Review of Official Languages Policy Instruments – Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the Official Languages Policy Review?

    The review of the Government's Official Language policies was undertaken as part of the Treasury Board's policy suite renewal project. The renewal of Treasury Board policies will strengthen accountability and improve efficiency.

    Through the official languages policy review, the Government has strengthened its policy instruments to better implement the Official Languages Act. This will ensure that services in both official languages by federal institutions are efficiently provided to Canadians.

    The new Policy on Official Languages will improve the delivery of services in both official languages by federal institutions by increasing accountability and supporting a more coherent implementation by government organizations.

    Twelve (12) official languages policy instruments were streamlined into one overarching policy, the Policy on Official Languages, supported by three directives:

    More than 90 organizations were consulted during this review exercise, including official language minority community representatives, bargaining agents, departments, Crown corporations and separate agencies.

  • What changes were made to the policy instruments?

    The renewed policy suite does not change the direction of the Government of Canada's official languages program.

    However, modifications that were made include:

    • adopting one policy addressed to deputy heads and three directives addressed to functional specialists, managers and supervisors within institutions resulting in clearer accountabilities;
    • clarifying which institutions are subject to the broader requirements and which are subject to the more specific requirements (application fields);
    • highlighting the complementary roles of the Treasury Board Secretariat and Canadian Heritage;
    • requiring a governance structure for official languages in each institution;
    • broadening supervision rights in bilingual regions;
    • including timeframes for implementing the Official Languages (Communications with and Services to the Public) Regulations; and
    • adopting the format of other Treasury Board policy instruments.
  • Why have the official languages policy instruments been revised?

    The Treasury Board has strengthened its official languages policy instruments as part of the People Management Policy Review Project, which supports the overall policy suite renewal initiative that was launched in 2005.

    This is one of the many initiatives that will help support people management excellence throughout the public service. It seeks to reduce overlap and duplication throughout the policy suite and, by clarifiying accountabilities, it provides deputy heads with greater responsibility for managing employees.

    The scope of the official languages policy instruments extends beyond people management into communications and services. This reflects the constitutional and legislative obligations of institutions by virtue of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Official Languages Act and the Official Languages (Communications with and Services to the Public) Regulations.

  • What if my specific situation is not covered in the policy instruments?

    The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Official Languages Act and the Official Languages (Communications with and Services to the Public) Regulations provide the legislative framework for all linguistic obligations. Institutions must always satisfy their obligations regardless of whether or not a specific situation is addressed in a Treasury Board instrument.

    The renewed official languages policy suite gives deputy heads the flexibility to put in place practices and procedures that are appropriate for their institution and the public that they serve.

  • What is covered in the Directive on Official Languages for Communications and Services?

    The Directive on Official Languages for Communications and Services translates deputy heads' key responsibilities into concrete requirements for federal institutions. It is primarily intended for managers and functional specialists, such as communicators and Web managers. The themes addressed in this directive are:

    • communications with and services to the public;
    • communications involving employees of institutions;
    • order of official languages aligned with the Federal Identity Program Policy; and
    • use of official languages on websites (including Web applications).
  • What is covered in the Directive on Official Languages for People Management?

    The Directive on Official Languages for People Management translates deputy heads' key responsibilities into concrete requirements for federal institutions. It is primarily intended for managers and functional specialists. The themes addressed in this directive include:

    • language of work;
    • supervision;
    • linguistic identification of positions;
    • staffing of bilingual positions; and
    • equitable participation of English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians.
  • What is covered in the Directive on the Implementation of the Official Languages (Communications with and Services to the Public) Regulations?

    The Directive on the Implementation of the Official Languages (Communications with and Services to the Public) Regulations translates deputy heads' key responsibilities into concrete requirements for federal institutions. It is primarily intended for deputy heads or their delegates. This directive ensures the consistent and coherent implementation of the regulations. It addresses issues such as:

    • measuring demand;
    • updating language obligations for federal institutions following the 2011 Census results; and
    • timeframes.
  • How will the review of official languages policy instruments affect services to Canadians?

    Members of the public have the right to communicate with and receive services from federal institutions in the official language of their choice in offices that are designated bilingual.

    By focusing on key areas, the review of the official languages policy instruments has clarified the roles and responsibilities of deputy heads and functional specialists. These improvements will assist institutions in making services available more efficiently and achieve service excellence for Canadians. They will also make it easier to ensure that rights are respected regardless of the method of communication used, including the Internet or social media platforms.

  • Will the implementation of the new official languages policy instruments cost taxpayers more money?

    The review of official languages policy instruments will not generate additional spending.

  • Was the review of the official languages policy instruments part of the spending review?

    The Official languages Policy Review was not part of the spending review.

  • Who was consulted during the policy review exercise?

    More than 90 organizations were consulted during this review exercise, including official language minority community representatives, bargaining agents, departments, Crown corporations and separate agencies.

    These stakeholders were engaged at every stage of the development process from the conception of the new structure to providing comments on drafts of the policy instruments. The new instruments take into account the feedback received and the various viewpoints.

  • Following the 2011 Census results, language obligations for federal institutions will be updated. Can you provide details on the Official Languages Regulations Re-Application Exercise?

    The Official Languages Regulations Re-Application Exercise is a legal requirement to update the language obligations of federal offices. It has to be done every 10 years.

    On October 24, 2012, Statistics Canada will release 2011 Census data on the first official language spoken, based on the 2011 Census. The Treasury Board Secretariat will then proceed with the regulations re-application exercise.

  • How will the new policy suite affect the annual review exercise and monitoring of official languages?

    The new policy suite will have little effect on the current monitoring and reporting cycle. The annual review on official languages will continue to measure the implementation of official languages programs within federal institutions. Institutions will continue to be assessed at least once over a three year cycle and this process will continue to take into consideration institutions' types of services, mandates and the different types of challenges that they face.

    Beginning with the 2011–12 annual review, the Treasury Board Secretariat is coordinating its data and information collection with Canadian Heritage. This collaboration will contribute to further reducing the reporting burden on institutions and reinforces the importance of all parts of the Official Languages Act to deputy heads and their respective institutions.

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