Rescinded [2012-11-19] - Policy on the Use of Official Languages for Communications with and Services to the Public

English and French are the official languages of Canada for communications with and services to the public. Members of the public have the right to communicate with and receive services in either English or French from offices or facilities designated bilingual.

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Effective date

This policy comes into effect on July 15, 2005 and replaces the following instruments:

Background

 

Policy statement

English and French are the official languages of Canada for communications with and services to the public. Members of the public have the right to communicate with and receive services in either English or French from offices or facilities designated bilingual, including an institution's head or central office, offices located in the National Capital Region, and all offices of an institution that reports directly to Parliament on its activities. These offices or facilities actively offer communications with and services to the public in both official languages.

The institution ensures the public's right is respected when communicating with or receiving services from a third party acting on the institution's behalf. When using media to communicate with the public, the institution ensures that its linguistic obligations are met. The obligation to communicate with and serve the public in the official language of its choice takes precedence over employees' language-of-work rights. These principles apply as defined in the policy requirements.

Application

This policy applies to all institutions subject to Part IV of the Official Languages Act (OLA), with the exception of the Senate, the House of Commons, the Library of Parliament, the Office of the Senate Ethics Officer and the Office of the Ethics Commissioner.

Related requirements

The institutions in question must also apply the following requirements:

Institutions must also respect the official languages obligations set out in the list of related policy instruments.

Policy requirements

 

Accountability

Deputy Heads are accountable for implementing this policy in their institutions.

Expected results

Obligations of an institution and its offices or facilities

The equal status of English and French is respected when an office or facility uses both official languages to communicate with or serve the public. This includes both written and oral communications and services. Both language versions are available simultaneously, are of equal quality and follow the prescribed order.

All material produced by or on behalf of the institution is in both official languages when it is intended for national dissemination. The institution distributes material nationally or on a wide scale in both official languages simultaneously or in the public's official language of choice.

The institution distributes lengthy documents by choosing the most efficient way to communicate with the targeted public in the official language of their choice while taking into account the linguistic obligations of the OLA.

The institution ensures that all signs identifying its offices or facilities are in both official languages.

Signage that includes words, written notices and standardized public announcements inside or outside the institution's offices or facilities regarding health, safety or security of members of the public are in both official languages.

Any office that communicates with and serves the public in circumstances related to events of national or international scope that are open to the public ensures that all communications and services are in both official languages when it:

  • organizes or hosts such an event; or
  • participates in an event of this nature, including those organized or hosted by an entity not subject to the OLA.

The institution ensures that:

  • it has the necessary capacity to communicate with and serve members of the public in both official languages at all offices or facilities designated bilingual;
  • communications with and services to the public are provided in both official languages at all offices or facilities designated bilingual;
  • it informs the public of contact information for offices and facilities that are designated bilingual;
  • unilingual offices or facilities are able to refer the public to offices or facilities that are designated bilingual.

Obligations of an office or facility designated bilingual

All communications with and services to the public are in the official language chosen by the member of the public or in both official languages when the language preference of the public is unknown.

An office or facility designated bilingual actively offers its communications and services in both English and French. Appropriate measures are taken to clearly indicate to members of the public their right to communicate with and receive services in the official language of their choice.

An office or facility designated bilingual ensures that a third party acting on its behalf respects the public's language rights. The contract or agreement with a third party includes clauses setting out the office or facility's linguistic obligations with which the third party must comply. The office or facility designated bilingual ensures that the two official languages are of equal quality when a third party provides communications and services on its behalf.

When using media in circumstances not covered by Section 11 of the OLA, offices or facilities designated bilingual communicate with members of the public in the official language of their choice in an effective and efficient manner. When using the same type of media would not reach targeted members of the public in the official language of their choice in an effective and efficient manner, communications are in different media in each language. The office or facility designated bilingual is able to justify and explain its decision about the choice of media. (Information regarding Section 30 of the OLA)

Obligations of a unilingual office or facility

A unilingual office or facility communicates with and provides services to the public in the official language of the majority of the population of the province or territory where the office or facility is located. The office or facility ensures that such communications and services are intended exclusively for the public it serves.

