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Official Languages Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. 31 (4th Supp.))

Act current to 2024-05-14 and last amended on 2024-01-01. Previous Versions

PART IVCommunications with and Services to the Public (continued)

General

Marginal note:Obligations relating to communications and services

 Wherever in this Part there is a duty in respect of communications and services in both official languages, the duty applies in respect of oral and written communications and in respect of any documents or activities that relate to those communications or services.

Marginal note:Active offer

 Every federal institution that is required under this Part to ensure that any member of the public can communicate with and obtain available services from an office or facility of that institution, or of another person or organization on behalf of that institution, in either official language shall ensure that appropriate measures are taken, including the provision of signs, notices and other information on services and the initiation of communication with the public, to make it known to members of the public that those services are available in either official language at the choice of any member of the public.

Marginal note:Signs identifying offices

 Where a federal institution identifies any of its offices or facilities with signs, each sign shall include both official languages or be placed together with a similar sign of equal prominence in the other official language.

Marginal note:Manner of communicating

 Subject to Part II, where a federal institution is engaged in communications with members of the public in both official languages as required in this Part, it shall communicate by using such media of communication as will reach members of the public in the official language of their choice in an effective and efficient manner that is consistent with the purposes of this Act.

Marginal note:Relationship to Part V

 In the event of any inconsistency between this Part and Part V, this Part prevails to the extent of the inconsistency.

Regulations

Marginal note:Regulations

  •  (1) The Governor in Council may make regulations

    • (a) prescribing the circumstances in which there is significant demand for the purpose of paragraph 22(b) or subsection 23(1);

    • (b) prescribing circumstances not otherwise provided for under this Part in which federal institutions have the duty to ensure that any member of the public can communicate with and obtain available services from offices of the institution in either official language;

    • (c) prescribing services, and the manner in which those services are to be provided or made available, for the purpose of subsection 23(2);

    • (d) prescribing circumstances, in relation to the public or the travelling public, for the purpose of paragraph 24(1)(a) or (b); and

    • (e) defining the expression “English or French linguistic minority population” for the purpose of paragraph (2)(a).

  • Marginal note:Where circumstances prescribed under paragraph (1)(a) or (b)

    (2) In prescribing circumstances under paragraph (1)(a) or (b), the Governor in Council may have regard to

    • (a) the number of persons composing the English or French linguistic minority population of the area served by an office or facility, the particular characteristics of that population and the proportion of that population to the total population of that area;

    • (b) the volume of communications or services between an office or facility and members of the public using each official language; and

    • (c) any other factors that the Governor in Council considers appropriate.

Marginal note:Regulations

 The Governor in Council may make any regulations that the Governor in Council considers necessary to foster actively communications with and services from offices or facilities of federal institutions — other than the Senate, House of Commons, Library of Parliament, office of the Senate Ethics Officer, office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, Parliamentary Protective Service or office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer — in both official languages, if those communications and services are required under this Part to be provided in both official languages.

  • R.S., 1985, c. 31 (4th Supp.), s. 33
  • 2004, c. 7, s. 27
  • 2006, c. 9, s. 21
  • 2015, c. 36, s. 145
  • 2017, c. 20, s. 180
  • 2023, c. 15, s. 13(F)

PART VLanguage of Work

Marginal note:Definition of employee

 In this Part, employee includes an employee who represents the employer, a person who performs for an employer activities whose primary purpose is to enable the person to acquire knowledge or experience and a person who has been placed by a temporary help agency.

Marginal note:Rights relating to language of work

  •  (1) English and French are the languages of work in all federal institutions, and employees of all federal institutions have the right to use either official language in accordance with this Part.

  • Marginal note:Deputy ministers and associate deputy ministers

    (2) A person appointed by the Governor in Council to the position of deputy minister or associate deputy minister or a position of an equivalent rank in a department named in Schedule I to the Financial Administration Act shall, on their appointment, take the language training that is necessary to be able to speak and understand clearly both official languages.

Marginal note:Duties of government

  •  (1) Every federal institution has the duty to ensure that

    • (a) within the National Capital Region and in any part or region of Canada, or in any place outside Canada, that is prescribed, work environments of the institution are conducive to the effective use of both official languages and accommodate the use of either official language by its employees; and

    • (b) in all parts or regions of Canada not prescribed for the purpose of paragraph (a), the treatment of both official languages in the work environments of the institution in parts or regions of Canada where one official language predominates is reasonably comparable to the treatment of both official languages in the work environments of the institution in parts or regions of Canada where the other official language predominates.

