Evidence of meeting #45 for Official Languages in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was official.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Daphne Meredith  Chief Human Resources Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat
  • Marc Tremblay  Executive Director, Official Languages, Treasury Board Secretariat

9 a.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

That is not true, Mr. Dion. Our goal is to cooperate with all departments to improve our results in achieving those objectives.

Our goal is to help the departments, in their responsibilities, apply the Official Languages Act. That's our goal. As I've outlined, we have various tools in our toolbox to help us do that. It's completely unrealistic for us to subvert the responsibility of each individual department to meet its goals. That's the department's responsibility. We play an oversight function, as does the Commissioner of Official Languages. We do our role, and then they have to fix what they have to fix.

9 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

Thank you.

Monsieur Trottier.

May 31st, 2012 / 9 a.m.

Conservative

Bernard Trottier Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you for being here this morning, minister. I know you are very busy with the major changes you are trying to implement within the public service. Your appearance here this morning is very much appreciated.

I would like to talk to you about part V of the act, regarding the public service and language of work. I know the annual report provides an overview of the ways in which the institutions have created a working environment that enables bilingualism to develop. The report also states that there has been constant progress in the implementation of part V.

Could you tell us more about the measures that certain institutions have put in place to ensure and encourage the use of both official languages in the workplace?

9 a.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Yes. As you said, there has been progress. The figures show that both official languages are being used more than five or six years ago.

As I said at the start of the meeting, there are tools that we can use to cooperate with the departments. For example, there is the forum for the public service and directors general, the purpose of which is to give them more tools. We celebrate the progress that has been made, of course. There is assistance in implementing the Official Languages Act. All the tools help us achieve our objectives. There is also cooperation in giving the departments more tools.

Daphne, is there anything else?

9:05 a.m.

Chief Human Resources Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat

Daphne Meredith

Yes. In our activities with the interdepartmental committees, there are examples of best practices in the departments, particularly the use and conduct of senior management meetings in English during one week and in French the following week. That is a best practice.

There is also the fact that an employee may have a partner who speaks his or her second language. We call that a language buddy. That enables that employee to improve his or her second language.

Perhaps Marc can provide other examples of best practices.

9:05 a.m.

Executive Director, Official Languages, Treasury Board Secretariat

Marc Tremblay

Yes, of course. When we look at the reports that are submitted to us, we see that a management committee or inter-sectoral committee on official languages is a best practice. It raises the profile of official languages and makes it possible to establish plans to address certain aspects that, according to the annual reports and other performance measures, should be improved.

There are very concrete measures. I can think of video campaigns that have been conducted or competitions involving employees to show their commitment and to increase their pride in linguistic duality. There are also celebrations for Linguistic Duality Day, which was introduced by our network of official languages champions. That day is now celebrated throughout the public service every year.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Bernard Trottier Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

I note from the report that there are approximately 12,000 offices and points of service, but that only 4,000 of them have an obligation to offer bilingual services to the public. In the other 8,000 offices, which are not responsible for offering bilingual services, are measures nevertheless being taken to encourage bilingualism?

9:05 a.m.

Executive Director, Official Languages, Treasury Board Secretariat

Marc Tremblay

I can speak to that.

A basic distinction has to be drawn between the obligation to serve the public in both official languages where those offices are established and the regions that are designated bilingual for language-of-work purposes. The two do not always coincide. In the regional offices and regional federal councils, there are all kinds of activities that extend beyond the mere context of language of work, as determined by the requirements of the act, since we want to supervise, encourage and stimulate employees who are required to offer service in both official languages and who have a pronounced interest in learning their second language. So, yes, measures are being taken, particularly with regard to the regional federal councils.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Bernard Trottier Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

All right, thank you.

I have another question, which again concerns part V of the Official Languages Act. With respect to the implementation of that part, the Treasury Board is responsible for ensuring that public servants are able to work in the language of their choice.

What tools and mechanisms are certain institutions using to maintain a working environment conducive to the use of both official languages?

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

As I previously said, it is important to note that every department has an obligation to find ways to reinforce its role under the Official Languages Act. Management is involved in each obligation.

Perhaps Ms. Meredith can add a few words.

9:10 a.m.

Chief Human Resources Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat

Daphne Meredith

We have approaches for employees. I talked about the language buddy system. There are various learning methods. We encourage the use of both languages at meetings with employees. We also have examples of practices, such as having an official language committee or a champion in the departments to promote best practices. I believe we have noted a few tools that we encourage people to use in the departments.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

Thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Trottier.

Mr. Weston, you have five minutes.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

John Weston West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to welcome our minister. Saturday will be the first national health day. I would like to congratulate the minister, who is a role model because he is really in good shape.

I would also like to welcome you, Ms. Meredith, and your sister, who comes from Vancouver—my part of the country—and who is well established in British Columbia.

Minister, I would like to ask you some questions on part IV of the act.

The annual report provides us with an overview of the major official languages successes the government has had. More specifically, it states that the majority of institutions have taken effective measures to ensure they provide the public with services in both languages.

Can you explain some of the institutions' achievements in the implementation of part IV of the act, which concerns communications with and services to the public in both official languages?

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Thank you for your question.

Incidentally, I lost my squash match this morning.

It's not a good day for me when it comes to fitness and health. I didn't quite meet my targets on the squash court, but it's nice to know that we're meeting some targets with respect to this annual report. Certainly my colleagues here who are in the public service have, I'm sure, some wonderful examples of great success in our offices. But certainly from my perspective as a minister and as President of the Treasury Board, I think we do our job very well for the citizens of our country.

They know that we have these obligations. We for the most part meet these obligations. And I think it's the role of Monsieur Dion and Monsieur Godin and others to focus on where we don't meet these obligations, and that's fair. But the fact of the matter is, day in, day out, much more often than not, we meet those obligations. I think it's important for Canadians to know that. I think it's improving as well.

I think we're creating an atmosphere within our offices where our expectations are being met and they're being celebrated. And through our tools that are available electronically now, we have a greater way of sharing success, sharing the tools that work and making sure that the oversight is there.

That's my general overview. Maybe Daphne or Marc can add to that.

9:10 a.m.

Chief Human Resources Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat

Daphne Meredith

We have explained our methods for evaluating the institutions' communications with and services to the public. We also have activities, and the institutions have theirs. For example, they may include putting in place an official languages action plan, regularly discussing official languages issues at regular and senior management meetings, or ensuring that the official languages champions and representatives meet regularly.

I am thinking of the Desrochers or CALDECH affair—