International Conference on
Language Rights
Overview – French Language
Services Act – Ontario, Canada
Dublin, Ireland – May 24, 2013
François Boileau
Toronto- 02/02/2010
Map of Canada: Provinces and Territories
Map of Ontario
Presence of Francophones in Ontario
Dates back 400 years in Ontario
More than 600 000 Francophones (4.8% of the
province’s total population)
By far the largest Francophone community in Canada
(Quebec excepted)
New Inclusive Definition of Francophone to better
reflect the changing face and diversity of Ontario's
Francophone community
The proportion of exogamous couples — where one
parent is a Francophone and the other one is not —
was 68.3% in 2011.
New Inclusive Definition
Since 2009, the Government adopted an Inclusive definition of Francophone
(IDF) that is based on new criteria for calculating the size of Ontario’s
Francophone population.
The Government has done more than engage in a statistical exercise; it has
broken new ground and become a leader in inclusiveness.
In addition to individuals whose mother tongue is French, those whose mother
tongue is neither French nor English, but who know French and speak it in the
home are considered Francophones.
IDF is a symbolic recognition. It reinforces the sense of belonging and takes
into account the newcomers’ contribution to the Francophone community of
E.g..: An Algerian or a Moroccan family who most often speak Arabic at home
but who also speak French at home is now considered Francophone.
Place of birth of Franco-Ontarians*
60% of Ontario’s Francophones were born in this province.
14% were born outside of Canada (mainly from Europe, Africa).
Almost half of Francophones in Toronto were born outside of the country.
Outside Canada
Other provinces
*Profile of Ontario’s Francophone Community, 2009
Is French an Official language in
Both the Federal Government and the Provincial
Government have competence over language
Ontario is not an officially bilingual province, even if:
• All laws are enacted in both French and English and
has equal value under the law
• Most regulation are translated into French
• Under the Courts of Justice Act, French and English
are the official languages of the courts in Ontario
• Citizen can receive services and communicate in
French with provincial Government almost
everywhere in Ontario
It wasn’t
(and often still isn’t…) always
Francophones in Canada have had to fight
• 1912 Regulation XVII that prohibited French in
schools throughout the province
• Montfort Court Case in 1997 where Government
wanted to close down the only University Hospital
West of Québec
When not arguing in Courts, policy of taking things one
small step at a time by different Governments
FLSA in 1986 was the culmination of a long struggle
by Ontario’s French-language community to have its
rights officially recognized
General Support for Bilingualism
There is more and more support for bilingualism in Canada, and
in Ontario, especially with Canadians
In 2011, 11.3% (1,438,785) of the population of Ontario were able
to conduct a conversation in French.
Immersion programs: to increase the number of Anglophones
proficient in French as a second language
The question of costs for FLS is recurring
Difficult to separate Francophones in Ontario than the political
situation in Québec
Canadians espouse Charter values, but it seems Language
Rights are often seen as “political compromise”, therefore, not as
important than, say, right to vote or right to receive fair trial
Interpretation of Language rights
In Beaulac, the Supreme Court of Canada said:
“ Language rights must in all cases be interpreted purposively, in
a manner consistent with the preservation and development of
official language communities in Canada. To the extent
that SAANB stands for a restrictive interpretation of language rights, it
is to be rejected. The fear that a liberal interpretation of language
rights will make provinces less willing to become involved in the
geographical extension of those rights is inconsistent with the
requirement that language rights be interpreted as a fundamental tool
for the preservation and protection of official language communities
where they do apply. It is also useful to re-affirm here that language
rights are a particular kind of right, distinct from the principles of
fundamental justice. They have a different purpose and a different
R. v. Beaulac, [1999] 1 S.C.R. 768
Interpretation of Language rights (cont’d)
In Beaulac:
“I wish to emphasize that mere administrative inconvenience is not a
relevant factor. ”
“As mentioned earlier, in the context of institutional bilingualism, an
application for service in the language of the official minority language
group must not be treated as though there was one primary official
language and a duty to accommodate with regard to the use of the
other official language. The governing principle is that of the equality
of both official languages.”
R. v. Beaulac, [1999] 1 S.C.R. 768
Interpretation of Language rights (cont’d)
Since Beaulac, the Courts, including the SCC, have been consistent
with the purposive and liberal approach to interpretation of
Language Rights (taking into account the historical and social context,
past injustices, and the importance of the rights and institutions to the
minority language community affected).
