Frequently Asked Questions

 

General Official Languages Questions

Question:1

Where do I go to file a complaint?

Answer to question 1:

If you believe a federal institution has not respected your rights under the Official Languages Act, the Office of the Commissioner can help. Visit our complaint section for more information.

 

Question:2

What are Canada's official languages?

Answer to question 2:

Canada's official languages are English and French.

 

Question:3

Who is Canada's Commissioner of Official Languages?

Answer to question 3:

Currently, Ghislaine Saikaley is serving as Canada’s Commissioner of Official Languages in an interim capacity. Mrs. Saikaley began her appointment on December 19, 2016 and will be acting in the position until a new Commissioner is appointed in 2017. She is an experienced federal government executive who was previously Assistant Commissioner for the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, Compliance Assurance Branch. For more information on Mrs. Saikaley and past commissioners of official languages, please visit the Commissioner of Official Languages page.

 

Question:4

Do you do translations?

Answer to question 4:

No. Our mandate is to promote and protect Canada's two official languages (English and French) and the language rights of Canadians. Should you need assistance with funding translation or interpretation for an event or a non-profit organization, you can contact Canadian Heritage's Support for Translation and Interpretation Program.

 

Question:5

Why does Canada have two official languages?

Answer to question 5:

Canada's two official languages (English and French) are deeply rooted in our history and are key identifiers of our Canadian identity. Since the passing of section 133 of the British North America Act in 1867, French and English have been clearly established as Canada's official languages to be used by members of Parliament, by the federal courts, by Quebec's national assembly and courts, and in the documentation of their proceedings.

 

Question:6

Does the Official Languages Act require all Canadians to be bilingual?

Answer to question 6:

No, the Official Languages Act puts the onus of providing services in both official languages on the federal government so that individuals don't have to be bilingual. Naturally, this means that some positions in the federal government must be filled by employees who can serve clients in both English and French. Although the Official Languages Act does not require anyone to learn the other official language, many Canadians view learning a second language as an opportunity for learning a professional skill or for personal enhancement, and as a way to contribute to Canada's national unity and mutual cultural understanding.

 

Question:7

What if I am unilingual?

Answer to question 7:

You aren't the only unilingual person in Canada! Some 26 million Canadians speak only English or French. The federal government's approach to official languages is based on the principle of institutional bilingualism. By definition, institutional bilingualism is the capacity of the Canadian government and its institutions to communicate with the public in both official languages.

As outlined in the Official Languages Act, it is the federal government's responsibility to communicate with and serve Canadian citizens in the official language of their choice. The Canadian government recognizes that it must adjust to the language needs of the public, and that it is not up to citizens to adjust linguistically to the workings of government. Simply put, the Canadian federal government is required to be bilingual so citizens don't have to be.

 

Question:8

What is the definition of official bilingualism in Canada?

Answer to question 8:

To talk of "official bilingualism" in Canada is misleading. In reality, Canada has a policy of "dual bilingualism," or, more commonly, "linguistic duality"—two linguistic majorities cohabiting in the same country, with linguistic minorities across the country. According to the 2011 Census, the Canadian government can reach 98% of the 33 million Canadians through the use of Canada's two official languages, English and French.

 

Question:9

What is linguistic duality?

Answer to question 9:

In Canada, there are approximately 200 languages spoken and, according to the 2011 Census, 98% of the Canadian population can speak at least one of the two official languages, English and French. Linguistic duality is the presence of two linguistic majorities cohabiting in the same country, with linguistic minority communities spread across the country. Linguistic duality and cultural diversity are fundamental and complementary values of Canadian identity. Tolerance and a sense of accommodation are engrained Canadian values—this is largely thanks to our duality, which has taught us to respect one another.

Even today, there are a substantial number of English-speaking and French-speaking minority communities across Canada. According to the 2011 Census, there are almost a million French-speaking Canadians living outside Quebec, and located within Canada's only majority French-speaking province (Quebec) are approximately 1 million English-speaking Canadians.

 

Question:10

What is the purpose of the Official Languages Act?

