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Reflections

Reflections

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Reflections

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  1. Reflections Colin H Williams School of Welsh Cardiff University, UK williamsch@cardiff.ac.uk

  2. Timeline and Age. Personal thanks to SEÁN + staff for hosting us. Compensation of age, dreams into reality 1973-5 Advocate Canadian OCOL model for Europe, particularly Wales and Ireland 1990s With many in this room push for OLA and LC in Ireland 2000s Push for Welsh Language Measure and LC 2003 Advocate Network of LCs. 2012-5 ESRC Project on LCs

  3. The Legislative Turn • Generation preoccupied with education, local government and media/IT • The generic turn to individual and group rights either to bolster promotion or to compensate for poor recognition and inadequate services • Mainstreaming language as public good in international law and policies • Need language law be necessarily soft?

  4. Overarching Legal Framework • Canadian Model-template • Fed. Official LanguagesAct • N.B. ActRecognizing the Equality of the Two Official LinguisticCommunities-Vitality Essential if IndividualRightsUpheld • Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms-HolisticView of Citizen Rights

  5. Ombudsman-Commissioner Continuum Promotion+/-Regulation? Monopoly or Shared Responsibilities? Hierarchical Divisions and Impact Sanctions, penalties, purchase What real powers do Commissioners have to influence behaviour?

  6. Whither Commissioners? Advocates, educationalists, investigators and regulators How are these functions balanced over time? Is there a switch in emphasis as office matures? The search for cognate bodies so as to make role more effective

  7. Uniqueness of Language Commissioners • In plural or multilingual societies LCs can act as bridge builders, conscience, voice and advocate in non-threatening or partial manner • Not quite the Great Physician in war-torn or conflict-ridden societies, but a force for good, peace and mutual understanding

  8. Roles of the Commissioner of Official Languages

  9. Canadian Principles and Virtues • Language policies must be based on respect, and have clear mechanisms to ensure that rights of citizens are respected • Entrenched constitutional rights afforded to the linguistic minority • Statutory mechanisms (ombudsman and court remedy) to ensure the language rights of citizens are respected • Education in the other official language

  10. Room for improvement • Language of service has improved in all regions but there is room for further improvement • For language of work, progress is uneven • Intervention of courts still required to ensure respect of language rights • There continues to be much room for improvement at the provincial, territorial and municipal levels

  11. Independence of Office Canadian, Catalan, Ontario, NB, Irish, Welsh and Finnish systems all prize the Independence of Office Holder to Act Saw evidence of various threats to independence, viz. political, fiscal, resource-based, absorption and integration. How to respond?

  12. Conducting independent investigations under the French Language Services Act in response to complaints or on its own initiative. 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. OFLSC’s Mandate and Responsibilities 12

  13. Best Practice • Canadian Active Offer of Service

  14. Key Questions and Issues • Administrative reticence and lack of buy-in from senior managers • Inconsistent citizen expectations and realities-hence self-restrictive behaviour and under-use of potential of official services. Demand not an exact measure of need. • Capacity, terminology and usage

  15. Non-official languages? • What role do non-official languages play in articulating the particular approach to official languages? • Are there fundamental geo-linguistic or territorial divides which legislation has failed to overcome? • Demolingusitic trends and the absorption of migrants as new speakers.

  16. AN COIMISINÉIR TEANGA • Established in 2004 • Ombudsman service • Compliance Agency • Provision of advice on rights and obligations • Staff of 5-7 civil servants • Annual budget c.€600,000

  17. Ireland: Dynamism not size is vital 5,425 complaints (28% from the Gaeltacht) 82 formal investigations 198 audits 1,736 requests for advice from state bodies 9 annual reports + 3 special reports, as well as recommendations for amendments to the Act. Guidebook, a website and various publications including a multi-media educational resource on language right for schoolchildren.

  18. Ireland’s Questions The main news story emerging from Ireland is in relation to the amendment of the Official Languages Act here - and the publication of those amendments before year-end. The Commissioner’s position: “Will the amendment of the Act be taken seriously? A hint at the seriousness of the effort will come from 2 simple tests…my personal yardsticks:

  19. Fudge, farce and falsehood • Will the amended legislation ensure that state employees serving the Gaeltacht communities are Irish speaking without question or conditions? • Will the new legislation address the issue of language in recruitment to the public service in general? • If those two elements are not addressed in the amended legislation, I fear it may be seen as a fudge, a farce or a falsehood. And that it will be perceived as flawed, a failure and soon forgotten.”

