ARCHIVED - VIA Rail Canada 2004-2005

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2004-2005 Fact Sheet

Factors and criteria

Summary of substantiating data



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

No accountability framework, action plan, or management accountability mechanism is in place for OL.

At the time of the first visit by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages (OCOL) in April 2004, VIA representatives recognized and acknowledged that some kind of policy needed to be developed to deal with VIA's OL obligations. VIA has now created an internal cross-functional committee of seven members that reports to the Executive Committee. It has become responsible for co-ordination of corporate efforts around the various parts of the OLA. The committee's initial primary responsibility is to develop a corporate OL action plan.

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b) Visibility of official languages in the organization

Official languages are not part of strategic documents.

The Executive Committee discusses OL on an exception basis. Occasionally discussions take place there about OCOL complaints. The Champion is a member of the Executive Committee. The OL Co-ordinator is a senior manager (EX-1 equivalent). With the recent creation of the OL co-ordination committee, official languages are assuming a higher profile in the organization.

VIA includes OL in its audit/verification processes (e.g., a 2002–2003 client-service survey). There is also ongoing monitoring by on-board train inspectors who verify service in both OL at the same time that they are checking other aspects of service.

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c) Complaints

OCOL complaints are sent directly to the OL co-ordinator and subsequently involve the responsible manager. Until the recent creation of the internal cross-functional OL committee, there was no mechanism in place to ensure organizational learning happened so that OL complaints could be prevented from re-occurring.

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Service to the public - Part IV

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

VIA's 74 bilingual points of service (train stations and bilingual 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.

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b) Findings on active offer and service delivery

According to observations on in-person service made by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages in the fall of 2004, overall, active visual offer to the public was present in 75.0% of cases, active offer by staff was made in 33.3% of cases, while service in the language of the minority was adequate in 58.3% of cases. However, for routes on the eastern "triangle" i.e., the Montréal–Ottawa–Toronto route combinations, OCOL's observations confirmed 100% for each of the three criteria verified.

The 2003 telephone service audit conducted by the Treasury Board Secretariat showed that active offer was made by staff 0% of the time and on answering machines 71.8% of the time, while service was adequate in both official languages 100% of the time.

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

Contracts contain the bilingualism requirement and the Contracting Division is responsible for policing contracts. However, VIA acknowledges that there is an ongoing problem with unilingual concessionaires in the one station that VIA still owns, the one in Ottawa (i.e., unilingual signage and employees), which VIA has not fully resolved, despite training given by VIA's OL Director.

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d) Bilingual services quality monitoring

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.

However, while VIA does a good job informing its on-board train staff, no examples were provided to OCOL of non-train staff also getting periodic reminders about active offer, nor clear information given to us about how much sensitization and training are provided by the Corporation to non-train staff. The company did acknowledge that VIA tends to monitor the quantity, rather than the quality, of bilingual services. Reports on the quality of service tend to be done on an exception basis.

Nonetheless, the company does do client service surveys that query the respondent's satisfaction with the linguistic element of services, among numerous other elements. VIA also monitors telephone calls on a regular basis.

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Language of work - Part V

a) Adequate bilingual supervision and language of work policy

According to Table L2 in VIA's 2003–2004 Annual Review of OL, 66.7% of supervisors who were required to be bilingual met the linguistic requirements of their position on March 31, 2004. A comprehensive written policy exists but it tends to focus particularly on the train maintenance shop in Montréal. The corporation recognized the need to create an updated version and put it on the intranet.

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b) Use of each language in the workplace

No formal management mechanism exists to remind staff of their language of work obligations (supervision of subordinates, bilingual central services to employees, etc.) except for reminders that are sent out to managers and employees when internal language of work complaints are received. Similarly, no mechanism exists to actively encourage the use of the minority OL in the designated regions.

Both languages are used at Executive Committee meetings and all Executive Committee members are fluently bilingual. Executive members regularly hold "town hall" meetings with employees and always strongly encourage employees to speak in the OL of their choice. Also, in the course of their internal EE survey, VIA collected information on employees' OL language preference.

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Equitable participation - Part VI

a) Percentage of Francophone participation throughout Canada

According to Table P1 in VIA's 2003–2004 Annual Review of OL, 41.2% of VIA's employees in Canada are Francophone. VIA's national headquarters is located in Montréal.

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b) Percentage of Anglophone participation in Quebec

According to Table P1 in VIA's 2003–2004 Annual Review of OL, 21.9% of those working in Quebec are Anglophone. VIA's national headquarters is located in Montréal.

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Development of minority language 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

VIA does not have a mechanism to ensure that strategic planning and policy and program development take into account the development of official–language minority communities. Indeed, the company acknowledged that often the only time they think about the economic and social development obligations of Part VII is when advertising in the minority press.

However, some consultation with OL minority representatives does occur locally on an ad hoc basis. For example, in those cases where there will be a service change, local managers may have a lot of contact with local geographic communities, and will consult with them. This is particularly so when it comes to service to remote communities. VIA has ongoing relations with some representatives of concerned OL groups that are active in transportation issues, 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-buy is set aside each year for advertising in both languages. In general, though, the company's policy is to always ensure equivalent advertising/announcements in both languages.

Although, centrally, VIA does not do much to sensitize its employees to the needs of minority communities—the remoteness of the community is more of a factor—local managers tend to be well informed, especially if they do local consultations.

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b) Strategic planning and the development of policies and programs take into account the 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 policy and program development take into consideration the promotion of linguistic duality.

VIA Rail was a corporate sponsor of the Acadia 400 years celebrations, of Francophone festivals in Manitoba, of the Francophone Games, of Anglophone or bilingual festivals in the Gaspé and Eastern Townships, and of Winterlude, among others.

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

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