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 departments.

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

8:45 a.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

That wasn't the perfect decision, but its purpose was to protect the institution of the Office of the Auditor General of Canada. Learning the language is definitely an improvement.

8:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

Thank you.

Mr. Gourde, it is your turn.

May 31st, 2012 / 8:45 a.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you for being here this morning, minister.

Thanks as well to Ms. Meredith and Mr. Tremblay for being here. It is very much appreciated.

Minister, as you know, the deputy heads are the main persons responsible for human resources in their organizations. Your annual report states that the deputy heads have greater flexibility, which enables them to exercise stronger leadership with regard to implementation of the Official Languages Act.

Minister, could you say more on that subject? What changes have given the deputy heads greater flexibility?

8:45 a.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

I can say a few words about that, and perhaps Mr. Tremblay can add something to my answer.

The situation and the figures are encouraging. Our goal is to encourage the use of both official languages in the government workplace. Policy instruments can help us improve the situation and achieve that goal. The Official Languages Act is clear: it is important to create favourable conditions and a work environment conducive to the use of both languages. The figures show that the situation is better than it was five or six years ago.

We also have tools to protect our obligations, such as annual forums, the official languages champions and the audits that the secretariat has conducted. There is an audit process. These tools have demonstrated their effectiveness.

Mr. Tremblay or Ms. Meredith, would you like to continue?

8:50 a.m.

Chief Human Resources Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat

Daphne Meredith

I can add that the minister is entirely right. We are currently putting the emphasis on leadership in the departments so that they meet their obligations under the Official Languages Act. We are also changing our relations with the departments. We want to strengthen their capacity to meet their obligations. As the minister and Mr. Tremblay previously said, we are working with the departments, together with our committees, to enhance their flexibility and to promote best practices among them. A change is taking place in the relations we have with them. We are putting the emphasis on their capacity and leadership in this area.

8:50 a.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Minister, the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer provides the management, coordination and tools necessary to achieve the desired official language results. Your report states that the departments are facing challenges in meeting the official language objectives of a large part of the public service.

What tools have been put in place to assist institutions in achieving their official language objectives?

8:50 a.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

As you said, the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer plays a main role in the application of our principles and obligations. The office monitors the status of the official languages program. I believe that is a key role. It considers the various elements, which are communications with and service to the public, language of work and the participation of English-speaking and French-speaking employees.

There are many examples to illustrate how the office is performing its role. The Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer develops official language policy instruments and monitors the institutions to ensure they meet their linguistic obligations under the Official Languages Act. Every year, it invites some of those institutions to report on achievements related to the official languages program. As I have already said, it of course submits an annual report to Parliament on the status of the official languages program in the federal institutions. That is the subject the committee is considering today. I can also say that it reports results.

Is there anything else?

8:50 a.m.

Chief Human Resources Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat

Daphne Meredith

As the minister mentioned in his address, we have specific tools, in particular the Official Languages Management Dashboard and the ABCs of Linguistic Profiles at Your Fingertips, a tool that enables managers and human resources and official languages specialists to identify the language profiles of bilingual positions in an objective and standard manner. We have other tools. It depends on needs. We also meet the needs of the departments.

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Michael Chong

Thank you.

Mr. Dion, you have seven minutes.

8:55 a.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Good morning, minister, Mr. Tremblay and Ms. Meredith. Thank you for being with us and for submitting a report that is succinct, unlike another report that we recently received. I am sure the committee appreciates that diversity.

However, minister, your report has raised a major concern for me, and I would like to give you the opportunity to allay it. My concern stems from the fact that, in the few pages of this report, we are told that the majority of institutions are complying with a given requirement. So that means that the minority are not complying. It states that a new majority are complying, which means that the majority are not complying, hence my concern. If you could respond in a style as succinct as that of your report, we could get to the bottom of this matter in the few minutes we have together.

You cover 200 federal institutions that are subject to the Official Languages Act. And you have asked 59 of them to submit a report. Is that because you operate in accordance with a random system every year, and all the institutions must be on the lookout in case they are required to submit a report? Is that how you cover the 200 institutions?

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Some major institutions have an obligation to submit an annual report, but we operate in accordance with a random method for the others. Does that answer your question?

8:55 a.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Yes, but how do you select them?

8:55 a.m.

Chief Human Resources Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat

Daphne Meredith

There are 200 institutions, and one-third of them answer the questions every year.

8:55 a.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Do they know in advance in which year they will have to submit a report, or is that determined randomly, which forces them to be ready at any time?

8:55 a.m.

Chief Human Resources Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat

Daphne Meredith

I believe it is predetermined.