MONTREAL, Oct. 7, 2014 /CNW Telbec/ - Complaints get results. That is one of the main messages the Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser, delivered in his 2013-2014 Annual Report released earlier today. Fraser noted that part of his duties is to examine cases in which federal authorities have failed to respect the rights and privileges of individuals or groups of Canadians.
How Commissioner Fraser gets federal institutions to comply with the Official Languages Act – from a facilitated resolution process to intervening before the courts – is the theme of his report his year.
"Sometimes you have to exert your muscles to make sure they work," commented QCGN President Dan Lamoureux, noting that the complaints and compliance process are important tools for change. Lamoureux said a good example of this came in September when the Federal Court of Canada upheld the Commissioner's authority to investigate a complaint into the closing of CBC/Radio Canada's French-language station in Windsor, Ont.
The Federal Court clearly confirmed the Commissioner's authority to investigate complaints about CBC/Radio-Canada and clarified obligation under Part VII of the Official Languages Act. The judge ruled that, like all federal institutions, CBC has an obligation to take positive measures to enhance the vitality and assist the development of official language minority communities. The court also ruled that CBC has an obligation not to hinder the development and vitality of English and French minorities in Canada.
While the courts were effective in clarifying the rights of official language minority groups, Fraser noted in his report that sometimes a facilitated resolution process can be just as effective and that was the case of a complaint filed here in Quebec.
"Quebec's English-language film producers filed a complaint against the Canada Media Fund, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages investigated the situation and made two recommendations which led to the creation of the Anglophone Minority Incentive in 2013," noted Guy Rodgers, Executive Director of the English-Language Arts Network . "Thanks to Commissioner Fraser's carefully reasoned intervention, Quebec's English-language film producers now enjoy increased security in their annual funding."
Despite the effectiveness in achieving results, there has been a gradual decline in the number the office is receiving fewer and fewer complaints. The commissioner attributes this drop to the fact that there are fewer direct over the counter services as more and more Canadians received federal services online.
The Commissioner's Office receives few complaints from Quebec and, traditionally, most of those are from French-speaking Quebecers who cannot receive services in French from federal departments and agencies mainly located in Ottawa. Last year there were 59 complaints filed here in Quebec. Thirty-nine were about services to the public and 17 were about language of work.
"English-speaking public servants in Quebec are understandably hesitant to insist on their right to work in English," said QCGN Director General Sylvia Martin-Laforge, noting that some groups that receive federal funding are afraid to bite the hand that feeds them. "And some fear the reaction from hardline Francophones who grumble that Quebec's English-speaking minority is not disadvantaged.
The Quebec Community Groups Network (www.qcgn.ca) is a not-for-profit organization bringing together 41 English-language community organizations across Quebec. As a centre of evidence-based expertise and collective action it identifies, explores and addresses strategic issues affecting the development and vitality of the English-speaking community of Quebec and encourages dialogue and collaboration among its member organizations, individuals, community groups, institutions and leaders.
SOURCE: Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN)
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