ARCHIVED - VlA Rail Canada 2007-2008

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 Report Card 2007–2008
VIA Rail Canada

Factors and Criteria

Summary of Substantiating Data

Rating

Management (15%)

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

VIA Rail Canada’s Official Languages Policy, adopted by the Executive Committee in 2006, serves as an accountability framework because it clearly sets out all stakeholers’ roles and responsibilities pertaining to official languages (OL) : the President and CEO, the OL Champion, the Chief Strategy Officer, the Cross-functional Committee on OL, the OL Coordinator, the Director of Training, managers and employees. It specifies the manner in which the obligations provided for under Parts IV, V, VI and VII of the Official Languages Act (the Act) are to be fulfilled.

The Action Plan for the Implementation of Official Languages 2007–2008, which was approved by senior management, outlines objectives, planned activities, expected results and timelines for the implementation of Parts IV, V and VI of the Act.

The achievement of the Action plan’s objectives is assessed while preparing the OL Annual Review (quantitative review), which is submitted to the Canada Public Service Agency (CPSA) and signed by the President. Various control measures are used. For example, policy compliance is considered when assessing the performance of managers. Regular discussions of the Action Plan also take place at senior management meetings. The Cross-functional Committee on OL tables a quarterly report to the Executive Committee and the Champion presents regular updates at Executive Committee meetings. Furthermore, the annual Report Card from the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages (OCOL) helps VIA keep track of the implementation of official languages within the organization. The Executive Committee is informed of the various steps.

A

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

VIA’s Annual Report briefly mentions OL in the chapter on service, which indicates that VIA plays an important role in promoting Canada’s linguistic duality, and that VIA demonstrates daily its commitment to offering customers quality services in their official language of choice.

VIA’s Code of Ethics includes a section on the respect of both official languages and the promotion of bilingualism in the organization.

VIA’s Strategic Plan does not refer to OL.

VIA indicated that its internal audit activities are more financial in nature. Consequently, they do not include OL. However, VIA feels that the meetings of the Cross-functional Committee on OL serve as a regular internal audit process since the meetings provide an opportunity to take the pulse of OL within the organization.

OL are regularly discussed by the Executive Committee, and it regularly receives reports on the implementation of the OL Program.

The OL Champion, who is at the vice president level, sits on the Executive Committee. The Director of Stakeholder Relations, is responsible for coordinating all the parts of the Act and the implementation of the Action Plan. Also, the Cross-functional Committee on OL, which is also responsible for coordinating the organization’s efforts related to the various parts of the Act, regularly meets to discuss its implementation. In 2007, the Executive Committee reviewed its mandate to make it more strategic and to officially adopt a statement of roles and responsibilities. For example, each member is now responsible for ensuring the connection between his/her sector of operation and the achievements of the Action Plan objectives.

B

(c) Complaints and follow-up (5%)

The organization developed a directory to record complaints. It is regularly updated and sent monthly to the Executive Committee in order to inform the Committee of the nature of the complaints as well as the corrective measures taken to resolve problems.

The Cross-functional Committee on OL, chaired by the Champion, ensures that VIA quickly resolves complaints filed with OCOL by communicating with the affected sector’s manager, who is then responsible for determining corrective measures. The information is then sent to other employees in the affected sector in order to prevent the reoccurrence of similar problems.

Information regarding the nature of complaints as well as the corrective measures put in place to prevent a reoccurrence of similar problems is discussed during the Cross-functional Committee meetings. In 2007, the Executive Committee received a complaints report during regular updates. It is anticipated that the complaints report will be produced on a quarterly basis in 2008.

A

Subtotal:

A

Service to the Public—Part IV (25%)

(a) Bilingual services advertised to the public and sufficient bilingual staff (3%)

 

VIA’s bilingual points of service (bilingual train stations and routes) are listed in Burolis.

A bilingual 1-800 number is published in the white pages of telephone directories across the country. Customers can navigate and make reservations on VIA’s Web site in the official language of their choice.

A total of 91% of employees in bilingual positions serving the public meet the language requirements of their position (Source: Human Resources Information Systems, December 31, 2007).

