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Government Services and Communications. Minority Official Language Rights. Presentation Outline. Legal Structure Overview Language rights in government services and communication Questions and answers Case studies. Legal Structure: Overview. Constitution Act , 1867

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Government services and communications

Government Services

and Communications

Minority Official Language Rights

Presentation outline
Presentation Outline

  • Legal Structure Overview

  • Language rights in government services and communication

  • Questions and answers

  • Case studies

Constitution Act, 1867

Sections 91 and 92

Legal structure summary
Legal Structure: Summary

Constitutional Legislation

  • most permanent; enshrined; harder to change

  • applies to four categories across Canada: 3 in federal domain, one in the provincial domain

    Federal Legislation

  • topics listed in s.91 of CA 1867

    Provincial Legislation

  • Only to topics listed in s.92 of CA 1867; contain some language rights; varies; s.93

    Municipal Legislation

  • Varies

Accessing your rights
Accessing Your Rights

The issues… you need some governmental information or service and you would like it in French.

  • Is it available in French?

  • If so, where, and how can you access it?

  • If not, should it be? What can you do to make that possible?

What was your past experience
What was your past experience?

  • Examples?

  • Which?

  • How did you go about it?

  • Any challenges?

  • The result?

  • Left with any questions?

Source s 20 of the charter
Source - s.20 of the Charter

What does s 20 mean cont d
What does s.20 mean? (cont’d)

New Brunswick

  • Right to communicate, in either official language

  • with an office or institution of the government.

What does s 20 mean cont d1
What does s.20 mean? (cont’d)

Federal Government

  • Under certain conditions:

  • right to communicate, in either official language;

  • with an office or institution of the federal government.

S 20 the conditions
s.20: The Conditions

In English-speaking provinces/territories, French services must be made available:

  • from any head or central office of an institution of the government of Canada;

  • from any other federal office or institution

  • where there is “significant demand”, or

  • where the “nature of the office” makes it “reasonable” to offer the service in French.

    Further definitions addressed in federal laws, such as the Official Languages Act and its regulations, and case law

S 20 institution or office
s.20: ‘Institution’ or ‘Office’

  • Federal government offices /departments such as

    • Auditor General

    • Privacy Commissioner

  • Crown Corporations, e.g.: Canada Post and Via Rail

  • Sometimes, privatized corporations , e.g. Air Canada [1988]

  • Can be very complex and still under development.

S 20 significant demand
s.20: Significant Demand

  • First method - statistical method:

    • larger urban centres: if minority official language population is 5,000+ ;

    • smaller town and rural regions: if the minority population reaches at least 500 people and represents 5% of total population.

  • Some specific rules overrule the general:

    • national capital region, certain maritime and air traffic control communications, airports, railways, ferry terminals, border crossing, certain search and rescue.

S 20 significant demand1
s.20: Significant Demand

If the requirements are not met, there may still be bilingual services:

  • but then it would be a matter of policy, not a matter of “right”.

  • so you can ask but cannot insist.

S 20 nature of the office
s.20: ‘Nature of the Office’

  • “head offices” of government departments;

  • standardized announcements and signage regarding certain types of work, including:

    • the health, safety and security of the public,

    • national parks, and

    • diplomatic offices, consulates, embassies.

S 20 the conditions cont d
s.20: The Conditions (cont’d)

Substantive Equality

  • An additional requirement developed through case law.

  • Acknowledges that looking exactly equal on paper, may not necessarily be equal.

  • To result in a truer state of equality, more measures may be required in one language:

    • E.g. one bilingual ad in an English newspaper, but no ad in any French newspaper

    • Community may have to be consulted to determine what kind of additional effort/measures may be required.

Communications and Services

Section 20

Is it an Institution or Office of the Federal Government?


Section 20(1)


New Brunswick

Section 20(2)

Nature of Office

Sufficient Demand

Also should = Substantive Equality


Yes = Bilingual Services

French available in your area
French available in your area?

If you need French language services from an institution/office of

  • The federal government:

    • call your local federal government office, or

    • visit the federal government’s Burolis website.

    • a provincial /territorial or municipal government:

      • call that government’s main information line, or

      • visit its website, for further information.

How to find help
How to find help?

  • If the situation pertains to a federal matter:

    • contact the Language Rights Support Program (offer help settling the dispute)

    • you can also submit a complaint with the Commissioner of Official Languages.

    • litigate (French-speaking lawyers)

How to find help1
How to find help?

  • If the situation does not pertain to a federal matter:

    • more research (what law? policy?);

    • ask for French, and lobby involved parties;

    • contact French-speaking lawyers.

Case studies
Case Studies

  • Chance to test what you have learned.

  • Divide into groups.

    • Examine fact patterns. Refer to handouts.

    • Discuss.

    • Do you think there is a constitutionally-protected right to French services and communications?

  • Report back in 10 minutes.

  • Thank you!

    For further information

    or training, contact us:

    [email protected]