  • Marginal note:Regions of Canada prescribed

    (2) The regions of Canada set out in Annex B of the part of the Treasury Board and Public Service Commission Circular No. 1977-46 of September 30, 1977 that is entitled “Official Languages in the Public Service of Canada: A Statement of Policies” are prescribed for the purpose of paragraph (1)(a).

Marginal note:Minimum duties in relation to prescribed regions

  •  (1) Every federal institution has the duty, within the National Capital Region and in any part or region of Canada, or in any place outside Canada, that is prescribed for the purpose of paragraph 35(1)(a), to

    • (a) make available in both official languages to employees of the institution

      • (i) services that are provided to employees, including services that are provided to them as individuals and services that are centrally provided by the institution to support them in the performance of their duties, and

      • (ii) regularly and widely used documentation or other work instruments produced by or on behalf of that or any other federal institution;

    • (b) ensure that regularly and widely used computer systems acquired or produced by the institution on or after January 1, 1991 can be used in either official language; and

    • (c) ensure that, if it is appropriate in order to create a work environment that is conducive to the effective use of both official languages, managers and supervisors are able to communicate in both official languages with employees of the institution in carrying out their managerial or supervisory responsibilities; and

    • (d) ensure that any management group that is responsible for the general direction of the institution as a whole has the capacity to function in both official languages.

  • Marginal note:Additional duties

    (2) Every federal institution has the duty to ensure that, within the National Capital Region and in any part or region of Canada, or in any place outside Canada, that is prescribed for the purpose of paragraph 35(1)(a), the measures that can reasonably be taken are taken in addition to those required under subsection (1) to establish and maintain work environments of the institution that are conducive to the effective use of both official languages and accommodate the use of either official language by its employees.

Marginal note:Special duties

 Every federal institution that has authority to direct, or provides services to, other federal institutions has the duty to ensure that it exercises its powers and carries out its duties in relation to those other institutions in a manner that accommodates the use of either official language by employees of those institutions.

Marginal note:Regulations

  •  (1) The Governor in Council may make regulations in respect of federal institutions, other than the Senate, House of Commons, Library of Parliament, office of the Senate Ethics Officer, office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, Parliamentary Protective Service or office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer,

    • (a) prescribing, in respect of any part or region of Canada or any place outside Canada,

      • (i) any services, documentation or other work instruments that those institutions are to make available to their employees in both official languages,

      • (ii) any computer systems that must be available for use in both official languages, and

      • (iii) any supervisory or managerial responsibilities that are to be carried out by those institutions in both official languages;

    • (b) prescribing any other measures that are to be taken, within the National Capital Region and in any part or region of Canada, or in any place outside Canada, that is prescribed for the purpose of paragraph 35(1)(a), to establish and maintain work environments of those institutions that are conducive to the effective use of both official languages and accommodate the use of either official language by their employees;

    • (c) requiring that either or both official languages be used in communications with offices of those institutions that are located in any part or region of Canada, or any place outside Canada, specified in the regulations;

    • (d) prescribing the manner in which any duties of those institutions under this Part or the regulations made under this Part in relation to the use of both official languages are to be carried out; and

    • (e) prescribing obligations of those institutions in relation to the use of the official languages of Canada by the institutions in respect of offices in parts or regions of Canada not prescribed for the purpose of paragraph 35(1)(a), having regard to the equality of status of both official languages.

  • Marginal note:Idem

    (2) The Governor in Council may make regulations

    • (a) adding to or deleting from the regions of Canada prescribed by subsection 35(2) or prescribing any other part or region of Canada, or any place outside Canada, for the purpose of paragraph 35(1)(a), having regard to

      • (i) the number and proportion of English-speaking and French-speaking employees who constitute the work force of federal institutions based in the parts, regions or places prescribed,

      • (ii) the number and proportion of English-speaking and French-speaking persons resident in the parts or regions prescribed, and

      • (iii) any other factors that the Governor in Council considers appropriate; and

    • (b) substituting, with respect to any federal institution other than the Senate, House of Commons, Library of Parliament, office of the Senate Ethics Officer, office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, Parliamentary Protective Service or office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, a duty in relation to the use of the official languages of Canada in place of a duty under section 36 or the regulations made under subsection (1), having regard to the equality of status of both official languages, if there is a demonstrable conflict between the duty under section 36 or the regulations and the mandate of the institution.