B

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

 

According to observations of in-person service made by OCOL between mid-June and mid-July 2007, an active visual offer was present in 96% of cases, an active offer by staff was made in 4% of cases, while service in the language of the linguistic minority was adequate in 67% of cases.

According to observations of service on the telephone made by OCOL between mid-June and mid-July 2007, an active offer by staff or by an automated system was made in 96% of cases, while service in the language of the linguistic minority was adequate in 100% of cases.

C

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

 

Train station operations contracts contain a bilingualism requirement, and the Contracting Division is responsible for monitoring contracts. In certain cases, management services are provided by third parties, and the service agreements include a clause specifying the requirement to provide services in both OL.

VIA pointed out that given that it is a tenant in two stations, it currently has no control over the other tenants or dealers. However, in 2007, the institution initiated an audit process to make sure that third parties comply with the language clauses in their contracts at all times. In the winter of 2007, the audit focused on suppliers, tenants and dealers who offer services to the travelling public, while in the fall of 2008, the audit will focus on suppliers who offer personal or central services to VIA employees. 

The person responsible for contracts is also a member of the   Cross-functional Committee on OL and is therefore aware of VIA’s OL obligations.

B

(d) Policy on service to the public and bilingual services quality monitoring (5%)

VIA’s Policy on Official Languages includes a section on service to the public and an appendix on active offer. The policy establishes communications and bilingual service delivery requirements, and raises awareness among staff of VIA’s commitment to respecting the equal status of English and French. VIA’s hiring policy, in effect now for over twenty years, requires all people who deal with the public to be bilingual.

The Service Manager on the train is responsible for ensuring bilingual service and for reminding the members of the team (chiefs and train crew) of their OL obligations. VIA frequently sends out train inspectors on high demand routes to assess employees’ compliance rate and monitor the Service Manager's performance.

All new VIA employees must sign the Code of Ethics, which includes a clause on compliance with and promotion of bilingualism within the organization. This is a condition of employment and employees renew their commitment to comply with the Code annually.

The Director of Stakeholder Relations is responsible for reminding employees in sectors where there was a lack of active offer by employees or a lack of adequate service in the language of the linguistic minority of their obligations to serve the public in both official languages. Employees working at points of service where service delivery was provided in both OL received a thank-you message as a sign of encouragement.

Employees who deal directly with the public, such as ticket counter clerks, call centre employees or on-board attendants, received reminders from the OL Champion and the Director of Stakeholder Relations, regarding the importance of making an active offer of service in both OL.

The official languages communication plan includes cyclical reminders on active offer during busy periods.

The President and CEO, as well as the members of senior management commit themselves to meeting all employees on an annual basis during plenary sessions, to present VIA’s priorities. OL are included in the subjects discussed. Employees can participate in this meeting in the official language of their choice.

VIA monitors customer satisfaction by conducting surveys on various aspects of customer service, including service in both OL. In addition, the results from the observations made by OCOL in the summer of 2007 were submitted to the Cross-functional Committee on OL for analysis and were presented to the Executive Committee on December 12, 2007.

B

Subtotal:

C

Language of work—Part V (25%)

(a) Language of work policy and adequate bilingual supervision (12.5%)

VIA’s Policy on Official Languages includes a section on language of work, which sets out rights and obligations related to supervision, obtaining personal and central services, work tools, internal communications, training and professional development.

VIA is the only federal institution that has an integral policy on active offer for personal and central services and monitoring. This policy was distributed and presented to some fifty managers from all regions where VIA operates. It requires managers to provide active offer when communicating with employees under their supervision.

The Cross-functional Committee on OL set the language of work as one of the priority for 2007–2008. VIA is therefore planning to use the materials produced by the CPSA as part of its language of work awareness campaign, in order to make employees aware of their rights and responsibilities in terms of language of work.

Language training for employees who want to improve their skills in English and French is part of the collective bargaining with the unions, where it is a matter of providing language training so that employees can access bilingual positions. For example, during the 2007 bargaining, VIA added five new training spots. Employees can also take other steps, such as enrolling in a virtual university or courses offered by an educational institution. VIA’s education policy provides a refund for up to 75% of the costs.

Translation and revision services are available to the employees who need them.