Answer to question 10:

The purpose of the Official Languages Act is to ensure that federal government institutions can communicate and provide services in both English and French so that Canadian citizens can comfortably speak in the official language of their choice. The Official Languages Act also ensures that official language communities not only survive, but also thrive through their continued support and development, and advance the equality of status and use of the English and French languages within Canadian society. Although the Official Languages Act is key to promoting the use of French and English in Canadian society, it does not regulate the use of official languages for provincial/territorial and municipal governments, nor for Canadian private companies. For information regarding the provincial and territorial authorities on official languages, we invite you to visit our provincial and territorial official languages page. Note: It is important that the Official Languages Act is always interpreted in a manner that is consistent with the preservation and enhancement of languages other than English and French.

For a more detailed explanation, we encourage you to visit our section on your official languages rights. If you would like a closer look at the historic events that have affected Canada's official languages since the Parliament of Canada adopted the Official Languages Act in 1969, we encourage you to visit our official languages timeline.

 

Question:11

How does the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantee my language rights?

Answer to question 11:

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms found within our Canadian Constitution established English and French as the official languages of Canada, giving both official languages equal status throughout institutions of the Parliament and Government of Canada. There are several sections within the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that identify, guarantee and reinforce the language rights of Canadians. In particular, sections 16 to 20 of the Charter guarantee the right to use the official language of one's choice in Parliament, in certain communications with the federal public service and before the federal courts. Moreover, section 23 of the Charter protects the right of official language minority parents to have their children educated in their language and to manage public educational institutions.

 

Question:12

Why does the federal government provide services in both English and French?

Answer to question 12:

Serving the Canadian public cannot be done in one language. In fact, according to the 2011 Census, by providing services in English and French, the federal government is able to reach 98% of Canadian citizens. The Official Languages Act states that bilingual services shall be provided wherever there is significant demand. This policy recognizes and respects the needs of Anglophones and Francophones across Canada and ensures fair and equal treatment. In some circumstances, fewer services are provided in areas where the demand is low. The Canadian federal government may employ other communication methods in these regions, such as toll-free numbers.

Figures from the 2011 Census show that there are almost a million Canadians living outside Quebec that speak French as their first language. Similarly, there are approximately 1 million Canadians located in the province of Quebec that speak English as their first language. This means that about 2 million Canadians depend on official languages policies to receive services from the federal government in their preferred official language, whether or not the individual is able to hold a conversation in both of Canada's official languages. In Canada, being bilingual does not negate one's right to receive services in one's language, but rather ensures people are able to clearly communicate in the official language of their choice.

 

Question:13

What are the economic benefits of bilingualism and how do Canadians benefit from official languages policies?

Answer to question 13:

Knowledge of both of Canada's official languages encourages individual mobility and may thus help foster stronger economies through better communication and more harmonious intergroup relations. In the context of globalization, bilingualism is increasingly perceived as a competitive advantage and an added value.

In regards to how Canadians benefit from official languages policies, the benefits are most evident at the federal level (in the delivery of bilingual services to the general public). Here are some examples of the progress made in other areas:

  • Education

    The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the right to education in the minority official language in all provinces and territories. Currently, a majority of Canadian schoolchildren, both English- and French-speaking, are enrolled in second official language programs. For more detailed information on English-speaking students studying French across Canada and French-speaking students studying English, we encourage you to visit Canadian Parents for French's Web site.

  • Services

    Most Canadians have access to English and French radio and television programming, even though the service provided is sometimes minimal. A range of health and social services are available in both languages from the federal and some provincial governments.

  • Business

    Federal legislation governing product labelling requires all products to include essential information—the generic name of the product, the ingredients, the manufacturer's address and any health or safety information—in English and French.

 

Question:14

What does the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages actually do?

Answer to question 14:

The mandate of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages is to ensure compliance with the Official Languages Act in the federal institutions subject to it, and to promote linguistic duality in all aspects of Canadian society.

 
 

Question:15

How do we determine whether an office is required to provide services in both official languages?

Answer to question 15:

The Official Languages (Communications with and Services to the Public) Regulations set out the rules determining which offices must offer services in both official languages. The Official Languages Regulations serve as the federal government's "instruction manual" for providing bilingual service to the public. They establish the obligations of federal institutions and the rights of Canadians. Under these regulations, about 95% of people living in minority communities in Canada are able to receive at least some federal services in their own language. Approximately one third of federal institution offices must provide services in both official languages.

 

Question:16

Where do I go to find out where I can receive services from the federal government in both English and French?