Monitoring and reporting

The Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada (PSHRMAC) is responsible for determining the method for assessing performance and monitoring implementation of this policy in institutions.

Each institution is responsible for keeping its records and information systems up to date and assessing results in order to report on them to PSHRMAC on request. At a minimum, the institution assesses the following:

  • effectiveness of measures in place to ensure the availability and quality of communications and services in both official languages to members of the public by offices and facilities designated bilingual;
  • effectiveness of measures in place to ensure that official language obligations for signage that includes words, written notices and standardized public announcements inside or outside the institution's offices or facilities regarding health, safety and security of members of the public are respected;
  • effectiveness of measures in place to ensure availability and quality of communications and services in both official languages in circumstances related to events of national or international scope open to the public;
  • effectiveness of measures in place to ensure the active offer of communications and services to the public in both official languages;
  • effectiveness of measures in place to ensure that a third party acting on behalf of an office or facility designated bilingual respects the linguistic obligations of that office or facility;
  • effectiveness of measures in place to ensure that offices and facilities designated bilingual use media effectively and efficiently to communicate with members of the public in the official language of their choice;
  • number of complaints concerning communications with and services to the public that the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages determined to be founded.

When assessment of the results reveals that the policy has not been respected, the institution reports the situation to PSHRMAC and takes appropriate corrective action.

Consequences

Any failure to respect Treasury Board (TB) policies and directives may give rise to an assessment, the results of which will be included in the President of Treasury Board's annual report to Parliament.

In the case of institutions for which TB is the employer, compliance with the OLA and promotion of its objectives are to be integrated in annual performance assessments and to influence ratings.

Failure to comply with this policy may result in a complaint to the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages under Part IV of the OLA and of a legal remedy in the Trial Division of the Federal Court.

Enquiries

For further information, please contact the person responsible for official languages in your institution.

Definitions and notes for the reader

A

Active Offer

Actively Offer:
Clearly indicate visually and verbally that the public can communicate with and obtain services from an office or facility designated bilingual in either English or French. Appropriate measures to offer the use of either official language include but are not limited to:
  • Prominently displaying the official languages symbol

The official languages symbol: greeting the public in both languages, beginning with french displayed first in Quebec and

The official languages symbol: greeting the public in both languages, beginning with english displayed first elsewhere in Canada.

Institutions for which Treasury Board is not the employer may use this symbol or a comparable symbol.

  • Greeting the public in both official languages, beginning with the official language of the majority of the population of the province or territory where the office or facility is located. Provide service in the language chosen by the member of the public.
  • Ensuring that the office's recorded messages are entirely in both official languages.
  • Displaying forms and brochures of institutions subject to the Official Languages Act in a manner that respects the equal status of English and French.
  • Using permanent or temporary signs in both official languages to direct the public within an office.

C

Capacity:
Through an appropriate mix of financial, material and human resources, including bilingual and unilingual positions and/or functions, the office is able to provide communications and services in both official languages. These are of equal quality and simultaneously available.

Communications with the Public

Contract or agreement
When an office or facility of an institution subject to Part IV of the Official Languages Act entrusts a third party with delivery of its services to or communications with the public, it ensures that the third party complies with the linguistic obligations of the office or facility through a contract or other legal instrument. Contracts or agreements with third parties should not be confused with transfer payments (grants and contributions). Follow this link for information related to transfer payments.

D

Deputy heads
This term is equivalent to "deputy minister", "chief executive officer" or some other title denoting this level of responsibility.

Directive on the Use of Official Languages in Electronic Communications: Directive on the Use of Official Languages in Electronic Communications.

Directive on the Use of Official Languages on Web Sites: Directive on the Use of Official Languages on Web Sites.

