Annual Report 2016-2017 Backgrounder

1969–2019: 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Official Languages Act

Since the Official Languages Act was passed in 1969, it has undergone only one major revision—in 1988—despite the many social, technological and cultural changes that have shaped Canadian society.

Modernize the Act to reflect the current reality in communities

In the coming year, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages will be conducting an exercise, in consultation with official language minority communities, to review possible changes the government could make to the Act.

It is recommended that the government start thinking about the relevance of updating the Act.

Support for official languages in Canada: What the survey saysFootnote 1

Linguistic duality and cultural diversity are both fundamental elements of Canadian identity. It is particularly noteworthy as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation this year.

  • 88% of respondents said they support the aims of the Act.
  • 84% of respondents were in favour of bilingualism for all of Canada.

Federal government progress:

  • Improvement in the bilingual capacity of the superior court judiciary in 2016
  • Commitment to modernize the Official Languages (Communications with and Services to the Public) Regulations in 2016
  • Reinstatement and modernization of the Court Challenges Program in 2017
  • Commitment to and financial investments in early childhood development in official language minority communities in 2017‑2018

A few systemic issues:

  • Section 91 of the Act: Taking language requirements into account when staffing positions, particularly supervisors
  • Education funding: Taking rights-holders’ needs into account before signing an agreement
  • Language tests for prospective economic immigrants: Costs, accessibility and service delivery timeframes not equal in both official languages

Admissible complaints 2016-2017

In 2016-2017, the Office of the Commissioner received 1,018 admissible complaints. The number of complaints has risen 85% in the past two years.

Percentage of complaints by part of the Act:

  • 56% pertained to service to the public (Part IV)
  • 19% pertained to the language requirements of positions (Part XI, section 91)
  • 18% pertained to language of work (Part V)
  • 3% pertained to equitable participation (Part VI)
  • 3% pertained to the advancement of English and French (Part VII)
  • 1% pertained to the other parts or sections of the Act

Number of complaints by province or territory

Location of incident Total
Newfoundland and Labrador 28
Prince Edward Island 5
Nova Scotia 10
New Brunswick 87
Quebec 148
National Capital Region (Quebec) 92
National Capital Region (Ontario) 429
Ontario 106
Manitoba 13
Saskatchewan 6
Alberta 43
British Columbia 25
Yukon 1
Northwest Territories 2
Nunavut 0
Outside Canada 23
Total 1,018