Rescinded [2012-11-19] - Directive on the Use of Official Languages in Electronic Communications

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Effective date

This directive comes into effect on July 15, 2005. This directive and the Directive on the Use of Official Languages on Web Sites replace the following policy:

Directive statement

The institution respects its linguistic obligations regarding communications with and services to the public, as well as language of work, when it uses electronic communications. Electronic communications issued by the institution reflect the equality of status of English and French. The English and French versions of electronic communications are of equal quality and are available simultaneously. Subject to the requirements set out in this directive, electronic communications may be in one or both official languages.

Application

This directive applies to all institutions subject to Parts IV or V 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 policies

The institutions in question must also apply the following policies:

  • Policy on the Use of Official Languages for Communications with and Services to the Public - for institutions subject to Part IV of the Official Languages Act.
  • Policy on Language of Work - for institutions subject to Part V of the Official Languages Act.

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

Requirements

Accountability

Deputy heads are accountable for implementing this directive in their institutions.

Expected results

Communications with and services to the public

The institution respects its linguistic obligations when it communicates electronically with the public.

Obligations of an office or facility designated bilingual

An office or facility designated bilingual respects the public's right to communicate with and receive services in the official language of the public's choice, in accordance with the requirements set out in the Policy on the Use of Official Languages for Communications with and Services to the Public. Electronic communications issued by an office or facility designated bilingual are available simultaneously in both official languages.

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.

An office or facility designated bilingual may issue electronic communications in only one official language when using the preferred official language of:

  • a member of the public;
  • members of the public with the same language preference.

Special circumstances

Under certain conditions, an office or facility designated bilingual may, as a courtesy, make available to the public:

  • information in one official language only without changing the content, when that information is provided by entities not subject to the OLA;
  • comments from the public in the language in which the comments were received, provided that no changes are made and that no feedback is requested on those comments;
  • a hyperlink to a unilingual Web site of an entity not subject to the OLA. In that case, the office or facility is not responsible for the fact that the content of that site is not in both official languages.

The office or facility issues a notice explaining that the information is not available in both official languages because the source of the information is not subject to the OLA.

The circumstances set out above do not exempt the institution from its obligation to serve the public in both official languages.

Obligations of a unilingual office or facility

The unilingual office or facility communicates electronically with the public in the official language of the majority of the population of the province or territory where the office or facility is located when the communication is intended exclusively for the public served by that office or facility. The same obligations apply to a third party acting on behalf of a unilingual office or facility.

Language of work

The institution respects its linguistic obligations when it communicates with employees.

Obligations related to electronic communications intended for employees located in regions designated as bilingual for language-of-work purposes

It is the institution's responsibility to create and maintain a workplace conducive to the effective use of both official languages by enabling its staff to use either language. The institution respects the right of employees to work and communicate with it in the official language of their choice, in accordance with the requirements set out in the Policy on Language of Work. The institution ensures that electronic communications with and services to employees are in both official languages simultaneously, regardless of the entity to which this responsibility is given.

The institution may issue electronic communications in only one official language when using the preferred official language of:

  • an employee;
  • employees with the same official language of work preference.

Central and common services agencies respect employees' language of work rights in institutions over which they have authority or that they serve.

Special circumstances

Under certain conditions, the institution may, as a courtesy, make available to employees:

  • information in one official language only without changing the content, when that information is provided by entities not subject to the OLA;
  • comments from employees in the language in which the comments were received, provided that no changes are made and that no feedback is requested on those comments;
  • a hyperlink to a unilingual Web site of an entity not subject to the OLA. In that case, the institution is not responsible for the fact that the content of that site is not in both official languages.

The institution issues a notice explaining that the information is not available in both official languages because the source of the information is not subject to the OLA.

The circumstances set out above do not exempt the institution from its obligation to communicate with employees in both official languages.

Obligations related to electronic communications intended for employees located in unilingual regions for language-of-work purposes

Subject to the requirements set out in the Policy on Language of Work, the institution communicates with employees located in unilingual regions for language-of-work purposes in the official language that predominates in the province or territory where the employees are located when the communication is intended exclusively for them.

The institution may provide its employees located in unilingual regions for language-of-work purposes with access to bilingual work instruments or services. However, in doing so, the treatment of the two official languages must be comparable between regions where one language or the other predominates.

Service providers acting on behalf of the institution communicate electronically with employees located in unilingual regions for language-of-work purposes in the official language that predominates in the province or territory where the employees are located.

The institution communicates with employees in unilingual regions with different languages of work by choosing one of the following options: 

  • issue one communication in both official languages for all employees to whom the communication is addressed;
  • issue two equivalent separate unilingual communications simultaneously and send to employees the appropriate version according to the official language that predominates in the provinces or territories where they are located.

Obligations related to electronic communications intended both for employees located in bilingual and unilingual regions for language-of-work purposes

The institution communicates with employees in bilingual and unilingual regions for language-of-work purposes by choosing one of the following options:

  • issue one communication in both official languages for all employees to whom the communication is addressed;
  • for employees in bilingual regions, when their individual language preference is known, issue two equivalent separate unilingual communications simultaneously according to their language preference;
  • for employees in unilingual regions, issue two equivalent separate unilingual communications simultaneously and send them the appropriate version according to the official language that predominates in the provinces or territories where they are located.