Distributes lengthy documents
The institution distributes lengthy documents in the official language chosen by the member of the public. When the language is unknown, a distribution in both languages is the most effective way to reach the public in the official language of its choice. The institution can, if it is certain that it meets its obligations under the Act and pursuant to regulations, send the document in the official language that predominates in the province or territory. The institution develops a distribution strategy taking into account, for example:
  • the nature of the document;
  • its ability to provide the document in the other official language free of charge and within a reasonable timeframe;
  • the costs of distributing voluminous material in both official languages;
  • the environmental impact of producing voluminous material in both official languages.

E

Event of National or International Scope
Such as an exposition, a fair, an exhibition, a competition, a game or sporting event in Canada or abroad.
  1. When the institution organizesor hostsan event of national or international scope it takes appropriate measures to make it known to the public that its communications and services are available simultaneously in both official languages. The equal status of English and French is respected when both official languages are used. Appropriate measures to offer the use of either official language include but are not limited to:
    • Communications and services provided at wickets, information booths (ticket offices, lost and found) or by on-site guides and ushers (by paid staff or volunteers). When unilingual personnel cannot serve visitors and participants in the official language of their choice, they refer them to a colleague who can do so.
    • Displaying the official languages symbol

    The official languages symbol: greeting the public in both official languages, beginning with French displayed first in Quebec and

    The official languages symbol: greeting the public in both official languages, beginning with English displayed first elsewhere in Canada.

    Official Languages symbol - English-Français

    Institutions for which Treasury Board is not the employer may use this symbol or a comparable symbol.

    • Signage, such as signs and notices, regarding namely:
      • health, safety and security;
      • location of pavilions, buildings, booths, restaurants, parking, washrooms, etc.;
      • information related to programs, schedules, nature of activities and competition results.
    • Public announcements, whether live or pre-recorded, opening or closing ceremonies, official speeches and announcements about the program and activities.
    • All material produced by the institution or on its behalf.
    • Media activities such as advertisements, notices or press releases and newspaper advertisements (see the note to the reader Information regarding Section 30 of the OLA).
    • Health, safety and security services for which the institution is responsible.
    • The use of simultaneous interpretation services.
  2. When an institution participatesin an event of national or international scope it takes appropriate measures to make it known to the public that its communications and services are available simultaneously in both official languages. The equal status of English and French is respected when both official languages are used. Appropriate measures to offer the use of either official language include but are not limited to:
    • signage identifying the institutions.
    • displaying the official languages symbol

The official languages symbol: greeting the public in both official languages, beginning with French displayed first in Quebec and

The official languages symbol: greeting the public in both official languages, beginning with English displayed first elsewhere in Canada.

Institutions for which Treasury Board is not the employer may use this symbol or a comparable symbol.

  • visitors are welcomed in both official languages and services are provided in the official language chosen by the visitor.
  • publication or distribution of documents.
  • public announcements and press releases dealing with the institution's participation in the event.
  • communications with the media in the official language chosen by the media representatives.

Events of National or International Scope for the General Public

F G

H

Health, safety or security of members of the public:
The circumstances and types of services covered are found in section 8 of Official Languages (Communications with and Services to the Public) Regulations which can be accessed on the Justice site.