Answer to question 16:

To find out where you can obtain a federal institution's services in the official language of your choice, consult the Burolis directory.

 

Question:17

Where do I go if I feel my language rights have been violated at work (outside of the federal government)?

Answer to question 17:

If you work for the federal government, you can file a complaint with the Commissioner of Official Languages' office. Please note that the Official Languages Act does not regulate the use of official languages for provincial/territorial and municipal institutions or for Canadian private companies; however, we have compiled a list of provincial and territorial institutions you may wish to contact with questions or concerns, or to file a complaint. Another option for more information on your language-of-work rights in the private sector would be to contact the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

 

Question:18

How does the Official Languages Act apply to provinces?

Answer to question 18:

The Official Languages Act does not apply to provincial governments or private businesses; however, some provinces and territories have adopted policies and legislation to protect languages in their jurisdiction. Quebec's official language is French, but the province provides certain guarantees, protections and services for the English-speaking minority. The official language of all other provinces is English, except for New Brunswick, which is Canada's only province to adopt both English and French as official languages. We have compiled a list to help you connect with your provincial and territorial official languages representatives.

 

Question:19

What if I have questions about the language of services provided at the provincial or territorial level, or if I feel my language rights have not been respected by a provincial government?

Answer to question 19:

Although the Official Languages Act is not applicable at the provincial level, there are individuals and organizations in place to respond to inquiries and help resolve complaints. You may wish to review the list of provincial and territorial offices responsible for official languages available on our Web site.

 

Question:20

Where do I go to find information regarding my language rights in my local community?

Answer to question 20:

The Official Languages Act does not apply to provincial governments, private businesses, towns or cities; however, some municipalities, provinces and territories have adopted policies and legislation to protect languages in their jurisdiction. For example, Moncton, New Brunswick was the first municipality to declare itself an officially bilingual city (in 2002), and Quebec municipal services are under the jurisdiction of the provincial government and, as such, are subject to the Charter of the French Language. While section 29.1 of the Charter does allow for services in English in recognized municipalities, not all towns or cities have this status. Since policies and the services offered to residents vary from one city to another, we suggest you contact your local city council for more information.

 

Question:21

Where can I find a brief history of official languages in Canada?

Answer to question 21:

For more detailed information on the history of official languages visit our timeline.

 
 

Question:22

Do I have to be bilingual to work for the federal government?

Answer to question 22:

Not necessarily. Approximately 40% of positions in the federal public service are designated bilingual. In some provinces, the percentage of bilingual positions in federal government offices is less than 4%. For more information on the language requirements of positions and the hiring process in the federal government, please consult the Public Service Commission of Canada and Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer Web sites.

Note: Hiring practices are based on a merit system. This means that staffing procedures are based on an assessment of the candidate's linguistic competence rather than his or her language background. The Public Service Commission of Canada, under the new Public Service Employment Act, has the authority to make appointments to and within the public service.

 

Question:23

What are my language rights as a federal public service employee?

Answer to question 23:

Part V of the Official Languages Act sets out the circumstances in which federal government employees, in certain regions and in certain circumstances, have the right to use English or French. For a list of offices that provide services in both official languages, consult Burolis.

In regions designated bilingual for the purposes of language of work, federal institutions have a duty to create a work environment that allows their employees to use the official language of their choice when they are not serving the public. For more information on your language-of-work rights, please visit our section on your official languages rights and the Policy on Official Languages.

 

Question:24

Are Anglophones and Francophones well represented in federal institutions?

Answer to question 24:

The balance between English- and French-speaking Canadians in the federal government is fairly representative of the population as a whole. Both groups are represented in proportions similar to the breakdown of the Canadian population. According to the 2011 Census, about 86% of Canadians can converse in English, 30% in French, and about 596,000, or less than 2% of the population, speak neither official language. The Official Languages Act recognizes that it is not realistic to expect every federal institution to have a workforce that exactly reflects the linguistic makeup of the country.

 

Question:25

Is there a specific way to greet people in both official languages?

Answer to question 25:

The Official Languages Act does not specify the ways in which greeting the public in federal offices (the active offer of bilingual service) is to be done in various situations. The Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer (OCHRO), which is part of the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, is responsible for helping federal institutions serve the public in both official languages and create and maintain a work environment conducive to the effective use of both official languages. The OCHRO's Web site is an excellent resource for guides, policies and FAQs on official languages. For more information on active offer for federal departments, we suggest you contact the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.

