The French Language Services Act (“FLSA”) includes two specific obligations regarding an individual’s right to French-language services. First, you have the right to communicate with the government in French, and second, you have the right to receive services from the government in French. These obligations apply to both the government and any of its agencies.
Communication with the Public
The Communications in French Directive, introduced in 2010, is mandatory for all government ministries and agencies. In addition to this, guidelines were introduced to improve how communications were handled and distributed to the Francophone community in Ontario. Any communications, such as health warnings, recalls, and information issued by the government, must also be available in French.
The current FLSA doesn’t have specific requirements regarding government advertising. This can make it difficult for French-speaking Ontarians to access information as easily as others in the province. For clarity, a future revision of the Act will be drafted to include the matter of government communications, including advertising.
It is often found that government ministries and agencies do not produce French versions of their content, such as newsletters posted on social media. Additionally, they may also opt to use computer-translations, which are often incorrect and of poor quality. This is despite the government guidelines that state when something is posted on social media, it must be posted in both languages. This content is permitted to be different for both languages to make it more relevant to the audience.
You are permitted to use either French or English in the judicial system, including through court proceedings and trials. The Constitution Act 1867 guarantees you these rights in any court that has been established by the federal government and throughout the courts in Quebec. These rights are extended to all levels of the Ontario Courts, by virtue of the Ontario Courts of Justice Act. There are also additional acts guaranteeing similar rights in Manitoba and New Brunswick. While other provinces do not have these provisions, it is up to the provincial government to regulate language rights in court. Criminal cases, which are governed by the Criminal Code of Canada are in the jurisdiction of the federal government regardless of taking place in provincial court, so you can choose to have your criminal trial conducted in French.
A government agency must have a French service available, as choosing to exercise your language rights is not an exceptional event or to be seen as a request for accommodation. Section seven of the FLSA goes into further detail about any limitations of obligations that an agency may have should all reasonable measures be taken and plans for accommodations made.
Know Your Rights for French Language Services with the Help of Kira E. Taylor Law
As one of the national languages of Canada, government and legal services must be made available to you in French. If you are more comfortable speaking French than English and are having difficulty obtaining the services you need, please contact our legal team. We can provide you with French services and also fight for your right to receive these services elsewhere. To book an appointment or if you have any questions, please contact our office at 905-709-6892.