I

Information regarding Section 30 of the OLA:
This section provides for the use of both official languages when communicating with the public under the circumstances set out in Part IV of the Official Languages Act (OLA). It covers several types of communications between institutions and the public, including commercial advertisements. The following points will assist institutions in clarifying their obligations under Section 30:
  1. First, it is important to clearly identify the public to be reached. This will permit an institution to determine whether this public has to be served in both official languages in accordance with the circumstances set out in Part IV of the OLA. For example, if in a given area, the offices and facilities of an institution must provide their services to the public in both official languages, the institution will have to communicate in a way that reaches the public in the official language of the public's choice.
  2. It is up to each institution to choose the means of communicating effectively and efficiently with its public in the official language of the public's choice. The institution's personnel, who know the target public and the type of information to be conveyed, as well as the different media coverage in each official language, determine (in the context of a marketing strategy, for example) which is the most appropriate medium (press, television, radio, etc.) for effectively and efficiently communicating a message to a given public in the official language of its choice. The type of information to be conveyed also affects the choice of medium. For instance, for a short advertisement or an urgent or time-limited message, a medium such as radio or television could be more effective in reaching the two linguistic groups. In a different context, an institution may decide that the press is the most effective medium for informing the public in the official language of its choice, for example, an announcement of rates or a commercial advertisement that people may want to keep on hand for reference.
  3. In general, it is assumed that the same medium will be used to communicate with both linguistic groups. Section 30, however, does not exclude the possibility of using a different medium for each linguistic group (newspaper in one language and radio in the other), provided the effectiveness and efficiency of communications with the public in the language of their choice is assured. Frequency of distribution may also necessitate the use of different media for each language.
  4. When an institution uses the official language majority press to convey a message to the official language majority, it should not be automatically assumed that the official language minority also reads the majority press. It is expected that the institution would use the official language minority press to convey the message to the official language minority. If the target public includes those served by the minority press, it is very likely that this would be the most effective and efficient medium for contacting them. However, circumstances where the necessity to communicate information quickly or with a specific frequency can lead to the use of a different media to reach the official language minority public. It should also be noted that, in certain cases, an institution might have to choose between newspapers published in the same language. In short, institutions will have to make their decisions by taking into account the specific circumstances.

Whatever the case, the institution must be able to justify its decision in terms of effective and efficient communications with the public in the official language of the public's choice. The institution should be certain that its control mechanisms ensure proper implementation of its linguistic obligations.

Informs the public:
To provide contact information for offices and facilities designated bilingual. This requirement may be met through the use of Burolis, as well as periodically publishing its contact information in telephone directories, blue pages, Web sites and newspapers, etc.

Intended exclusively:

For communications with and services to the public
the information is intended exclusively for the public served by the unilingual office or facility. If such is not the case, please note that:
  • for communications with and services to the public:
    • the office or facility identifies the target public in order to determine whether there is an obligation to provide the information in both official languages. If so, the institution ensures that the information is in both official languages;
  • for its Web site, the office or facility chooses one of the following options:
    • post the information on its unilingual site in only one official language and provide a bilingual message with a hyperlink indicating that the information is also available in both official languages on a bilingual Web site; or
    • identify the target public in order to determine whether there is an obligation to provide the information in both official languages. If so, the institution posts that information in both official languages on the unilingual site. This does not mean that the entire Web site must be bilingual.
For language of work
the information is intended exclusively for employees in one or more unilingual regions for language-of-work purposes where the language of work is the same. If such is not the case, please note that:
  • for a Web site, the institution chooses one of the following options:
    • post the information on a unilingual site in only one official language and provide a bilingual message with a hyperlink indicating that the information is also available in both official languages on a bilingual Web site; or
    • identify the targeted employees in order to determine whether there is an obligation to provide the information in both official languages. If so, the institution posts that information in both official languages on the unilingual site. This does not mean that the entire Web site must be bilingual.
  • for electronic communications:
    • identify the targeted employees in order to determine whether there is an obligation to provide the information in both official languages. If so, the institution ensures that the information is in both official languages.

J K

L

List of related policy instruments:

M

Material:
Any information or administrative material of the institution, whether written or oral, is in both official languages regardless of the method of dissemination or office disseminating. For example:
  • forms;
  • brochures;
  • booklets;
  • reports;
  • tapes or videos;
  • recorded messages.

This material may be produced with complete English and French versions together or equivalent separate versions in each official language. When two separate versions are produced, the institution clearly indicates on the unilingual material that it is available in the other official language. The unilingual version can include a summary in the other official language.

N

National Dissemination:
Material intended for use or distribution anywhere in Canada.