Individual responsibilities

Subject to the institutional responsibilities set out above, employees apply the principles established under individual responsibilities when they communicate electronically with one another.

Implementation procedures

Procedures related to electronic communications required to be in both official languages

  • The subject of the electronic communication is in both official languages and appears in the prescribed order.
  • The content of the bilingual electronic communication, in written or oral format, notably for an e-mail, automatic message or voice mail, appears in the prescribed order and each version of the message is complete. The automatic message of an employee occupying a bilingual position reflects the language requirements of the position and is in both official languages.
    • For a written message such as an e-mail or automatic message:
      • the English and French versions are available simultaneously. A note precedes the content of the message, informing the reader of the order in which the two languages appear;
      • the entire electronic message, including any attachment, is issued simultaneously in both official languages.
    • Texts are of equal quality in both official languages.
  • Encoding schemes and pathways support the use of diacritics.
  • Information for employees that is required to be in both official languages includes among others:
  • In a signature block, the information appears in both official languages in the prescribed order.
  • When the institution uses other languages in addition to the two official languages to issue an electronic message:
    • the information is in both official languages and appears in the prescribed order;
    • the equality of status of English and French is respected;
    • the official languages appear in the prescribed order.

Procedures related to electronic communications not required to be in both official languages

  • Encoding schemes and pathways support the use of diacritics.
  • In a signature block, the name of the institution appears in both official languages in the prescribed order.
  • The content of the electronic communication, in written or oral format, notably for an e-mail, automatic message or voice-mail, is in the language of the position of an employee occupying a unilingual or either/or position.
  • When the institution uses an electronic communication to distribute documentation and regularly and widely used work instruments, they are in both official languages when they are intended for employees located in unilingual regions for language-of-work purposes who provide bilingual services.

Procedures related to electronic communications issued using a Web site

When the institution communicates with the public or employees using an electronic means of communication that requires the use of a Web site, such as an electronic bulletin board, it respects the obligations set out in the Directive on the Use of Official Languages on Web Sites.

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 directive 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 the PSHRMAC on request. At a minimum, the institution assesses the following:

  • effectiveness of measures in place to ensure the simultaneous availability and quality of electronic communications transmitted to members of the public in both official languages from offices or facilities designated bilingual;
  • effectiveness of measures in place to ensure the simultaneous availability and quality of electronic communications transmitted in both official languages to employees working in regions designated as bilingual for language-of-work purposes;
  • 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;
  • number of complaints concerning the use of official languages in electronic communications that the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages determined to be founded.

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

Consequences

Enquiries

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

Definitions and notes for the reader

A

B

C

Central and common services agencies: Agencies that are obliged to respect official languages use by personnel in the institutions over which they have authority or which they serve. These institutions include the Privy Council Office, Treasury Board Secretariat, Department of Finance, Public Service Commission, Department of Justice, Canada School of Public Service, Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada and Public Works and Government Services Canada.

Conditions : For information to be posted in only one official language as a courtesy, the following three conditions must be met:

  • the information comes from an institution not subject to the Official Languages Act (OLA) and is not produced on behalf of an institution subject to the OLA. The institution subject to the OLA ensures that a message clearly indicates that this information does not come from it. This could include, for example, information from other levels of government;
  • it is not information given to employees of an institution subject to the OLA that constitutes a regularly and widely used work instrument or personal and central services;
  • the information is not related to the responsibilities of the institution regarding communications with and services to the public or employees.

Consequences : Official Languages Policy Framework
http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pol/doc-eng.aspx?id=12515.

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). For information related to transfer payments, please see http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/fm-gf/tools-outils/guides/ggcotp-gscapttb-eng.asp.

D

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

Diacritics : A sign, e.g. an accent, diaeresis, cedilla, used to indicate different sounds or values of a letter.*

* Source: The Canadian Oxford Dictionary, Second Edition, edited by Katherine Barber.
Copyright © 2004 Oxford University Press. Reprinted by permission of Oxford University Press.

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

E

Effective use : Actual, routine use of either official language in a work environment where employees can work in the official language of their choice.

Electronic communications : Communications carried out by various means of written and verbal electronic communication, on-line (real-time) or off-line (delayed), such as electronic bulletin boards, e-mail, discussion forums, chat rooms and voice mail.

  • Electronic bulletin board

A computer-operated message center, accessed by modem, intended for a particular interest group.*

* Source: Termium

  • E-mail

Correspondence in the form of electronic messages transmitted between computer workstations, servers or terminals over an electronic telecommunications network.

  • Discussion forum

Electronic discussion group consisting of collections of written messages on a particular topic that are posted to a server, which are then redistributed to and/or accessed by other participants. Also called Internet forum or discussion board.

  • Chat room

A virtual meeting place that Internet users can access to have real time conversations on a given topic or issue.