Confer positive obligations on Government: “It provides in
particular that language rights that are institutionally based require
government action for their implementation and therefore create
obligations for the State” (Beaulac)
Language Rights are also remedial in nature.
Arsenault-Cameron v. Prince Edward Island, [2000] 1 S.C.R. 3
Doucet-Boudreau v. Nova Scotia (Minister of Education), [2003] 3 S.C.R. 3
R. v. Beaulac, [1999] 1 S.C.R. 768
Goal of the French Language Services Act
The Act’s preamble states that “…the French language is an
historic and honoured language in Ontario and recognized by
the Constitution as an official language of Canada” and that “…
the Legislative Assembly recognizes the contribution of the
cultural heritage of the French speaking population and wishes
to preserve it for future generations”.
This means that all ministries and agencies of the government
must play an important role into the preservation and
enhancement of the Francophone communities throughout
A community’s development depends upon the services that it is
offered. A community is much more likely to develop and grow if
it has access to services that are adapted to its needs.
Interpretation of FLSA
“The Bill was the result of years of successive steps toward the goal of
providing services to francophones in their own language. The Bill
received the unanimous support of all three political parties
represented in the Legislative Assembly, and amendments were
proposed with a view to ensuring its protections would be met.”
“One of the underlying purposes and objectives of the Act was the
protection of the minority francophone population in Ontario;”
“another was the advancement of the French language and
promotion of its equality with English. These purposes coincide
with the underlying unwritten principles of the Constitution of Canada.”
Lalonde v. Ontario(Commission de restructuration des services de santé), (2001), 56 O.R. (3d) 577
Interpretation of « services »
Offering French-Language services is more than a matter of
translation; it means developing services responsive to the needs of
Ontario’s Francophone community so that it can grow and prosper.
Equivalent services are those that meet the needs of the communities
Services must be equal in quality, though differently offered, in respect
of substantive equality, which is the norm.
“Depending on the nature of the service in question, it is possible that
substantive equality will not result from the development and
implementation of identical services for each language
community. The content of the principle of linguistic equality in
government services is not necessarily uniform. It must be defined in
light of the nature and purpose of the service in question.”
DesRochers v. Canada (Industry), 2009 SCC 8
FLSA Application
Ministries and government agencies
Governmental service providers and third parties
Designated organizations under the FLSA (215)
Commissioner’s role: To ensure that they actively offer Frenchlanguage services in accordance with the Act
Key Elements to FLS
Planning and integrating services in French as soon as a
governmental initiative arises
Adapt French-language services to the specific needs of the
Francophone population (health, immigration, education,
employment, etc)
Active offer and substantive equality of quality services delivered to
the population
It is very important to reach out to ordinary citizens who do not
realize that they have the possibility of obtaining better services
for themselves, and for their community, in French
Active offer
Requires the creation of an environment that is conducive to
demand for services and that anticipates the specific needs of
Francophones, in their community.
When dealing with intimate and sensitive issues, even fluently
bilingual Francophones revert to their mother tongue.
Translations are not a reflection of cultural environment and
Training is especially hard for bilingual professionals since there
is a misconception that every thing they’ve learned will be
automatically transferred into French.
OFLSC’s Mandate and Responsibilities
Conducting independent investigations under the French
Language Services Act in response to complaints or on its own
Preparing reports on investigations, including recommendations
aimed at improving the provision of French-language services.
Monitoring the progress made by government agencies in
providing French-language services.
The Commissioner may at any time make a special report to the
Minister on any matter related to this Act that, in the opinion of the
Commissioner, should not deferred until the annual report.
Commissioner’s Vision
Ideally, we want to motivate people, encourage
Francophones to request services in French, and
service providers to actively offer these services.
The Government and its institutions must take every
reasonable and necessary measures to ensure
services are:
• designed and adapted to the needs of the
Francophone community
• delivered in a useful and effective manner.
We need to build trust with the community that French
will be treated with equality and dignity by public
Questions, Comments, suggestions ?
Office of the French Language Services Commissioner
700 Bay Street, Suite 2401
Toronto, ON M7A 2H8
1 866 246-5262
Toronto Area 416 314-8013
416 314-8331
416 314-0760
[email protected]

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