2016 to 2017 update—Implementation of section 41 of the Official Languages Act

From: Public Services and Procurement Canada

Section 41 of the Official Languages Act imposes an obligation on all federal institutions to ensure that positive measures are taken to implement the Government of Canada's commitment to enhancing the vitality of English and French linguistic minority communities in Canada and supporting and assisting their development; and fostering the full recognition and use of both English and French in Canadian society.

Public Services and Procurement Canada mandate

Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) plays a major role in daily Government of Canada operations. It helps federal departments and agencies meet their mandated objectives by acting as their central purchasing agent, real property manager, linguistic authority, treasurer, accountant, pay and pension administrator and common service provider.

Ongoing dialogue

PSPC works steadily to help official language minority communities (OLMC) take full advantage of the programs and services that the Department provides for Canadians and federal departments and agencies. The Department maintains an ongoing dialogue with OLMC organizations to understand their needs and priorities.

Departmental strategy

In fall 2016, the Department developed a departmental strategy for the renewed implementation of section 41 (Part VII) of the Official Languages Act (the act). As part of this strategy, all PSPC branches and regions were made aware of the Department's obligations under section 41 of the act. A working group including representatives from PSPC branches and regions was created to begin the first steps of the strategy.

The departmental strategy is designed to determine how PSPC can better support OLMC and promote linguistic duality by emphasizing the development of a consistent approach to departmental consultations with OLMC; ensure that OLMC needs and priorities are considered early in the development of policies and programs; and identify new positive measures related to the PSPC mandate.

In winter 2017, PSPC carried out a twofold consultation with representatives from the Fédération des communautés de francophones et acadienne (FCFA), Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN), Association de la presse francophone, Alliance des radios communautaires du Canada, Quebec Community Newspaper Association, Réseau de développement économique et d'employabilité (RDEE) Canada and Community Economic Development and Employability Corporation (CEDEC), as well as partnering federal departments, including Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), Canadian Heritage and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISEDC). An initial meeting between the PSPC working group and representatives from OLMC organizations was held in February 2017, at which Canadian Heritage presented data on OLMC vitality, partnering federal departments discussed the initiatives they had implemented to support OLMC, and OLMC organizations explained the mandates and priorities of their organizations. For PSPC participants, it was an opportunity to become familiar with OLMC needs and priorities, particularly with respect to economic development. The same representatives met again at an innovation lab held in March 2017, to provide an update on current positive departmental actions and to generate new courses of action to support OLMC. The proposed courses of action will be considered at greater length to assess their feasibility with the relevant PSPC sectors.

Economic action forum

PSPC participated in the Economic Action Forum for OLMC organized by CEDEC, RDEE Canada and ESDC in May 2016 in Montréal. CEDEC, RDEE Canada and key Government of Canada economic development departments and agencies attended the Forum to present their best practices and discuss the added value of bilingualism in the country's economy, trade opportunities and access to international markets.

After taking part in the Forum, PSPC met with CEDEC and RDEE Canada to explore opportunities for collaboration to support OLMC priorities presented at the Forum, including experiential and cultural tourism and economic immigration. As a result of these meetings, PSPC and RDEE Canada entered into an agreement to raise awareness of the Translation Bureau's Language Portal of Canada and promote RDEE Canada network activities and services.

Official language minority media

PSPC works on a number of advertising-related issues, including compliance with the Official Languages Act. Over the last year, major efforts were made to access digital-advertising data. This included the ability to review and analyse access to advertising in both official languages. The Department also held talks with community newspaper associations to provide guidance and assistance on strengthening business models to earn advertising revenues. The Department has provided advice on the Government of Canada advertising process and changes to the industry as it transitions towards digital media, and suggestions for organizing an online network to facilitate media buys supporting OL minority media. The advice and suggestions were reiterated at the October 2016 meeting of the Consultative Committee on Advertising and Official Language Minority Media.