Over the course of the last year, managers validated the communication needs and they recorded the language profiles of all management positions in the human resources database. Nearly 90% of the unionized positions will be recorded in the database during the first quarter of 2008.

VIA also explored various approaches for evaluating employees’ language skills, and there are plans to begin updating employees’ second language evaluation (SLE) results in 2008. Specifically, the objective of this exercise consists of identifying a language proficiency evaluation tool that will be applied in a standardized manner across the entire organization.

The Communications Sub-committee, whose members include a representative from Marketing and a representative from Corporate Communications, has taken steps to prepare a regular section on OL in VIAlogue, the internal quarterly bulletin that is distributed to all employees. It is planned that the March 2008 issue will include a message from the OL Champion as well as one of the posters developed as part of an inter-departmental partnership to promote bilingualism.  

A total of 94% of supervisors in bilingual regions who must supervise employees in both OL are able to do so (Source: Official Languages Information System [OLIS II], date: March 31, 2007).

B

(b) Use of each official language in the workplace (12.5%)

VIA Rail has adopted a strategy to remind supervisors of their obligation to respect their employees’ right to be supervised in their official language of choice. During key phases of the planning process and the employee performance appraisal cycle, supervisors receive e-mails on this subject. The President and CEO issues verbal reminders, two or three times a year, to the expanded Executive Committee (which includes all regional directors), regarding the institution's language of work requirements.

VIA is also planning to use a series of messages addressed to managers as part of the language of work awareness campaign, to remind them of their obligations to create a work environment that is conducive to the use of both OL, in compliance with its policy.

Employees who attend the annual employee meeting are reminded of their language of work rights. The employees can automatically use the official language of their choice in the workplace, as is the usual practice. When a new member joins a work team, the meeting chairs remind participants they can use the official language of their choice during discussions.

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

VIA will conduct an employee opinion survey during the first quarter of 2008 in order to determine employee satisfaction with the language of work regime.

The Cross-functional Committee on OL has set up a sub-committee with the mandate of developing a communication strategy and related tools such as an intranet site and fact sheets. The sub-committee is composed of a representative from Marketing (Client Experience), a representative from Corporate Communications, the Director of Stakeholder Relations, and the OL consultant. 

The survey conducted by Statistics Canada on behalf of OCOL showed that overall, 53% of Francophone respondents in the National Capital Region (NCR), New Brunswick and in bilingual regions of Ontario "strongly agreed" or "mostly agreed" with the language of work regime. In Quebec, 89% of Anglophone respondents "strongly agreed" or "mostly agreed" with the language of work regime.

C

Subtotal:

C

Equitable participationPart VI (10%)

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

Overall, the workforce is 42% Francophone (Source: OLIS II, March 31, 2007).

A

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

In Quebec, the workforce is 22% Anglophone (Source: OLIS II, March 31, 2007).

A

Subtotal:

A

Development of official language minority communities and promotion of linguistic duality—Part VII (25%)

VIA reports that senior management has discussed how to take the needs of official language minority communities (OLMCs) into account. According to the information obtained, strategic planning, policy development and program development take this obligation into account.

VIA’s commitment to enhancing the vitality and supporting and assisting the development of OLMCs as part of its mandate is mentioned in its Policy on OL. However, even if there is no permanent formal mechanism in place at this time to ensure that strategic planning, policy development and program development take into account the obligation to foster the development of OLMCs, VIA has taken various measures to initiate the process. For example, the members of the Official Languages Committee and the members of the Executive Committee have received a copy of the Canadian Heritage Checklist on the Implementation of Part VII. The Official Languages Committee received a version of the Checklist tailored to VIA at its December 7 meeting.

Strategic planning focuses primarily on communications with and services to the public, as well as the development and maintenance of the Canadian rail system. However, in November 2007, the members of the Cross-functional Committee on OL established a list of all the sector programs and policies (e.g., Code of Conduct and the Partnership and Sponsorship Policy) in order to determine those that have an impact on OLMC development. Secondly, VIA will conduct a more in-depth analysis of the few policies that could contribute to the implementation of Part VII, and appropriate measures will be considered at the end of the fiscal year.

