Annual Reporting on the Status of the Official Languages: Sharing of Canadian experience

 The Canadian Approach to Annual Reporting

The Official Languages Commission for Canada, the Official Languages Commission for the province of New Brunswick, and the French Language Services Commission for the province of Ontario have recently published their respective Annual Reports for the year 2019-2020.

Official Languages Commission – Canada

The Annual Report of the Commissioner of Official Languages for Canada

https://www.clo-ocol.gc.ca/sites/default/files/annual-report-2019-2020.pdf

The Annual Report of the Commissioner of Official Languages for Canada opens with a Preface which, among other things, highlights the major events regarding Official Languages during the period of 2019-2020, reminds the public health authorities of the importance of respecting the Official Languages Act during the Covid 19 pandemic for health and safety reasons, and reiterates the value of teaching the two Official Languages to give young Canadians the opportunity to become bilingual. The report contains 4 separate Chapters dealing with the events celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Official Languages Act and its modernization (Ch 1), the Official Languages in Canadian society (education and community support) (Ch 2), the assessment of Official Languages services to the public and language of work within Federal Institutions (based on complaints and audits) (Ch 3), statistical tables covering the past 50 years of the OLA by activities (complaints, publications, audits and special reports, courts interventions, Parliamentary appearances) (Ch 4). The Annual Report closes with a series of Recommendations to Government.

A Matter of Respect and Safety: The Impact of Emergency Situations on Official Languages.

https://www.clo-ocol.gc.ca/sites/default/files/emergency-situations-official-languages.pdf

In October 2020, the Official Languages Commissioner for Canada also published a Special Report – A Matter of Respect and Safety: The Impact of Emergency Situations on Official Languages. The report is the result of an in-depth analysis of emergencies that occurred between 2010 and 2020 (Covid 19 pandemic for example). It provides an overview of Canadian’s official languages experiences and identifies potential solutions to improve the government’s compliance with official languages obligations in its communications with Canadians in times of crisis and emergency situations.

 

 

Official Languages Commission – New Brunswick

https://officiallanguages.nb.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/ANNUAL-REPORT-2019-2020-WEB.pdf

The Annual Report of the Commissioner of Official Languages for the province of New Brunswick takes a very public-friendly approach. The Report opens with a Forward which provides a summary of the Official Languages Act of New Brunswick, as well as the scope of its application. A brief Message from the Commissioner follows with a very personal introduction of the new Commissioner, and a presentation of the mission and responsibilities of the Commissioner’s Office. An Overview of the proposed amendments to the revised 2002 Official Languages Act, based on past investigations and studies, with a series of specific recommendations follows. A section entitled Compliance with the Official Languages Act deals with complaints and the resolution process, provides statistical tables on admissible complaints received and acted on by region, by service type and by institutions during the period of April 2019 to March 2020, followed by a descriptive Summary of Action taken in response to complaints from specific institutions. A section entitled Legal Matters presents a court case related to the respect of minority language rights in the area of education in the province of British Columbia; initiated in 2010 by the French Language School Board and a Parents Association who filed a court case against the Province of British Columbia claiming that the provincial education system does not provide adequate and equitable funding to the French language minority schools; the case went from the Provincial Court, to the Court of Appeal and finally to the Supreme Court where a decision in favour of the School Board was pronounced in 2019; the SC decision will have jurisprudence in similar cases in Canada.  A final section, Promoting the Advancement of the Official Languages, deals in particular with the production of two series of promotional videos, in the context of the 50th anniversary of the Official Languages Act, shared online and subsequently broadcasted on television.