In fall 2016, the Commissioner of Official Languages released his preliminary report investigating complaints filed in 2015 alleging that the reorientation of the Government of Canada's advertising to the Internet is detrimental to OL minority media. PSPC expressed its support for the Commissioner's recommendations by recognizing the importance of official language minority newspapers and radios in the communities they serve and by committing to working with Canadian Heritage to identify measures to mitigate negative effects of the digital shift on community media.

Key collaborations

In order to seek out opportunities to contribute to new initiatives and establish partnerships, PSPC representatives in all regions of Canada participated actively in meetings and activities organized by organizations that advocate for OLMC and their members, and organizations that support the economic development of OLMC in order to identify avenues for co-operation.

Federal networks

The Department participated in the meetings and activities of federal interdepartmental networks and committees, including the National Network of the Resource Persons for the Implementation of section 41 of the act, and in the regions through the Regional Federal Councils.

Economic action network

PSPC is a member of the Federal Table of the Economic Action Network. This network, set up by CEDEC, RDEE Canada and ESDC, provides a framework for collaboration between economic development leaders within and outside OLMC. As a member of the Federal Table, the Department participated in the ESDC "Innovation Lab for OLMC" project and Dialogue Day with Francophone and Acadian minority communities organized as part of the ISEDC Economic Development Initiative to develop potential options for the new Government of Canada Official Languages Action Plan.

Language Portal of Canada

The Language Portal of Canada has partnership agreements with organizations that work in OLMC or in the field of education, or that promote official languages; with the branches responsible for Francophone affairs in provincial/territorial governments (for example Francophone Affairs in the Government of Nunavut's Department of Culture and Heritage, the Government of Manitoba's Francophone Affairs Secretariat, the Government of Prince Edward Island's Acadian and Francophone Affairs Secretariat) and several other organizations (for example Fédération des Francophones de la Colombie-Britannique, Association des francophones du Nunavut); and with various non-profit organizations. These agreements are essentially for the implementation of cross-promotional activities (promotion of the Portal in their organizations and vice versa).

The Language Portal also attends thematic events and activities (such as Linguistic Duality Day) organized by the Department (kiosks, workshops, presentations, etc.) and offers workshops to federal departments and agencies. It also maintains a recurring partnership with the Canadian Foundation for Cross-Cultural Dialogue during the Rendez-vous de la Francophonie.

Many organizations work with the Language Portal of Canada, including the Editors' Association of Canada, RDEE Canada, Association canadienne des professionnels de l'immersion (ACPI), Association canadienne d'éducation de langue française (ACELF) and Canadian Foundation for Cross-Cultural Dialogue.

Support and results

PSPC continues to meet the needs of OLMC through its proactive commitment to community organizations. 

Language Portal and TERMIUM Plus®

As part of the 2013 to 2018 Roadmap, the Language Portal of Canada is a key initiative that helps Canadians communicate in both official languages, disseminates and promotes language resources developed in Canada and highlights Canadian expertise in the area of language. The Language Portal of Canada provides Canadians, free of charge, with a single point of access to a wide range of online tools and resources, including links to websites related to Anglophone and Francophone minority communities, language training offered in Canada, Canadian language tools and reference works and resources and articles from the provinces and territories on the language situation in Canada.

The Portal provides access to TERMIUM Plus®, the largest terminology bank in Canada, containing over 5 million terms; the Language Navigator, a search engine that searches over 22,000 web pages in the Portal on difficult points of language and writing; and quizzes and flash quizzes that give users a fun way to test their knowledge of English and French. This section of the Portal is the one that receives the most hits, after the Portal's 2 flagship products: TERMIUM Plus® and the Language Navigator.

The collection of links to Canadian language resources includes links to helpful writing and language learning resources. Thanks to the resources provided by the Language Portal of Canada, Anglophones and Francophones across the country have tools to help them enhance their language skills in both official languages. Newcomers also have access to resources to help them learn the official languages. Teachers and learners of English or French (as a first or second language) have access to reliable, high-quality educational resources.