Further to the amendments to the Act in 2005, obligations to take positive measures to enhance the vitality of the English and French linguistic minority communities in Canada and supporting and assisting their development were presented by a Canadian Heritage representative at a meeting of the Cross-functional Committee on OL. The Champion gave a presentation to senior management in September 2006, after which the Management Committee held discussions on this issue.

A new presentation of VIA’s obligations under Part VII was added to the agenda of the Executive Committee meeting of December 12, 2007.  

VIA has designated members of the Cross-functional Committee on OL to serve as liaisons with key stakeholders, including OLMCs, and has passed on this information to them.

The Director of Stakeholder Relations, and the Cross-functional Committee on OL which is responsible for coordinating the organization’s efforts related to the various parts of the Act, are both responsible for Part VII of the Act. Regional managers have some contact with OLMC representatives and consult with them when needed, specifically when there are changes to rail service in remote communities.

VIA approached the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadiennes du Canada (FCFA) in order to become a partner of the Sommet de la Francophonie, held in June 2007. VIA also communicated with the general director of the Réseau du développement économique et d’employabilité (RDÉE) for the purpose of holding consultations and establishing partnerships in 2008. Also, OLMC representatives were invited to meet with the Cross-functional Committee on OL at its next meeting in the first quarter of 2008. An invitation will also be extended to representatives of the RDÉE and the Comité de l’employabilité et du développement économique communautaire (CEDEC) in order to identify partnership possibilities as part of tourism events.

In 2007, VIA issued new directives for media placements following complaints filed with OCOL. These directives serve as a reminder of VIA’s policy of including minority official language media during advertising campaigns. As a result, employees who work in communication and marketing sectors are aware of OLMC needs and include the minority press in their strategic planning.

Since VIA’s mandate is of a commercial nature, i.e. the transportation of passengers, the institution is aware of its obligations under Part VII. On its Web site, VIA promotes numerous events and tourist attractions across Canada, including English and French heritage historic sites and OLMC events, in cases where train travel is part of the package or is the favoured means of transportation to the events. VIA also sponsors several major cultural events that foster OLMC development and the promotion of linguistic duality. For example, there is the Festival du Voyageur in St-Boniface, the Sommets de la Francophonie and the Rendez-vous de la Francophonie.

In its Policy on OL, VIA indicates that it committed to giving preference to goods and services suppliers from an official language minority group, when the best service offers are of equal value.

   

(a) Development of official language minority communities (12.5%)

 

VIA’s senior management has looked at ways to take into account the needs of OLMCs and has consulted with an organization that represents the interests of the Francophone community. VIA has not begun developing a specific action plan that supports OLMC development, but it does maintain an ongoing dialogue with representatives from OL minority organizations.

The Executive Committee discussed the implementation of Part VII at its December 12, 2007 meeting. VIA plans to use any opportunity that falls under its commercial mandate to contribute in a positive manner to the development of OLMCs. For example, VIA regularly reminds its employees of the importance of active offer, even though it is part of its obligations. The FCFA has indicated that active offer could make a positive difference in minority Francophone communities, especially in the West.

B

(b) Promotion of linguistic duality (12.5%)

 

VIA has indicated that, as a Crown corporation, it plays an important role in promoting Canada’s linguistic duality. Even though it is not one of the 32 institutions identified by Canadian Heritage (PCH), VIA plans to develop a multi-year action plan, as well as an annual report, using the tools developed for that purpose. However, despite the absence of an action plan at the current time, the promotion of linguistic duality is part of its organizational culture and guides its decisions in terms of its partnerships as well as in the use of the minority official language media. Furthermore, the communication plan developed by the OL Committee includes activities in this area.

After consulting with Canadian Heritage officials, VIA determined that in the context of its mandate, its policies and programs meet the obligation to promote linguistic duality. Consequently, VIA does not intend to conduct a review in this area for the time being.

Employees have been made aware of the promotion of linguistic duality through the Code of Ethics, which includes a section on bilingualism and respect for official languages.

VIA participates in and promotes Les Rendez-vous de la Francophonie. Furthermore, VIA participates in a number of events including the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award. VIA is also a partner in CPSA’s campaign to raise awareness and promote both OL. It also works with multiple partners for a variety of special events.

B

Subtotal:

B

OVERALL RATING

B