French Language Services Commission – Ontario

https://www.ombudsman.on.ca/Media/ombudsman/ombudsman/resources/Annual%20Reports/2019-2020FLS-AR-Final-EN.pdf

The Annual Report of the Commissioner of French Language Services for the province of Ontario also takes a very public-friendly approach. The Report opens with a brief Message from the new Commissioner with a presentation of her vision and a summary of her activities as the first Commissioner to work within the Ombudsman Office. (It is to be noted that, since 2019, the French Language Services Commissioner reports to the Ombudsman of Ontario). The section Our Work and Methods presents the role of the Ombudsman, the role and responsibilities of the French Language Services Commissioner, the complaints mechanism and the resolution process, some examples of the pro-active approach with public institutions and citizen organizations, and a description of Communications and Outreach activities with key stakeholders. The section 2019-2020 Highlights presents statistics on the number and types of complaints received, on the most complained-about institutions, and on the number of Communication and Outreach activities/events/meetings undertaken. The section 2019-2020 Overview presents a summary of the complaints received, with a description of cases in the areas of Government Communications (Covid 19, Local Public Health Units, Emergency Alerts, Traffic Signs), and of Government Services (In-person Services, Service Ontario, Transportation Sector), with specific recommendations to the Government. Finally, the Report contains an Annex which includes the List of Recommendations, an Achievement Report based on work objectives, and a List of Meetings with the Franco-Ontarian community.

The above mentioned three Annual Reports, although the content differs given the specific situation of each jurisdiction, the approach taken, and the method of reporting are very similar to mandates and functions of the Official Languages Commission of Sri Lanka, especially on the role and mandates in reporting on status of Official Languages Policy implementation in Sri Lanka.

 

 

The Annual Reporting on Official Languages and the role and responsibilities of the Official Languages Commission of Sri Lanka

The Official Languages Commission Act No. 18 of 1991 which was enacted by the Parliament of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka on March 29, 1991, thereby establishing the Official Languages Commission (OLC).

The objectives of the OLC are to recommend principles of policy, relating to the use of the Official Languages, and to monitor and supervise compliance with the provisions contained in Chapter IV of the Constitution, promote the appreciation of the Official Languages and the acceptance, maintenance, and continuance of their status, equality and right of use and conduct investigations, both on its own initiative, and in response to any complaints received, and to take remedial action as provided for, by the provisions of this Act. The powers of the OLC are to initiate reviews of any regulations, directives, or administrative practices, which affect, or may affect, the status or use of any of the relevant languages, issue or commission such studies or policy papers on the status or use of the relevant languages as it may deem necessary or desirable and undertake such public educational activities, including, sponsoring or initiating publications or other media presentations, on the status or use of the relevant language as it may consider desirable.

Section 32 of the Act refers to the obligation of the Commission to provide an Annual Report to the Minister responsible for Official Languages to be submitted to Parliament.

Annual Reports of the Official Languages Commission

The Official Languages Commission (OLC) reports annually to Parliament through the Minister responsible for Official Languages. These reports are Performance Reports or Operations Reports, a requirement by Government from all Ministries and Institutions. A recent example of the OLC Performance Report is included in the former Ministry of National Coexistence, Dialogue and Official Languages PerformanReport for 2017 (pages 49-61), and which also includes the Performance Reports of the Department of Official Languages (DOL) and the National Institute of Language Education and Training (NILET). Following is the link to the Ministry’s 2017 Performance Report:

https://www.parliament.lk/uploads/documents/paperspresented/performance-report-ministry-of-national-coexistence-dialogue-official-languages-2017.pdf

In the context of the current Official Languages Commission Organizational Development Plan, and with the support of the National Languages Equality Advancement Project (NLEAP), discussions have been undertaken with the members of the Official Languages Commission and with senior executives on the need for the Commission to produce a distinct Annual Report for public distribution which could focus more specifically on an assessment of the Government’s actions as they relate to its constitutional obligations with respect to the implementation of the Official Languages Policy. The Annual Report could also include an appreciation/analysis by the Commission of the overall language environment within the Sri Lankan society, including areas such as education, private corporations and non for profit organizations. It is also suggested that the Annual Report include results of thematic studies/reports undertaken by the Commission on the status and use of the Official Languages, as stated in the powers of the Commission in Section 7 of the Official Languages Commission Act of 1991 (see above). Finally, the Annual Report could include a section on Recommendations to the Central Government, Provincial Councils and Local Governments, on areas requiring improvements with respect to the implementation of the Official Languages Policy.

 

 

Hilaire Lemoine                              Language Policy Advisor/NLEAP Special Advisor/Language Policy and International Relations, Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute (OLBI), University of Ottawa. February 2021