OLMC are among the Language Portal's target audiences. The initiatives put forward by OLMC and OLMC advocacy groups to promote official languages are highlighted in the Portal's Content of the Week section as well as in its English and French Twitter and Facebook accounts. Nearly 20% of the headline articles posted on the Portal in 2016 to 2017 dealt with OLMC initiatives (that is 30 headlines out of a total of just over 150). On its social media platforms, approximately 12% of content (some 300 tweets and Facebook messages) dealt specifically with OLMC initiatives. Through its content, the Language Portal of Canada enables all users to discover the vitality of the OLMC and to better understand the importance of their existence for Canada.

The Portal contributed significantly to the success of the 2017 Rendez-vous de la Francophonie by preparing dictations for the "Write it Right!" contest targeting both elementary school students and the Canadian public, and content for the "Plug in to the Rendez-vous!" contest, which involved video clips on language issues.

The Language Portal of Canada Ambassador Program is also of interest to OLMC members. The program allows OLMC members to establish an ongoing dialogue with the Portal team in order to assess their language-resource and visibility needs. The Program currently includes over 250 ambassadors, many of whom are OLMC members.

Office of Small and Medium Enterprises

The Department's Office of Small and Medium Enterprises (OSME) helps small and medium-sized businesses, including OLMC enterprises, to better understand how the government buys goods and services by raising awareness of business opportunities with the federal government. The OSME supports OLMC through free seminars and webinars, and its participation in events organized by OLMC or attended by OLMC small and medium enterprises.

The OSME network maintains regional offices across Canada to guarantee support for businesses, regardless of where they are located.

For example, in October 2016, the Western Region OSME took part in the Rendez-vous d'affaires hosted by the Conseil de développement économique de l'Alberta (CDEA). Some 200 business representatives and entrepreneurs—including representatives from Francophone businesses in Edmonton and the surrounding area—attended this networking activity. The OSME taught participants how to do business with the federal government and provided information about the buyandsell.gc.ca website and the Build in Canada Innovation Program.

Throughout the year, the Western Region OSME reached out to the region's organizations that are members of RDEE Canada, including the Conseil de développement économique des Territoires du Nord-Ouest (CDETNO), CDEA, Conseil économique et coopératif de la Saskatchewan (CECS) and Economic Development Council for Manitoba Bilingual Municipalities (CDEM) to keep them informed of upcoming OSME events.

The Atlantic Region OSME gave seminars on how to do business with the Government of Canada and on the Build in Canada Innovation Program to businesses in Francophone communities in Edmundston, Campbellton, Bathurst and Miramichi, and at a job fair at the University of Moncton.

The Quebec Region OSME established a regional supplier advisory committee to identify potential improvements to government procurement and achieve a better understanding of supply and demand. The CEDEC and QCGN are members of this advisory committee. The committee's goal is essentially to enhance collaboration between the OSME and the Quebec business community, stimulate dialogue and work together to develop an innovative and prosperous economy. The first meeting was held in March 2017, and future meetings are planned to better understand the members' needs and work together so that each party can benefit from this collaboration. In addition to actions in direct response to the organizations' needs, this network will enhance the sharing of the information within the industry.

Media and Government of Canada advertising

PSPC takes a 2-pronged approach to the development of OL minority media. The Department provides advice, guidance, tools and best practices to help departments meet their obligations to communicate effectively with OLMC. The Department also helps OL minority media to better understand the Government of Canada's advertising management process with a view to maximizing their opportunities to receive government advertising. The Department provides advice on the legislative and policy requirements for official languages, disseminates newsletter articles and shares the government advertising community's best practices on the value of OL minority media. The Department also maintains a web-based tool with statistical information about OLMC across Canada and the media that serve them to help departments communicate effectively with these communities.

Digital advertising data can also be analyzed and, with increased knowledge of the impact of advertising messages, refinements can be made to ensure that messages are received in all communities in their preferred language. Moreover, technological advancements have been reviewed to provide ads in both official languages across platforms through a toggle mechanism.