 

Question:62

What is active offer and why is it important?

Answer to question 62:

Active offer is a cornerstone of service in both official languages. In fact, without active offer, clients might not know that services are available in their language or, even if they know they have the right to service in their language, they might not dare to ask for it.

The Official Languages Act (section 28) requires offices or facilities that are designated as bilingual to clearly indicate that services are available in both official languages. This is called “active offer.” Active offer includes a bilingual greeting, such as “Hello! Bonjour!” or “Welcome to Canada! Bienvenue au Canada!”, as well as visual cues, such as signs, that reinforce this offer. To many of their clients, government offices are the face of Canada. They are well placed to promote one of Canada’s fundamental values—linguistic duality.

 

Question:27

What are the language requirements for employees in the federal public service?

Answer to question 27:

Federal employees and potential candidates need to be aware of language rights in federal institutions. Part V (Language of Work) of the Official Languages Act states that federal officers and employees in designated bilingual regions have the right to use either official language as their language of work. That right is superseded only by the public's right to be served in the official language of their choice and, in the case of supervisors, managers and executives, by their employees' right to work in the official language of their choice (please see the Policy Statement in the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat's Policy on Official Languages).

The federal public service uses the A-B-C-E classification system to assess second-language skills. All candidates are evaluated for each of the three language skills: written comprehension, written expression and oral proficiency. Second-language qualifications for the federal public service are based solely on these evaluations—there are no equivalent qualifications. You may also wish to consult the Second Language Evaluation section of the Public Service Commission of Canada's Web site for information on language testing.

If you have concerns about the difference in French and English second-language requirements, we suggest you contact the Public Service Commission of Canada, since this department is responsible for language testing in the federal government.

 

Question:28

What are official languages champions?

Answer to question 28:

Official languages champions are employees in federal institutions who play a key role in promoting the use and development of Canada's official languages in their institution and in ensuring that senior management take official languages into account in their decision-making. More information on their roles and responsibilities is available on the Council of the Network of Official Languages Champions Web site.

 
 

Question:29

Where can I find statistics on Canada's official languages?

Answer to question 29:

We have a variety of reports, studies and tools and resources on our Web site. For more information, we suggest you contact Statistics Canada with your request, as this department is responsible for providing statistics for the whole of Canada and each of the provinces and territories.

 

Question:30

Do you have any fast facts on Canada's linguistic breakdown?

Answer to question 30:

Canada currently has more than 33 million inhabitants, which can be divided into two numerically significant language communities: Anglophones (58% of the population) and Francophones (22% of the population). Canadians whose mother tongue is neither English nor French make up 20% of the population.

According to the 2011 Census, about 86% of Canadians can converse in English, 30% can converse in French, and about 596,000, or less than 2% of the population, speak neither official language. As people have come to Canada from other parts of the world, our society has become multicultural and multilingual, but only English and French allow virtually all Canadians to communicate with each other.

 

Question:31

What is the linguistic breakdown of employees in the federal public service?

Answer to question 31:

Both groups are present in proportions similar to the general population. According to the Treasury Board's Annual Report on Official Languages 2012-2013, the participation rate of Anglophones in all institutions subject to the Official Languages Act is 73.3%, while that of Francophones is 26.6%. The distribution essentially resembles the percentage of Anglophones (75%) and Francophones (23.2%) in Canadian society, based on the latest data from the 2011 Census. Treasury Board data reveals that federal institutions had 11,521 offices and points of service in 2013. Of these, 34.1% (3,930) were required to deliver bilingual services to the public. The report also reveals that 42.5% of positions in the public service were designated as bilingual and 95.1% of public servants in the core public administration met the language requirements of their position. More information on official languages in federal institutions is available on the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat Web site.

 
 

Question:32

Are federal political parties obligated to present materials in both official languages?

Answer to question 32:

Canadian federal political parties are not considered to be "federal institutions" within the meaning of section 3 of the Official Languages Act. They are neither "established to perform a governmental function by or pursuant to an Act of Parliament or by or under the authority of the Governor in Council," nor are they "specified by an Act of Parliament to be an agent of Her Majesty in right of Canada or to be subject to the direction of the Governor in Council or a Minister of the Crown." As such, they do not have a duty under the Official Languages Act to ensure that members of the public can communicate with and obtain available services from them in either official language.

