With the aim of guaranteeing access for Ontario Francophones to government services in their language, the Ministry of Francophone Affairs is responsible for developing policies and programs aimed at ensuring the delivery of services in French, providing advice to ministries, developing recommendations in the area of French services and acting as a liaison between the government and Franco-Ontarian communities.
The position of French Language Services Commissioner in Ontario was eliminated in 2019. These responsibilities were transferred to Ombudsman Ontario which now has a French Language Services Commissioner at the Deputy Ombudsman level to ensure the rights of Ontarians under the French Language Services Act.
Overview of the Laws, Policies and Regulations
The French Language Services Act was adopted in 1986 and went into effect in 1989. Under this Act, the use of English and French is permitted in the debates and the proceedings of the Legislative Assembly and the bills of a public nature of the Assembly, after January 1, 1991, are presented and adopted in both official languages. Citizens can use French “to communicate in French with, and to receive available services in French from any head or central office of a government agency or institution of the Legislature.” The same goes for any other office of such agency or institution that is located in or serves an area designated in the Schedule of the Act. There are currently 26 designated bilingual regions in Ontario. To be granted such a designation, a region must have at least 5000 Francophones (in an urban centre), where they represent at least 10% of the total population.
In the event that the same service is offered by more than one office in a designated region, the Lieutenant Governor in Council could designate one or more of these offices to offer the service in French.
The Act also stipulates that each ministry must appoint a French services coordinator and that each deputy minister must report to Executive Council regarding the implementation of the Act and the delivery of French services.
The Act includes four application regulations: Ontario Regulation 398/93 – Designation of Public Service Agencies, Ontario Regulation 284/11: Provisition of French Laguage Services on Behalf of Government Agencies, Ontario Regulation 407/94 – Designation of Additional Areas and Ontario Regulation 671/92 – Exemptions.
Section 125 and subsequent sections in the Courts of Justice Act govern the use of English and French in Ontario courts. It states that the official languages of Ontario courts are English and French. A citizen has the right to require that the proceedings be conducted as a bilingual proceeding. A bilingual proceeding requires that the hearings be heard by judge or officer of a court who speaks English and French, that the jury be composed of bilingual individuals when it is a hearing held before a jury in a sector mentioned in Schedule 1 of the Act and that pleadings and documents can be submitted in French when the hearing takes place in a sector mentioned in Schedule 2 of the Act.
Under the Courts of Justice Act, the Ontario Regulation 53/01: Bilingual Proceedings specifies the modalities and procedures to be followed in bilingual proceedings.