Our chart explains the steps a person should expect if they file a complaint with the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages. It all starts, of course, with the filing of the complaint. The Commissioner then decides whether to investigate or dismiss the complaint out of hand if he finds it inadmissible.
If the Commissioner decides to investigate, he must gather all relevant information before deciding whether there has been a breach by the federal institution, and then produce an investigation file. If the Commissioner finds that the complaint is not well-founded, he will dismiss it. The complainant will then have the opportunity to appeal the decision or refer it to the Official Languages Tribunal. If the Commissioner determines that that complaint is well-founded because there has been a breach by the federal institution, he can refer the matter to the Official Languages Tribunal on his own initiative and forward his investigation file to the tribunal.
So the Official Languages Tribunal deals with three parties: the complainant, the federal institution that is the target of the complaint and the Commissioner of Official Languages.
What's interesting is that our proposed bill also gives the Commissioner the responsibility to refer to the tribunal any investigation file involving a systemic breach that has already occurred in a similar case. The Commissioner is therefore not required to limit himself to an isolated complaint, but may go beyond it to verify whether other complaints of the same type have already been filed, which would indicate a systemic problem.
It would then be up to the Official Languages Tribunal to decide the nature of its order. If it chooses to order a declaratory remedy, it would ask the federal institution to declare that it has violated the complainant's language rights. If the tribunal wants a federal institution to do or refrain from doing certain things, it may order it to take certain corrective measures. If the tribunal considers it appropriate, it may also decide to maintain its jurisdiction—and not close the file—until the federal institution has proven itself, implemented its recommendations and taken the necessary remedial measures. If the tribunal chooses to impose a financial penalty, it may either award damages to any aggrieved person or impose an administrative monetary penalty—a fine, in other words—on any refractory federal institution. Rather than going back into the federal government's pockets, the amount of this fine would be credited to the Fund for the Promotion of Official Languages. This list is partial and the tribunal may decide to issue orders of other types.
In our opinion, these provisions would give the act real teeth and would solve problems in a convincing way. Indeed, at present, the Commissioner can only make recommendations, which sometimes go unheeded. The Commissioner may, of course, refer the matter to the Federal Court if the federal institution does not take into account his requests for follow-up, but he has only exercised this right about 10 times in 20 years. In our view, the provisions we are proposing would make the system more effective, not to mention the subsequent possibility of seeking judicial review by the Federal Court.