UPDATING PART IV OF THE OFFICIAL LANGUAGES ACT

Question 1: Why introduce this bill?

Answer: It is an update (an adjustment).

There have been many significant demographic, sociolinguistic, judicial and legislative changes since the Official Languages Act of 1988 came into force, such as urbanization, exogamous families, the right to choose one’s official language (R. v. Beaulac [1999]) and federal obligations under Part VII (amendments of 2005).

Part IV of the Act (Communications with and services to the public) dates back to 1988 and has not kept pace with these changes. Therefore, the Act must be updated as Francophone minority communities now face greater and more worrisome pressures to assimilate than in 1988.

Question 2: What does this bill achieve?

Answer:

1-Services of equal quality – A guarantee of services of equal quality to users of either official language this would legislate a principle already recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada (Desrochers [2009]);

2-Federal leadership in official languages – Federal institutions would be required to do at least as much as the provinces;[1]

3-The rights of the travelling public would be better understood – The Act makes virtually no mention of the rights of the travelling public. Public servants should know their obligations and citizens their rights;[2]

4-Determining “significant demand” based on mandatory criteria – As the government has full discretion to determine significant demand, and some people are excluded from the calculation,[3] there is a need to establish clear guidelines;[4]

5-Government responsibility – The public should be informed and consulted before a service or institution is exempted from the Act;

6-Review of the existing system after each ten-year census – To keep it up-to-date.

[1] This is not currently the case in Ontario and New Brunswick.

[2] For example, airports and train stations located in the area surrounding a provincial or territorial capital would have obligations.

[3] For example, the children of parents who are rights holders, and children in immersion.

[4] Two suggested criteria: the number of speakers living in the region served, and the particular institutional characteristics of the official language minority.

Related Links
Bill S-220 First Reading
Bill S-220 – PDF File

 

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