  • R.S., 1985, c. 31 (4th Supp.), s. 38
  • 2004, c. 7, s. 28
  • 2006, c. 9, s. 22
  • 2015, c. 36, s. 146
  • 2017, c. 20, s. 181
  • 2023, c. 15, s. 18

PART VIParticipation of English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians

Marginal note:Commitment to equal opportunities and equitable participation

  •  (1) The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that

    • (a) English-speaking Canadians and French-speaking Canadians, without regard to their ethnic origin or first language learned, have equal opportunities to obtain employment and advancement in federal institutions; and

    • (b) the composition of the work-force of federal institutions tends to reflect the presence of both the official language communities of Canada, taking into account the characteristics of individual institutions, including their mandates, the public they serve and their location.

  • Marginal note:Employment opportunities

    (2) In carrying out the commitment of the Government of Canada under subsection (1), federal institutions shall ensure that employment opportunities are open to both English-speaking Canadians and French-speaking Canadians, taking into account the purposes and provisions of this Act.

  • Marginal note:Merit principle

    (3) Nothing in this section shall be construed as abrogating or derogating from the principle of selection of personnel according to merit.

Marginal note:Regulations

 The Governor in Council may make regulations for the purposes of this Part.

PART VIIAdvancement of Equality of Status and Use of English and French

Marginal note:Commitment — enhancing vitality of communities and fostering English and French

  •  (1) The Government of Canada is committed to

    • (a) enhancing the vitality of the English and French linguistic minority communities in Canada and supporting and assisting their development, taking into account their uniqueness, diversity and historical and cultural contributions to Canadian society; and

    • (b) fostering the full recognition and use of both English and French in Canadian society.

  • Marginal note:Commitment — protection and promotion of French

    (2) The Government of Canada, recognizing and taking into account that French is in a minority situation in Canada and North America due to the predominant use of English, is committed to protecting and promoting the French language.

  • Marginal note:Commitment — learning in minority language

    (3) The Government of Canada is committed to advancing formal, non-formal and informal opportunities for members of English and French linguistic minority communities to pursue quality learning in their own language throughout their lives, including from early childhood to post-secondary education.

  • Marginal note:Commitment — section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

    (4) The Government of Canada shall estimate periodically, using the necessary tools, the number of children whose parents have, under section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the right to have their children receive their instruction in the language of the English or French linguistic minority population of a province or territory, including the right to have them receive that instruction in minority language educational facilities.

  • Marginal note:Duty of federal institutions — positive measures

    (5) Every federal institution has the duty to ensure that the commitments under subsections (1) to (3) are implemented by the taking of positive measures.

  • Marginal note:Positive measures

    (6) Positive measures taken under subsection (5)

    • (a) shall be concrete and taken with the intention of having a beneficial effect on the implementation of the commitments under subsections (1) to (3);

    • (b) shall respect

      • (i) the necessity of protecting and promoting the French language in each province and territory, taking into account that French is in a minority situation in Canada and North America due to the predominant use of English, and

      • (ii) the necessity of considering the specific needs of each of the two official language communities of Canada, taking into account the equal importance of the two communities; and

    • (c) may include measures, among others, to

      • (i) promote and support the learning of English and French in Canada,

      • (ii) foster an acceptance and appreciation of both English and French by members of the public,

      • (iii) induce and assist organizations and institutions to project and promote the bilingual character of Canada in their activities in Canada or elsewhere,

      • (iii.1) restore and increase the demographic weight of French linguistic minority communities,

      • (iv) support the creation and dissemination of information in French that contributes to the advancement of scientific knowledge in any discipline, and

      • (v) support sectors that are essential to enhancing the vitality of English and French linguistic minority communities, including the culture, education — from early childhood to post-secondary education — health, justice, employment and immigration sectors, and protect and promote the presence of strong institutions serving those communities.