 

Question:33

Are there rules regarding official languages for members of Parliament in the House of Commons?

Answer to question 33:

There are no rules governing language use or the proportion of English and French that must be used in Canada's House of Commons. Furthermore, Canadian members of Parliament are exempt from federal language obligations when carrying out their constituency work. Canadian members of Parliament can give speeches in either of Canada's official languages, English or French, when they address Parliament. That being said, the Commissioner of Official Languages encourages members of Parliament to demonstrate respect for Canada's linguistic duality by communicating in both English and French. With regard to the quality of the interpretation services provided during House of Commons proceedings, you may wish to send your questions or comments to Parliament directly.

 

Question:34

Are parliamentarians required to provide services in English and French?

Answer to question 34:

Under section 90 of the Official Languages Act, parliamentarians' offices are not required to provide services in both of Canada's official languages. Section 90 states: "Nothing in this Act abrogates or derogates from any powers, privileges or immunities of members of the Senate or the House of Commons in respect of their personal offices and staff or of judges of any Court." The offices of members of Parliament are not considered federal institutions under the Official Languages Act, and their staff are not employees of the Canadian House of Commons or the Senate of Canada.

 
 

Question:35

Are national, provincial, local and non-profit organizations or businesses required to comply with the Official Languages Act?

Answer to question 35:

Canadian businesses and non-profit organizations are not subject to the Official Languages Act and have no legislated language obligations unless they provide services on behalf of Canada's federal government. Nevertheless, organizations find added benefits (increased revenue, prestige and credibility, for example) to committing to providing content of equal quality in both of Canada's official languages in all of their communications and promotional materials, including signage, logos, newsletters and Web sites.

 

Question:36

How can I help my company become more bilingual?

Answer to question 36:

The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages offers many applicable tools and resources to enhance your experience with and knowledge of Canada's official languages. You will also find that Canadian Heritage provides an excellent on-line guide called Making Your Organization Bilingual archived, which offers tools and strategies for organizations seeking to foster a new bilingual corporate culture or to improve the services they already offer in Canada's two official languages.

 

Question:37

Where can I find information on bilingual best practices?

Answer to question 37:

While the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages has not published any reference materials on bilingual best practices per se, we have a wide range of reports and studies that describe best practices in specific contexts. The following are some of these reports.

 
 

Question:38

Why do you believe it is important to learn both of Canada's official languages?

Answer to question 38:

Knowing and learning both of Canada's official languages has long-term personal and professional benefits and is a rewarding experience. It allows Canadians to communicate with increased confidence and reach a wider global audience as well as the masses in our own country. Knowing both of Canada's official languages also increases cultural sensitivity and gives learners a new perspective and pride in their Canadian identity.

 

Question:39

Why is it important to provide second-language education (English and French) to Canada's youth?

Answer to question 39:

Many countries view second-language training as an essential part of basic education. Canada's official languages, English and French, are truly international languages, spoken by 800 million and 250 million people respectively around the world. In the era of globalization, the ability to speak these languages increases Canada's and the individual's competitiveness and influence on the international stage. English and French are fundamental elements of Canada's history and collective way of life. Learning both of our official languages can break down cultural barriers and encourages openness toward others, better understanding and mutual respect.

 

Question:40

What message or advice would you tell students who are just beginning to learn a second language?

Answer to question 40:

Knowing more than one language opens the door not only to education and jobs; it also lets you extend the influence of your community and culture as you go out into the world. This statement comes from a speech given by former Commissioner of Official Languages Graham Fraser to a group of students from Newfoundland and Labrador.

Get in touch with your local Francophone or Anglophone minority community, as many of them organize social activities where even those with only a basic understanding of the language are welcome.

 

Question:42

How do I verify the credibility of a second-language institution or school?

Answer to question 42:

Languages Canada is a national language training association. You can find a list of its accredited schools and documentation on the accreditation process on its Web site. The Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers may be able to provide some guidance for individuals interested in English- or French as second language teaching programs.

Another option you can use to verify a second-language training institution's legitimacy is to contact the Canadian Better Business Bureau and request that it conduct a business review.