  20. Whither Language Rights? Rights evolve through struggle Jurisdictional immaturity in several cases Language as part of human rights, fundamentally important but how well activated in practice?

  21. How do Commissioners Evaluate? Keeping up the pressure Recognise the lagging departments/units Schedule thematic evaluations by sector Powers to impose sanctions if evaluations and investigations not effective.

  22. Who evaluates the Ombudsmen? Annual Reports to Parliaments Select Committee Q and A Special Investigation

  23. Costs, neo-liberal discourse • How real is the threat that the gains made by stealth politics over the past generation are now being dismantled by neo-liberal arguments and fiscal pressures? • How can such pressures be transformed by new discourses and needs-based, public good arguments? • Do LCs/Ombudsmen Annual Reports enter the mainstream debates?

  24. Majority’s inclusion and legitimacy for policy. • Important issue because it shows that official language policy is not solely for the minorities’ benefit. • Canadian Official Language Act is worded so that federal institution should encourage citizens and voluntary group to accept and “recognize” official languages. Hence, you can support the policy even if you are not fully bilingual! • Cf. Welsh policy of ‘Iaith Pawb’ (Everyone’s Language).

  25. Inclusive Definitions • Since 2009, Ontario Government adopted an Inclusive Definition of Francophone(IDF) that is based on new criteria for calculating the size of Ontario’s Francophone population. • IDF is a symbolic recognition. It reinforces the sense of belonging and takes into account the newcomers’ contribution to the Francophone community of Ontario. • 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.

  26. Finland: It’s Up To The Majority ! • The 25 measures of the Ahtisaari working group (March 2011) recommended - • Finnish government prepare a language policy action plan for 2011-2015 • Ministry of Justice co-ordinate cross-cutting measures in to implement the language rights obligations specified by the Constitution and the Language Act • Strategy for National Languages 2012 PM leadership, Ministerial support essential for political progress.

  27. It’s Up To The Majority ! • Ministry of Finance charged with providing solutions enabling municipalities to guarantee linguistic rights and increase the demand for, and participation in, linguistically-related municipal services –active dynamism, leadership • Language training courses for public servants, improvements in the national curriculum, financing the public broadcast remit of Swedish YLE and reforms in the treatment, management and documentation of patients within the health care system

  28. LESSONS LEARNT Successes: • Production of monolingual, bilingual and trilingual dictionaries • Production of Nama booklet • The launch of the Dr Neville Alexander Language Scholarship • Launching of a Linguistic Human Rights Tribunal • Back log of complaints addressed; • There are standard operating procedures on how to lodge a complaint; • There are standard operating standards governing the complaint administration process. • There is a complaint management system that supports the easy accessibility to the status of the lodged complaints and statistics of resolved or not resolved complaints.

  29. LESSONS LEARNT (Cont.) Challenges: • Language matters have been on the back seat and that is reflected by limited budget. • Revision of the Act • The production of monolingual, bilingual and trilingual dictionaries. • The Launch of the Dr Neville Alexander Language Scholarship • The establishment of reading clubs in various communities such, old age homes, prisons and in schools • Lack of provisions of the Act that give the decisions of the Tribunal binding powers • Lack sufficient budget to conduct advocacy and awareness programs

  30. Conundrums • If support for bilingualism and official languages so high, why are we so worried and have recourse to law and specification of language rights? • Behaviour not principles is the acid test, but it is far more complex than such dualisms.

  31. Key Challenges: Ireland + Others Lack of correlation between language acquisition (through education or as native speakers in Gaeltacht) and subsequent usage… a huge ‘disconnect’. Inadequate provision of state services through Irish, particularly in Gaeltacht.

  32. Imponderables How to reshape the relative balance between the public sector, creating skills and space for a language, and the private and voluntary sectors where the action is acute and language shift most evident e.g. Catalonia, Wales and Ireland. LPLP input oriented rather than outcome focussed

  33. Crunch Issues Where does power reside? How is influence diffused? Role of Supreme Courts and Legal System Articulation of Rights in Practice

  34. Less emphasis today Economic Imperatives The World of Work Skills, Science, Technology, Leisure

  35. Where next? • International network of Language Commissioners and Regulatory Bodies • European Language Roadmap • Greater awareness of public involvement and buy-in to official language policy and suite of language rights and services • Role of civil society in mobilizing pressure

  36. From Act to Action • The report on Language Legislation in Finland, Ireland and Wales undertaken by Siv Sandlund, Peadar Ó Flatharta and Colin H Williams is published. • Details from FIONTAR