O

Office or facility designated bilingual
An office or facility is designated bilingual if it meets criteria:
  • set out in the Official Languages Act (OLA) such as:
    • an institution's head or central office,
    • an office or facility within the National Capital Region,
    • an office or facility of an institution that reports directly to Parliament,
  • OR
    • set out in the Official Languages (Communications with and Services to the Public) Regulations (the Regulations)

An office or facility may take various forms, such as:

  • a post office;
  • a Canadian border port of entry;
  • an information desk;
  • a toll-free long-distance telephone service; or
  • a train, ferry or aircraft that offers services on a route, as set out in the Regulations.

A list of offices and facilities designated bilingual is available in Burolis. In addition to providing contact information for each office or facility of institutions subject to the OLA, Burolis provides the rationale for the obligation to provide services in both official languages (see "Provision" in the "More Info" section). The codes refer to the sections of the OLA or the Regulations.

Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages.

Official Languages Act.

Official Languages (Communications with and Services to the Public) Regulations.

P

Person responsible

Prescribed order
The order of official languages conforms with the principles in Appendix A of the Federal Identity Program Policy (FIP).

For example, these principles apply to the order of the official languages for the institutional signature, domain name, signature block and any written or verbal message:

Institutional signature
The two official languages are used side by side and appear in the following sequence: French on the left for an office or facility located in Quebec, and English on the left for an office or facility located elsewhere in Canada.

For example:

English - French:

Institutional signature for TBS in Quebec in Quebec and

Institutional signature for TBS elsewhere in Canada elsewhere in Canada.

Note: On a Web site, the English-French signature appears on a page in English, and the French-English signature appears on a page in French.

Domain name
When the two official languages must be used together, they appear in the following sequence: French first for an office or facility located in Quebec, and English first for an office or facility located elsewhere in Canada.

For example:

English - French: www.hrma-agrh.gc.ca
French - English: www.ainc-inac.gc.ca

Signature block
When the two official languages must be used together, they appear in the following sequence: French first for an employee of an office or facility located in Quebec, and English first for an employee of an office or facility located elsewhere in Canada.

For example:

  • English - French:

Jean Tremblay
Advisor, Strategic Planning / Conseiller, Planification stratégique
Treasury Board Secretariat / Secrétariat du Conseil du Trésor
Ottawa, Canada

  • French - English:

John Smith
Conseiller, Planification stratégique / Advisor, Strategic Planning
Patrimoine canadien / Canadian Heritage
Gatineau, Canada

Written or verbal message:
When a bilingual message is sent to several recipients, the message appears in French first for a communication originating from an office or facility located in Quebec, and in English first for a communication originating from an office or facility located elsewhere in Canada. Written messages appearing side by side are to be avoided as they cause accessibility problems, for example, when using screen-to-speech software (a software commonly used by people who are visually impaired).
Public:
Any person, group of persons (professional associations or others) or organization or company (other than a Crown corporation) in Canada or abroad, any representative of another level of government communicating with or receiving a service from an institution, excluding officers and employees of institutions subject to the Official Languages Act when carrying out their duties.

S

Section 11:
Notices, advertisements or other texts that the institution is required or authorized to publish pursuant to an Act of Parliament must comply with the publishing requirements set out in Section 11 of the Official Languages Act.

Once it is determined that an Act or regulation to which an institution is subject requires the publication of a notice or advertisement, Section 11 applies, regardless of whether there is significant demand.

T

Third party:
Under section 25 of the Official Languages Act, "Every federal institution has the duty to ensure that, where services are provided or made available by another person or organization on its behalf, any member of the public in Canada or elsewhere can communicate with and obtain those services from that person or organization in either official language in any case where those services, if provided by the institution, would be required […] to be provided in either official language." Contracts or agreements with third parties should not be confused with transfer payments (grants and contributions). Follow this link for information related to transfer payments.

U

Unilingual office or facility
An office or facility that is not required to communicate with or provide all of its services to the public in both official languages under the Official Languages Act or the Official Languages (Communications with and Services to the Public) Regulations. However, the unilingual office or facility has linguistic obligations it must respect, as set out in the section "Obligations of an institution and its offices or facilities" of the Policy on the Use of Official Languages for Communications with and Services to the Public.

Use of Media

W

X

Y

Z

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