ARCHIVED - VIA Rail Canada 2008-2009

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2008-2009 Report Card
VIA Rail Canada

Official Languages Program Management (15%)


VIA Rail Canada has a 2008–2009 action plan for the implementation of the official languages. The plan describes the objectives, activities, expected results and timelines for the implementation of Parts IV, V and VI of the Official Languages Act.

The 2008–2009 Official Languages Action Plan includes targeted measures that address the institution’s main shortcomings identified in the 2007–2008 report card, in particular the active offer of bilingual services and the implementation of language of work policies.

Regular discussions on the Action Plan take place at senior management meetings. The Cross-Functional Committee on Official Languages tables a quarterly report to the Executive Committee, and the Official Languages Champion presents regular updates at Executive Committee meetings.

VIA Rail Canada developed a draft three-year 2008–2011 action plan for Part VII based on the Canadian Heritage template. VIA Rail Canada has demonstrated to Canadian Heritage its interest in preparing such a plan even though it is not one of the institutions required to do so. The next step in this process consists of submitting the action plan to the management committee for its approval.

In response to the 2007–2008 results of the Office of the Commissioner’s observations of active offer and service to the public in both official languages, VIA Rail Canada has implemented concrete measures to improve last year’s performance. For example, it prepared posters and regularly reminded, on a cyclical basis, all employees who serve the public of their obligations with regard to service to the public in both official languages.

In response to the shortcomings identified in last year’s report card regarding the bilingualism clauses in service agreements with suppliers and third parties, VIA Rail Canada developed an action plan to audit compliance with bilingualism clauses. It prepared an action plan to assess whether suppliers are familiar and comply with their linguistic obligations, and whether contracts contain the appropriate linguistic clauses.

In 2007–2008, the results of the language of work survey indicated that Francophone and Anglophone employees working in a minority situation in designated bilingual regions cannot always use the official language of their choice. The Cross-Functional Committee on Official Languages therefore determined that language of work would be considered a priority in 2008. To this end, VIA Rail Canada used material produced by the Canada Public Service Agency as part of its language of work campaign to raise awareness among managers of their obligations to create a work environment conducive to the use of both official languages. VIA Rail Canada’s communications plan on official languages includes messages to make employees aware of their rights and responsibilities in terms of language of work. Furthermore, the communications subcommittee published a regular column on official languages and on employees’ rights and obligations in VIAlogue, the corporation’s internal quarterly newsletter. VIA Rail Canada has also developed an intranet site that will be on-line as of April 2009 and will include an official languages component, fact sheets and promotional tools.

In January 2008, VIA Rail Canada introduced a control measure at all bilingual points of service in train stations to identify and permanently rectify any possible violations of the Act. In the event of a breach, the corrective measures taken are shared with the Official Languages Champion, members of the Cross-Functional Committee on Official Languages, and the President and Chief Executive Officer.

Although VIA Rail Canada increased its efforts to create a workplace conducive to the use of both languages by way of communications, more proactive and preventive measures involving managers must be implemented to yield concrete results. Control and follow-up mechanisms would allow VIA Rail Canada to develop and implement expected corrective measures.

The Executive Committee regularly reviews progress on implementation of the action plan for Part VII.

Analysts at the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages who investigate complaints admissible under the Act have access to VIA Rail Canada’s Official Languages Champion, Director of Stakeholder Relations and official languages consultant. However, VIA Rail Canada requests that OCOL employees communicate first with these people in charge of official languages to ensure uniformity and compliance with VIA Rail Canada’s standards relating to the Official Languages Act. VIA Rail Canada wants to avoid the need to repeatedly contact the affected sectors’ managers, as this could reduce the effectiveness of OCOL’s intervention. Nevertheless, OCOL employees have easy access to the managers concerned or to other VIA Rail Canada representatives, if necessary.

The official languages consultant prepares her own quarterly progress reports on complaints and shares them with the appropriate OCOL analysts.


Service to the Public Part IV of the Official Languages Act (30%)

According to observations of service in person made by the Office of the Commissioner between June and December 2008, an active visual offer was present in 86.5% of cases, an active offer by staff was made in 10.8% of cases, while service in the language of the linguistic minority was available in 81.1% of cases.