  • Marginal note:Potential to take positive measures and negative impacts

    (7) In carrying out its mandate, every federal institution shall, on the basis of analyses,

    • (a) consider whether positive measures could potentially be taken under subsection (5);

    • (a.1) subject to the regulations, take the necessary measures to promote, when negotiating agreements with the provincial and territorial governments, including funding agreements, that may contribute to the implementation of the commitments under subsections (1) to (3), the inclusion in those agreements of provisions establishing the parties’ duties under the agreements respecting official languages; and

    • (b) consider the possibilities for avoiding, or at least mitigating, the direct negative impacts that its structuring decisions may have on the commitments under subsections (1) to (3).

  • Marginal note:Dialogue and consultation activities, research and evidence-based findings

    (8) The analyses referred to in subsection (7) shall be founded, to the extent possible, on the results of dialogue and consultation activities, on research and on evidence-based findings.

  • Marginal note:Objective of dialogue and consultation activities

    (9) The objective of the dialogue and consultation activities carried out for the purposes of subsection (8) is to permit the priorities of the English and French linguistic minority communities and other stakeholders to be taken into account, including in relation to the duty under paragraph (7)(a.1).

  • Marginal note:Dialogue and consultation activities

    (9.1) In carrying out this objective, every federal institution shall

    • (a) gather relevant information;

    • (b) seek the opinions of English and French linguistic minority communities and other stakeholders about the positive measures that are the subject of the consultations;

    • (c) provide the participants with relevant information on which those positive measures are based;

    • (d) openly and meaningfully consider their opinions; and

    • (e) be prepared to alter those positive measures.

  • Marginal note:Evaluation and monitoring mechanisms

    (10) Every federal institution shall establish evaluation and monitoring mechanisms in relation to the positive measures taken under subsection (5) and in relation to the duty under paragraph (7)(a.1). For greater certainty, these mechanisms shall take into account the obligations set out in subsections 41(7) to (9) and the provisions with respect to dialogue and consultation activities.

  • Marginal note:Publication

    (10.1) Subject to subsections (10.2) and (10.3) and the regulations, every federal institution that is a party to an agreement referred to in paragraph (7)(a.1) that includes provisions referred to in that paragraph shall cause the agreement to be published on the Internet or by any other means the institution considers appropriate.

  • Marginal note:Publication not required

    (10.2) The federal institution is not required to cause the agreement to be published, in whole or in part, in the case where, if Part 1 of the Access to Information Act applied to the institution and in dealing with a request for access to the agreement, the institution could under that Part refuse to disclose the agreement, in whole or in part, for a reason that is set out in that Part.

  • Marginal note:Publication not permitted

    (10.3) The federal institution shall not cause the agreement to be published, in whole or in part, in the case where, if Part 1 of the Access to Information Act applied to the institution and in dealing with a request for access to the agreement, the institution would be required under that Part to refuse to disclose the agreement, in whole or in part, for a reason that is set out in that Part or because that Part does not apply to the agreement.

  • Marginal note:Regulations

    (10.4) The Governor in Council may, on the recommendation of the Treasury Board made after consultation with the Minister of Canadian Heritage, make regulations in respect of the duties of federal institutions — other than the Senate, House of Commons, Library of Parliament, office of the Senate Ethics Officer, office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, Parliamentary Protective Service or office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer — under paragraph (7)(a.1) and subsection (10.1), including regulations

    • (a) prescribing the manner in which those duties are to be carried out and reported on; and

    • (b) respecting the content of the provisions referred to in paragraph (7)(a.1).

  • Marginal note:Regulations

    (11) The Governor in Council may, on the recommendation of the Treasury Board made after consultation with the Minister of Canadian Heritage, make regulations in respect of federal institutions, other than the Senate, House of Commons, Library of Parliament, office of the Senate Ethics Officer, office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, Parliamentary Protective Service or office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, prescribing the manner in which any duties of those institutions under this Part are to be carried out.

  • Marginal note:For greater certainty

    (12) For greater certainty, the express powers, duties and functions of certain ministers of the Crown provided for in this Part do not limit the duties of federal institutions under this Part.

  • R.S., 1985, c. 31 (4th Supp.), s. 41
  • 2005, c. 41, s. 1
  • 2006, c. 9, s. 23
  • 2015, c. 36, s. 147
  • 2017, c. 20, s. 182
  • 2023, c. 15, s. 21
 

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