Information on complaints

Why file a complaint?

  • To ensure that your rights are respected: In Canada, the Official Languages Act establishes the equality of English and French and grants you language rights. It is perfectly normal to insist that these rights be respected.
  • To find solutions: As an ombudsman, the Commissioner of Official Languages uses persuasion and constructive dialogue with federal institutions to find appropriate, fair and long-term solutions.
  • To report a problem: Complaints are an indicator of what’s happening in federal institutions. They help the Office of the Commissioner work with federal institutions to find solutions to problems.
  • To raise awareness in federal institutions: A lack of familiarity with or a misunderstanding of the requirements of the Official Languages Act is often the reason for non-compliance with language obligations. By filing a complaint, you are helping to make federal institutions aware of these issues and promoting a change in corporate culture.
 

What results can a complaint get?

Generally, admissible complaints result in investigations into federal institutions conducted by the Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada or in court remedies.

You will find examples of complaints that were investigated by the Commissioner of Official Languages since 2006. They are listed by part of the Act and include a short description of the situation and summary of the outcome. The title of each example contains a link to a more detailed version of the complaint. All complaints are confidential. Any names appearing in these examples are used with the permission of the parties involved.

Whom can I file a complaint against?

The Official Languages Act applies to federal institutions such as offices, Crown corporations and federal departments, as well as agencies and businesses acting on their behalf. Certain companies, like Air Canada, still have language obligations even though they have been privatized.

Note: The Official Languages Act  does not apply to municipalities, provincial government institutions or private companies.

If you have difficulty determining whether a particular organization is subject to the Official Languages Act, please do not hesitate to contact us.

In what situations can I file a complaint?

  • You go to an office that is designated as bilingual, but are greeted in only one official language.
  • You are not able to obtain services in the official language of your choice at a federal government office that is designated as bilingual.
  • You are an employee of a federal institution in a region that is designated as bilingual, and you find it difficult to use the official language of your choice at work.
  • You believe that decisions made by a federal institution will have a negative impact on the vitality of an official language minority community.
  • You believe that the language requirements of a position have not been determined objectively in light of the duties of that position.
  • You believe that the equal status of both official languages is not being respected by a federal institution.
  • You believe that one of the other provisions of the Official Languages Act has not been complied with.

How do I file a complaint?

You can file a complaint with the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages by using the on-line complaint form. Complaints can also be filed by telephone (1-877-996-6368) and or by regular mail.

Please contact us as soon as possible with clear, detailed and specific information about the situation. You will need to provide us with the following:

  • your name
  • your telephone number
  • your mailing address
  • a summary of the incident or situation, including the date, time and location, as well as the federal institution in question
  • any documentation that could help us investigate your complaint

Are complaints confidential?

Yes—all complaints are confidential unless you authorize us to reveal your name.

How are complaints resolved?

Facilitated resolution process

The facilitated resolution process is an investigation that seeks to resolve a complaint quickly and still obtain lasting results for the person who filed the complaint. The investigation is as thorough as in the formal investigation process, but the levels of approval required are not as stringent. Before proceeding with the facilitated resolution process, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages must obtain the consent of the person who filed the complaint. The objective of the facilitated resolution process is not to determine whether the complaint is founded, but to investigate and resolve the complaint informally. The Office of the Commissioner will discontinue the investigation when it considers the results to be satisfactory or when the federal institution has made certain commitments. If necessary, the Office of the Commissioner will verify that the commitments made by a federal institution are fulfilled. It is possible to switch to the formal investigation process if the results are not satisfactory or if the federal institution does not cooperate in the process.

Facilitated resolution process service standards

The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages aims to respond to all requests from the public as quickly as possible and meet the standards listed below. According to the Office of the Commissioner’s service standards, complaints handled under the facilitated resolution process must be resolved within 90 business days. The Office of the Commissioner’s current complaint resolution service standards have been in effect since October 1, 2011.

Note: The standards are a guideline that the Office of the Commissioner’s analysts strive to respect. The complexity of the complaint could have an impact on the processing time; therefore, in certain exceptional cases, the standards may not be met.

Service standards for the facilitated resolution process DaysFootnote 1
Acknowledgement of receipt 3
Initial communication with the person who filed the complaint 5
Initial communication with the institution 8Footnote 2
Investigation completed 90

Footnotes

Footnote 1

Business days from the filing of the complaint.

Return to footnote 1 referrer

Footnote 2

Informal notice sent to institution.

Return to footnote 2 referrer

Formal investigation process

The objective of the formal investigation process is to determine whether the complaint is founded. A formal notice of intent is sent to the deputy head of the institution and to the person who filed the complaint. An investigation is conducted and a preliminary report is prepared. All parties are asked to comment on the preliminary report, and a final report is then issued to close the investigation. If the final report contains recommendations, it may be necessary to follow up on the recommendations and prepare a follow-up report. The formal investigation process is more traditional and usually takes longer than the facilitated resolution process.

Formal investigation process service standards

The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages aims to respond to all requests from the public as quickly as possible and meet the standards listed below. According to the Office of the Commissioner’s service standards, final reports for complaints handled under the formal investigation process must be produced within 175 business days. The Office of the Commissioner’s current complaint resolution service standards have been in effect since October 1, 2011.

Note: The standards are a guideline that the Office of the Commissioner’s analysts strive to respect. The complexity of the complaint could have an impact on the processing time; therefore, in certain exceptional cases, the standards may not be met.

Service standards for the formal investigation process DaysFootnote 3
Acknowledgement of receipt 3
Initial communication with the person who filed the complaint 5
Initial communication with the institution 8Footnote 4
Final report 175

Footnotes

Footnote 3

Business days from the filing of the complaint.

Return to footnote 3 referrer

Footnote 4/dt>

Informal notice sent to institution.

Return to footnote 4 referrer