 

Question:43

Where do I go to become bilingually certified in Canada?

Answer to question 43:

Unfortunately, no single standard attesting to the language skills of Canadians currently exists. There are, however, a large number of institutions that provide language training and certification. You will also find a list of accredited schools for teaching Canada's official languages (English and French) on the Languages Canada Web site.

 

Question:44

I am a new immigrant or thinking of migrating to Canada. Are there free language programs available?

Answer to question 44:

The mandate of the Office of the Commissioner is to ensure compliance with the Official Languages Act in the federal institutions subject to it. Education falls under provincial jurisdiction. You may therefore wish to inquire at the provincial level about language training that may be available to you. We also suggest that you contact Citizenship and Immigration Canada for information on free language instruction and on immigrant services in your area that may be a source of information and guidance.

 

Question:45

I am bilingual in both of Canada's official languages. Where do I go to become a Canadian citizen?

Answer to question 45:

The mandate of the Office of the Commissioner is to ensure compliance with the Official Languages Act in the federal institutions subject to it. For information on immigration, please consult Citizenship and Immigration Canada's Web site for information on obtaining a permanent resident card or contact your nearest Canadian visa office.

 

Question:46

Can you help with immigration applications?

Answer to question 46:

The processing of immigration applications falls outside our mandate. Please contact Citizenship and Immigration Canada or Canadian consular services abroad.

 
 

Question:47

Does the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages grant funding to those who wish to become bilingual?

Answer to question 47:

The mandate of the Office of the Commissioner is to ensure compliance with the Official Languages Act in the federal institutions subject to it. Since we are not a funding organization, we are unable to contribute to awards, school trips, language training initiatives or the evaluation of translation software, or endorse funding applications, although we applaud all of the efforts made to build bridges between Canada's two official language communities (English and French).

 

Question:48

Does the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages provide financial support for post-secondary education?

Answer to question 48:

The mandate of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages is to ensure compliance with the Official Languages Act in the federal institutions subject to it. Since we are not a funding organization, we are unable to provide monetary support for individuals pursuing a post-secondary education. The Government of Canada provides support for post-secondary studies through its Student Financial Assistance program. You may also wish to try an Internet search engine such as studentawards.com, which is a free scholarship matching service. Since education falls under provincial jurisdiction, we also suggest that you inquire at the provincial level about any grants or scholarships that may be available to you.

 

Question:49

Does the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages provide financial support for international education in a second language?

Answer to question 49:

The mandate of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages is to ensure compliance with the Official Languages Act in the federal institutions subject to it. Since we are not a funding organization, we are unable to provide monetary support for individuals pursuing a post-secondary education internationally. Instead, we suggest you contact Canadian Heritage, as they may be able to help you with your request. You may also wish to contact the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada or speak directly with the universities. There is also a Web site listing the international scholarships available from Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada for foreign students interested in coming to study in Canada.

 
 

Question:50

Why do products and packages in Canada have both of Canada's official languages (English and French)?

Answer to question 50:

The Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act was first adopted in 1974 to protect the health and safety of consumers, prevent misrepresentation and fraud, and allow consumers to make informed food choices. As a result, products are required to have bilingual labelling in both official languages. Certain products are, however, exempt from the Act.

 

Question:51

Do all product labels need to be bilingual?

Answer to question 51:

No, some types of products are exempt. Product packaging and labelling actually fall under the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act, not the Official Languages Act. We invite you to visit the Competition Bureau's Web site for more information.

 

Question:52

Who do I contact if I have concerns about the language used on product labels?

Answer to question 52:

For information on the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act, please contact the Competition Bureau, which is responsible for enforcing this legislation. For information on food product labelling, you may wish to contact the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, whose Web site features information on bilingual requirements.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency also created the Industry Labelling Tool to explain the labelling and advertising of food products. If you believe that a label on a product sold in Canada does not comply with the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act, we encourage you to file a formal complaint.

 
 

Question:54

How does the Official Languages Act apply to the province of Quebec?

Answer to question 54:

The Official Languages Act applies to all federal institutions in all Canadian provinces and territories. In Quebec, Anglophones and Francophones have the same rights under the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This means that Francophones receive services from the federal government in French. The English-speaking community receives services from the federal government in English where the Official Languages Act and Regulations require them to be provided.

