Tuesday, October 18, 2011

2010-2011 Annual Report of the Commissioner of Official Languages

Graham Fraser, the federal Commissioner of Official Languages, has released his 2010-11 annual report.

In it, Fraser worries that official minority language communities (English-speaking communities in Quebec and French-speaking communities in the rest of Canada) may bear a disproportionate weight of impending federal government cost-cutting exercises.

Fraser calls on the federal government to modify Part VIII of the Official Languages Act in order to give the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat the power and authority to establish policies for the application of Part VII of the Act.

Part VII of the Act outlines federal institutions’ obligation to support the vitality of Canada’s official language communities and foster linguistic duality:

"The amendments made to the Act in 2005 served to specify the obligations of federal institutions under Part VII. However, Part VIII of the Act was not amended to give the Treasury Board the authority to develop policies for the advancement of English and French."

"The sections of the Act dealing with Canadian Heritage’s role as coordinator were not changed either. This constitutes a significant gap. Although Canadian Heritage’s coordinating role enabled it to develop a very useful guide for institutions in fulfilling their Part VII responsibilities, this tool may be viewed as not binding and does not provide the guidance of the policies and directives being developed by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat under Part VIII."

"This gap is also a serious hindrance to the good governance of the Act and explains why no policy dealing specifically with the implementation of Part VII was included in the 2010–2011 review of the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat’s official languages policies."

"Because federal institutions are all interpreting their obligations under Part VII in different ways, the Commissioner believes that the time has come for the government to amend Part VIII of the Official Languages Act. This would give the Treasury Board the legal authority to monitor the implementation of Part VII through policies or directives and, if needed, through regulations, in collaboration with Canadian Heritage, whose role is to coordinate. This would greatly help federal institutions in implementing the Act because a comprehensive approach would be used, rather than a fragmented one." (p. 7)

The annual report also includes a report card on selected federal institutions’ compliance with the Act, a summary of citizen complaints and investigations, as well as findings from three audits of official language practices at Environment Canada, Service Canada and National Defence.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:26 pm


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