According to observations of service on the telephone made by the Office of the Commissioner between June and December 2008, an active offer by staff or by an automated system was made in 100% of cases, while service in the language of the linguistic minority was available in 100% of cases.

According to observations of service by e-mail made by the Office of the Commissioner between September and December 2008, the availability of service is comparable for both linguistic groups 75% of the time, and benefits Francophones 25% of the time. With regard to the average response times, they are comparable for both linguistic groups.


Language of Work  Part V of the Official Languages Act (25%)

The survey conducted by Statistics Canada on behalf of the Office of the Commissioner showed that, overall, 56.9% of Francophone respondents in the National Capital Region (NCR), New Brunswick and the bilingual regions of Ontario "strongly agreed" or "mostly agreed" with the language of work regime. In Quebec, 89.7% of Anglophone respondents were of the same opinion.

For both categories of respondents, the satisfaction rate by question is presented below.

Survey Questions

Anglophone Respondents

Francophone Respondents

The material and tools provided for my work, including software and other automated tools, are available in the official language of my choice.



When I prepare written materials, including electronic mail, I feel free to use the official language of my choice.



When I communicate with my immediate supervisor, I feel free to use the official language of my choice.



During meetings in my work unit, I feel free to use the official language of my choice.



The training offered by my work unit is in the official language of my choice.




Participation of English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians  Part VI of the Official Languages Act (10%)

Overall, the workforce is 43.2% Francophone

In Quebec, excluding the NCR, the workforce is 20.7% Anglophone.

(Source: VIA Rail Canada, March 31, 2008)


Development of Official Language Minority Communities and Promotion of Linguistic Duality  Part VII of the Official Languages Act (20%)

In 2008, VIA Rail Canada carried out a detailed analysis of all sector programs and policies that could contribute to the implementation of Part VII. Further to this exercise, it developed the Guide to Decision-making, which describes the procedures to follow before a corporate decision modifies a program or activity that might affect official language minority communities (OLMCs) or the promotion of linguistic duality.

VIA Rail Canada uses the progress reports that it shares with its Executive Committee, Cross-Functional Committee on Official Languages and other cross-functional committees to ensure that its decisions, actions and representatives take into account consequences on the promotion of linguistic duality and the development of OLMCs.

Regional marketing and communications representatives communicate regularly with OLMC representatives and consult with them as needed, specifically when there are changes to rail service in remote communities.

In its policy on official languages, VIA Rail Canada sets out its commitment to preferring goods and services suppliers from an official language minority group, when the best service offers are of equal value.

VIA Rail Canada sees the Vancouver Olympic Games as an excellent opportunity to pursue its discussions with the Société de développement économique de la Colombie Britannique and the Réseau du développement économique et d’employabilité for consultations and partnerships that promote linguistic duality. To this end, OLMC representatives have received contact information for the head of marketing, and VIA Rail Canada will be considering requests for partnerships via these two organizations.

VIA Rail Canada works closely with federal institutions, such as Parks Canada and the Canadian Tourism Commission, that have a role to play in the economic development of OLMCs to develop a joint strategy for minority community business people. Since VIA Rail Canada’s mandate is of a commercial nature—the transportation of passengers—the institution promotes on its Web site many 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 preferred means of transportation to the events. VIA Rail Canada also sponsors several major cultural events that foster OLMC development and promote linguistic duality. For example, there is a section on VIA’s railway services in the document entitled Renseignements pratiques produced by Accueil francophone du Manitoba and designed for Francophone newcomers to this province.

VIA Rail Canada sponsored the Prix des lecteurs Radio Canada, a national contest held in April 2008 to help readers discover French-language literature by well-known authors from OLMCs. VIA Rail Canada provided transportation at a reduced rate to allow members of the Fédération de la jeunesse canadienne-française to participate in the proceedings of the XIIe Sommet de la Francophonie, which was held in Québec City from October 17 to 19, 2008.

The analysis of measures taken by VIA Rail Canada confirms a clear commitment to promote linguistic duality. However, VIA Rail Canada is encouraged to contribute more to the development of OLMCs and to demonstrate concrete results from its consultations with the communities.


Overall Rating