As an officer of Parliament and agent of change, the Commissioner has a mandate to promote the Official Languages Act and oversee its full implementation, protect the language rights of Canadians and promote linguistic duality and bilingualism in Canada.
The Commissioner ensures that the three key objectives of the Act are achieved and takes all necessary measures in this respect. These objectives are:
- the equality of English and French in Parliament, the Government of Canada, the federal administration and the institutions subject to the Act;
- the development and vitality of official language minority communities in Canada; and
- the equal status of English and French in Canadian society.
To achieve these objectives, the Commissioner carries out the following six roles:
The Commissioner of Official Languages protects the language rights of Canadians and promotes the equality of both official languages in Canadian society.
The Commissioner's role includes protecting:
- the right of any member of the Canadian public to use English or French to communicate with and receive services from federal institutions, as provided for in the Official Languages Act;
- the right of federal public servants to work in the official language of their choice in designated regions;
- the right of all Canadians, whether English- or French-speaking, to equal opportunities for employment and advancement in federal institutions.
The Commissioner receives and reviews complaints and, if required, investigates them and makes any necessary recommendations. In this role, he also conducts investigations on his own initiative, when appropriate.
The Commissioner plays a proactive role by conducting audits to measure federal institutions' and other organizations' compliance with the Official Languages Act and making recommendations.
The Commissioner, with support from the regional offices and liaison officers, works with federal institutions and other organizations, various levels of government and official language minority communities throughout the country. This interchange allows him to gain a better understanding of the needs and concerns of communities, make relevant recommendations and intervene judiciously in major official languages issues.
The Commissioner's monitoring role involves acting pre-emptively by intervening at the stage where laws, regulations and policies are developed to ensure that language rights remain a primary concern of leaders.
Promotion and education role
One of the Commissioner's main responsibilities is to support linguistic duality in both the public service and Canadian society.
To carry out this responsibility, the Commissioner raises Canadians’ awareness of the benefits of linguistic duality, works with community organizations and tries to convince various organizations subject to the Act to give official languages and minority communities the attention they deserve.
The Commissioner mainly fulfills the promotion and education role by carrying out research, studies and public awareness activities. He also delivers speeches and participates in conferences and workshops to inform all Canadians of the status and importance of official languages.
Court intervention role
The Commissioner contributes to the advancement of Canadians’ language rights by intervening, when appropriate, before the courts in any proceeding related to the status or use of English or French.