The Official Languages Act also protects the right of English- and French-speaking federal government employees to work in the language of their choice. English-speaking employees in regions designated as bilingual for language of work purposes (the Montréal area, parts of the Eastern Townships, the Gaspé region and western Quebec) can work in the official language of their choice. Some 66.8% of federal public service jobs in the province (excluding the National Capital Region) are designated bilingual.

While the Charter of the French Language proclaims French as the official language of Quebec, members of the English-speaking community receive a variety of services in English from the provincial government, other institutions in Quebec and the private sector. For example:

  • The Constitution Act, 1867 stipulates that English can be used in the Quebec National Assembly, that the laws and regulations of the province must be published in both English and French, and that cases in Quebec courts may be heard in either English or French.
  • In 1986, Quebec amended its Act respecting health services and social services to require that each regional administrative entity adopt a plan for the provision of health care and social services in English to English-speaking citizens.
  • Private schools that provide instruction in English, French or any other language can, under certain conditions, receive public funding.
  • Businesses, the media and cultural organizations use English frequently. English can also be used on commercial signs, as long as French is predominant.

 

 

Question:55

Where can I find information on the English-speaking communities in Quebec?

Answer to question 55:

There are a variety of reports as well as tools and resources on the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages' Web site that relate to Quebec's English-speaking communities.

For more information, we suggest you contact Statistics Canada with your request, as it is responsible for providing statistics for the whole of Canada and each of the provinces and territories. You may also wish to contact the Quebec Community Groups Network, which is a non-profit organization that brings together 41 English-language community organizations across Quebec. Its goal is to identify, explore and address issues affecting the development and vitality of English-speaking communities throughout Quebec. It also seeks to encourage dialogue and cooperation among community groups, individuals, institutions and leaders.

 

Question:56

What is the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages' role in the province of Quebec?

Answer to question 56:

As the country's official languages ombudsman, Canada's Commissioner of Official Languages strongly supports the development and vitality of official language minority communities and the promotion of the equality of English- and French-speaking communities across the country. In Quebec, as in other provinces, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages has intervened before the courts when provincial legislation infringed on rights guaranteed by the Official Languages Act and, more frequently, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Should you have further questions on Quebec's language regulations, we invite you to contact the Office québécois de la langue française, which is responsible for language matters in Quebec. You may also want to read the brochure called Questions and answers about Québec's language policy produced by Quebec's Secrétariat à la politique linguistique.

 

Question:57

Why are the road signs in Quebec in French only?

Answer to question 57:

Highways in Canada, including the Trans-Canada Highway and the National Highway System, fall within provincial, territorial or municipal jurisdiction. The only exceptions are highways through national parks and a section of the Alaska Highway. Provincial, territorial and municipal governments are therefore responsible for planning, design, construction, operation, maintenance and financing, which includes the provision of highway and traffic signs and roadside infrastructure within their jurisdictions.

The use of French on traffic signs in Quebec is detailed in section 22 of the Charter of the French Language. Any questions on the Charter can be addressed directly to the Office québécois de la langue française.

 

 

Question:58

Do I have to work in French in Quebec?

Answer to question 58:

In Quebec, the Charter of the French Language stipulates that French is the language of work in the provincial public service and in many (but not all) private-sector organizations.

 

Question:59

Is there a law against receiving a parking ticket in French only from Quebec?

Answer to question 59:

Traffic tickets are issued by provincial or municipal institutions, and therefore subject to the Charter of the French Language only and not Canada's Official Languages Act.

 

Question:60

Who do I talk to in Montréal regarding my language rights?

Answer to question 60:

Citizens who believe they are adversely affected by a decision, an act or an omission by the City of Montréal can file a complaint with the Ombudsman de Montréal.

 

Question:61

Where do I go to find more information on my language rights in the province of Quebec?

Answer to question 61:

Should you have further questions on this subject, we invite you to contact the Office québécois de la langue française, which is responsible for language matters in Quebec. You may also want to read the brochure called Questions and answers about Quebec's language policy produced by Quebec's Secrétariat à la politique linguistique.

The Quebec Ombudsman reviews complaints from persons, enterprises, groups or associations that believe they have been unfairly or improperly treated by a Government of Quebec department or agency.