Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages: sharp drop in recommendations implemented
The Commissioner of Official Languages, Raymond Théberge (archives)
Only 57% of the recommendations made by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages (COL) to departments and agencies during the year 2021-2022 were applied, i.e. a rate lower than the target of 60%.
This is what we can learn in the Report on departmental results 2021-2022 of the CLO, published at the beginning of December.
This is a sharp decrease compared to the previous three years.
Source: Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages
On the other hand, the COL indicates an increase in the rate of complaints handled within the prescribed time limits, which rose from 50% in 2020-2021 to 73% in 2021-2022, while the upward trend in the number of complaints continues, as the preamble to the report reminds us.
In his annual report published a few months ago, last June, the Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada, Raymond Théberge, indicated that the OCOL had received just over 5,400 complaints deemed admissible in 2021-2022, compared to 1,870 in 2020-2021.
In an interview with Matin du Nord on Monday, Mr. Théberge partially attributed the high number of complaints to two events in particular.
There was the speech by the CEO of Air Canada in English to the Montreal Chamber of Commerce, which generated over 2,400 complaints, and the appointment of the Governor General in August, in because she doesn't speak French or both official languages, he says.
In Ontario, Toronto Pearson Airport is the biggest target. most frequent complaints received by our Office, said Mr. Théberge.
The commissioner says he receives several complaints from travelers passing through Toronto's Pearson airport.
The low rate of implementation of recommendations is partly explained by the fact that the implementation of recommendations is completely voluntary, according to the commissioner.
“This is a concerning trend because it may indicate how far federal institutions are respecting less and less of their obligations under the Official Languages Act.
— Raymond Théberge, Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada
He is therefore betting on Bill C-13, which must modernize the Official Languages Act.< /p>
The text as it stands today provides for the Commissioner to be able to impose financial penalties on Crown corporations in the transport sector, current or former, which offer services to and communicate with travellers.
Bill C-13 is currently at committee stage.
For many people, Bill C-13 is an opportunity to set the record straight. NDP MP and Critic for Official Languages, Nikki Ashton, finds what the OCOL is reporting very concerning.
She criticizes the Trudeau government for what she calls broken promise by delaying passage of the bill multiple times since the 2019 election.
It's part of what we've all known for a while and what is reinforced by Statistics Canada. French is on the decline in Canada, she says.
“We need to act as soon as possible.
— Nikki Ashton, NDP Critic for Official Languages
The President of the Federation of Francophone and Acadian Communities of Canada (FCFA), Liane Roy, believes it is important to have confidence in the CLO that there have been so many complaints.
The president of the Federation of Francophone and Acadian Communities in Canada, Liane Roy, indicates that the draft Bill C-13 must provide the necessary tools to the commissioner. (Archives)
Like Ms. Ashton, the FCFA is calling for improvements in the powers granted to the Commissioner and the Treasury Board for the implementation of the law and the imposition of sanctions.
[ In this way], it reassures the public that when complaints are made, there will be results, believes Ms. Roy. We want federal institutions to comply with the law.
The elected Conservative and vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Official Languages, Joël Godin, indicates that new amendments to the bill law to this effect must be presented on Tuesday.
We must broaden the scope of action of the Commissioner of Official Languages. He has the right to attack a certain portion of the law, but we think that the commissioner must have his hands on the whole, he explains. If the commissioner cannot give sanctions or punitive measures, what is the use of a commissioner?
In a written response, the press secretary for the federal Minister of Official Languages, Marianne Blondin, indicated that the government recognizes the importance of protecting and promoting [the] two official languages.
We propose to strengthen the powers of the Commissioner of Official Languages by giving him more tools so that he can issue orders, enter into compliance agreements with offending organizations and demand changes. These are more restrictive measures that will ensure the compliance of institutions and compel them to respect their official languages obligations, she continues.
She points out that more than three decades after the latest reform of the Official Languages Act, modernization is necessary so that it continues to serve Canadians well and reflects today's issues.
We are committed to getting this bill passed as soon as possible and we hope that the opposition parties will share this urgency to act.
With information by Bienvenu Senga and Elsie Miclisse