before the end of 2005, members of the internal cross-functional OL committee, managers and employees will have access to a list of "Questions and Answers" that includes answers to frequently asked questions about official languages.

The action plan includes the development of tools for managers to ensure that the public and employees are served in the official language of their choice in designated bilingual regions. VIA conducts client service surveys to check the customers' level of satisfaction with the linguistic aspect of services, among numerous other aspects.

Language of work - Part V

a) Adequate bilingual supervision and language of work policy (12.5%)

70% of supervisors in bilingual regions who are required to supervise their employees in both official languages are able to do so. (Source: 2004-05 Annual Review of OL, April 2005)

VIA has a language of work policy, but it focuses primarily on the train maintenance shop in Montréal.

The OL action plan includes the development of a strategic plan, communication strategies and tools for managers to ensure that they comply with VIA Rail's OL obligations. VIA will also develop an evaluation framework to monitor the implementation of the action plan components and to take any necessary action. The organization plans to review some of its practices concerning the evaluation of employees' language skills.

b) Establishment of an environment conducive to both official languages (12.5%)

VIA Rail has adopted a strategy to remind supervisors of their obligation to leave the choice of language of supervision up to the employee. During critical phases of the planning process and the employee performance appraisal cycle, supervisors receive e-mails on this subject from the co-champions. However, the reminders are not yet systematically issued to employees.

Both OL are used at Executive Committee meetings. Members of the Executive Committee use the OL of their choice during discussions.

In the course of its internal employees survey, VIA collected information on employees' preferred OL language. The survey of all employees conducted during the summer of 2005 included questions on language of work with a view to monitoring the application of the language of work policy.

Equitable participation - Part VI

a) Percentage of Francophone participation throughout Canada (5%)

Francophones account for 42% of VIA's workforce as a whole. (Source: 2004-05 Annual Review of OL, April 2005)

VIA Rail headquarters are located in Montréal.

b) Percentage of Anglophone participation in Quebec (5%)

Anglophones account for 23% of VIA's workforce in Quebec. (Source: 2004-05 Annual Review of OL, April 2005)

Development of official language minority communities and promotion of linguistic duality - Part VII

a) Strategic planning and the development of policies and programs take into account the development of minority language communities (12.5%)

Although the OL action plan includes a section on the implementation of Part VII of the Act and the application of section 17 of the accountability framework of the Action Plan for Official Languages that deals with the development of OL minority communities, VIA does not have a mechanism to ensure that strategic planning and policy and program development take into account the development of OL minority communities. VIA will develop a more detailed and specific action plan for the development of the communities following its consultations with representatives of official language minority community organizations. Local managers have some contact with OL minority community representatives and consults with them on an ad hoc basis, particularly when there are changes in rail service to remote communities. VIA has ongoing contacts with some representatives of concerned OL groups that play an active role in the transportation sector, such as Rural Dignity in the Gaspé.

VIA has a communication policy providing for the use of the minority press. A certain percentage of their media buys is set aside each year for advertising in both OL.

Although, nationally, VIA does not do much to sensitize its employees to the needs of OL minority communities, local managers tend to be more familiar with the communities, especially if they do local consultations.

b) Strategic planning and the development of policies and programs take into account the promotion of linguistic duality (12.5%)

The OL action plan also includes a section on the implementation of Part VII of the Act and the application of section 17 of the accountability framework of the Action Plan for Official Languages that deals with promotion of linguistic duality.

Apart from the fact that the company is a major corporate sponsor of public events, many of which have an official languages dimension, there does not appear to be a clear mechanism to ensure that policy and program development take into consideration the promotion of linguistic duality.

There are no internal initiatives to promote linguistic duality among employees.