Ontario improving access to frontline services in French
TORONTO — The Ontario Government is delivering on its promise to improve access to quality services in French to Ontario’s growing Francophone community by introducing, as part of the Fall Economic Statement, proposed amendments that would modernize the French Languages Services Act. This is the first substantial review of the legislation since its introduction 35 years ago. “This historic milestone would substantially improve access to French-language services for francophones,” said Francophone Affairs Minister Caroline Mulroney. “This legislation, combined with our broader strategy for French-language services, would increase Ontarians’ access to readily available services in French, provided by bilingual workers.” The proposed modernized Act is part of a broader strategy to build capacity for French-language services in the province, including a cross-government approach to address shortages of French-speaking professionals in key sectors. The proposed amendments follow a thorough review of the existing law and extensive public consultations held this summer. They would require government agencies, as set out under the Act, to ensure French-language services are readily available according to the principle of active offer as set out in the legislation. The changes would shift the onus of finding these services from users (people requesting services in French) to service providers. In addition, the legislation would add the option to designate more points of service throughout the province. The proposed amendments would also strengthen accountability by requiring, if passed, that the Act be reviewed at least once every 10 years to ensure it meets the changing needs of the Franco-Ontarian community. “Whether we are talking about the creation of the Fédération des gens d'affaires francophones de l'Ontario, the funding of the first university governed by and for Francophones, or the proposed modernization of the French Language Services Act, Minister Mulroney is making important structural changes that will strengthen the status of French as a language in Ontario and help expand the footprint of Ontario’s Francophonie,” noted Carol Jolin, President of the Assemblée de la francophonie de l'Ontario
The French Language Services Act, adopted in 1986, sets out an individual’s right to receive services in French from government agencies, including ministries, as defined in the Act, and institutions of the Legislature.
As announced in the Fall Economic Statement, the province will make an additional investment of 1.5 million dollars over 3 years to continue supporting its Francophone Economic Development Strategy.
Ontario is home to more than 620,000 francophones, representing the largest French-speaking community in Canada outside of Quebec. Overall, more than 1.5 million Ontarians speak French.