Since 2007, PSPC has formalized its dialogue with OL minority media by establishing the Consultative Committee on Advertising and Official Language Minority Media. The committee is chaired by PSPC's Advertising Coordination and Partnerships Directorate (ACPD). It includes representatives from the ACPD, PSPC's Official Languages Directorate, Canadian Heritage, the Association de la presse francophone, the Alliance des radios communautaires du Canada and the Quebec Newspapers Association. The committee is a forum for discussing issues of mutual interest and practical solutions to help OL minority media strengthen their business practices. For example, PSPC has encouraged members to strengthen their value proposition through greater standardization, improved measurement and products adapted to the digital age. In 2015, the Department proposed that OL minority media members partner on a project, with financial support from Canadian Heritage, to build a digital network serving OLMC as a way of offsetting declining revenues. This proposal was reiterated in October 2016.

Hotel Card Program

The Hotel Card Program allows OLMC organizations to benefit from the same reduced rates for accommodation as the federal government in participating hotels in Canada. In 2016 to 2017, organizations participating in the program obtained reduced rates for a total of 931 nights during business trips.

Organizations reported savings in their travel costs, which had a significant positive impact on their operating budgets in a tight budget environment. For example, the Société Santé et Mieux-Être en français du Nouveau-Brunswick reported using their cards for 68 nights in 2016 to 2017. They went on to say that they used the hotel card for each of their team members' trips, and that the discounts had allowed more people to attend the organization's business meetings. Moreover, the Coasters Association of the Lower North Shore reported that it would have been impossible for them to attend meetings or to purchase supplies, equipment, etc., in the Newfoundland area because they would not have had the funds to cover all accommodation costs. The CEDEC reported that the Hotel Card Program had, during the previous year, allowed them to invest approximately $24,700 directly into activities related to community revitalization, tourism, entrepreneurial development, business development and workforce development.

On January 1, 2016, the program was renewed for a period of 2 years until December 31, 2017. A total of 133 OLMC organizations are currently cardholders.

Translation support service

In 2016 to 2017, the Department again offered a translation support service to OLMC advocacy groups and economic development organizations. A budget of $12,000 was made available to these organizations in order to offset their translations expenses. This positive measure has a concrete impact for organizations in savings on operating budgets.

Regional initiatives

Regional PSPC offices have done their part to implement innovative initiatives.

Matane office

A collaboration between the PSPC's Cheque Redemption Control Directorate in Matane and the Heritage Lower Saint Lawrence organization, which serves Quebec's North Shore Anglophone community, enabled the Matane office to give a workshop during the 2016 Linguistic Duality Day in order to present the Heritage Lower Saint Lawrence's bilingual library in Métis-sur-Mer, outline the services the organization offers to the region's Anglophone communities and inaugurate the Matane office's new English library in March 2017. Some 35 office employees became members of the bilingual library in Métis-sur-Mer, which supplied hundreds of English books to fill the shelves of the new library in the Matane office. This initiative gave Heritage Lower Saint Lawrence better access to part of the bilingual and Anglophone population in the Matane region.

Atlantic Region

The Atlantic Region introduced language internships that match PSPC employees with Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse member organizations. In 2016 to 2017, 2 Atlantic Region employees completed 3 to 6 month internships in a Francophone workplace to improve their French second-language skills.

The language internships are a win-win for the Department and community organizations. PSPC employees maintain and improve their language skills, increase the capacity of participating Fédération acadienne member organizations and become more aware of issues that affect Nova Scotia's Acadian community. The host organizations benefit from the expertise of PSPC employees and learn to better understand how the federal government works.

Conclusion

The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages and Canadian Heritage recognize PSPC efforts and initiatives to encourage OLMC development and promote linguistic duality in the Department and Canadian society.

PSPC is committed to meeting its obligations by continuing to work with its partners and clients in order to identify initiatives and strategies that will enable the Department to innovate to achieve the implementation of section 41 of the act.

Organizational contact information

For more information on the implementation of section 41 of the Official Languages Act at Public Services and Procurement Canada, please contact the Secretariat, Official Language Minority Communities, at tpsgc.dgrhsecretariatclosm-hrbolmcsecretariat.pwgsc@tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca.

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