  • Voice mail

A computerized answering service that receives voice messages without a tape recorder plugged to the telephone.*

* Source: Termium

Encoding schemes : The representation of the information circulating in the network requires use of a particular code. Among other things, the scheme used must allow for the representation of characters specific to each of the two official languages.

F

G

H

I

Individual responsibilities :

Individual responsibilities: Communications Between Employees

For communications between employees in different regions, the following principles apply:

  • When an employee in a bilingual region or an employee of a central and common services agency communicates with an employee in a unilingual English region, communication is in English.
  • When an employee in a bilingual region or an employee of a central and common services agency communicates with an employee in a unilingual French region, communication is in French.
  • When an employee in a bilingual region communicates with another employee in a bilingual region, communication is in French or English, at their choice.
  • When an employee of a central and common services agency communicates with an employee in a bilingual region, communication is in the language of choice of the employee in the bilingual region.
  • When an employee in a unilingual French region communicates with an employee in a unilingual English region, unilingual French region or bilingual region, communication is in French, according to the principle that the person who receives the message is responsible for understanding it.
  • When an employee in a unilingual English region communicates with an employee in a unilingual French region, unilingual English region or bilingual region, communication is in English, according to the principle that the person who receives the message is responsible for understanding it.

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

N

Note: For example, the note could state "La version française suit le texte anglais" if the English version comes first, or "English version follows the French text" if the French version comes first.

Notice : The notice appears in both official languages. The following is an example of a notice used when information is provided in one official language as a courtesy:

Please note that access to this section is provided as a courtesy only. Therefore, comments are in the language in which they were communicated to us.

Veuillez noter que l'accès à la section suivante est offert à titre gracieux seulement. Ainsi, les commentaires sont dans la langue dans laquelle ils nous ont été transmis.

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 at the following address: /burolis/home-accueil-eng.asp. 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.

Official Languages Act : http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/O-3.01/index.html

Other languages : The Official Language Act states:

83. (1) "Nothing in this Act abrogates or derogates from any legal or customary right acquired or enjoyed either before or after the coming into force of this Act with respect to any language that is not English or French."

83. (2) "Nothing in this Act shall be interpreted in a manner that is inconsistent with the preservation and enhancement of languages other than English or French."

P

Person responsible : http://www.hrma-agrh.gc.ca/ollo/common/Listinstitution-eng.asp

Policy on Language of Work : http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pol/doc-eng.aspx?id=12520

Policy on the Use of Official Languages for Communications with and Services to the Public:  Policy on the Use of Official Languages for Communications with and Services to the Public.

Policy on using the Official Languages on Electronic Networks : http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pol/doc-eng.aspx?id=12527.

Prescribed order : The order of official languages conforms with the principles in Appendix A of the Federal Identity Program Policy (FIP) http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pol/doc-eng.aspx?id=12314#Appendice%20A.

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 - Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat
Display full size graphic

French - English:

Signature institutionnelle : Secrétariat du Conseil du Trésor du Canada
Display full size graphic

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: http://www.hrma-agrh.gc.ca
French - English: http://www.aadnc-aandc.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.

Q

R

Regions designated as bilingual for language-of-work purposes: http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pubs_pol/hrpubs/OffLang/CHAP5_1-eng.asp.

Regularly and widely used work instruments : For example, the following work tools or instruments are available in both official languages in regions designated as bilingual for language-of-work purposes:

  • manuals and handbooks of policies, procedures and directives;
  • handbooks and documentation needed to deliver services to the public or to employees; and
  • lexicons and official institutional publications that employees consult and other similar tools that they use in performing their duties.

Note that this list is not exhaustive. The institution is responsible for deciding on a case-by-case basis whether work instruments meet the definition of "regularly and widely used." This obligation applies no matter what format is used to make the work instruments available to employees (paper, electronic, etc.).

With regard to computer systems, those provided to employees as information sources or work tools must allow navigation and access to information in either official language; the information must also be available in the official language of the user's choice. As with work instruments, the institution is responsible for deciding on a case-by-case basis whether computer systems meet the definition of "regularly and widely used."

  • This requirement covers software applications, such as an office automation suite (word processor, electronic document management, spreadsheet, e-mail, etc.) made available to help employees perform their duties.
  • In general, this does not include specialized software such as that used by system managers and support technicians to install, configure, maintain and manage the underlying software and hardware infrastructure that makes the institution's software suite available to employees.
  • Regularly and widely used information technology systems, including software packages, acquired or produced by or on behalf of institutions after January 1, 1991, are available in both official languages.

S

Special circumstances : Circumstances in which the Official Languages Act allows the use of only one official language.

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). For information related to transfer payments, please see http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/fm-gf/tools-outils/guides/ggcotp-gscapttb-eng.asp.

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.

Unilingual regions with different languages of work : For example, Vancouver and Québec City are located in unilingual regions for language-of-work purposes with different languages of work, English for Vancouver and French for Québec City.

V

W

Without changing the content : For example, rewriting, abridging or translating in whole or in part the material, or adding text or illustrations to it, changes the content. Electronic treatment for the purpose of posting the material is not considered to be a change of the content.

X

Y

Z