The City of Ottawa adopted its Bilingualism Policy in 2001 when it adopted By-law No. 2001-170, thereby formalizing its commitment to offering services in English and French to residents and city staff. According to the Policy, “The City of Ottawa recognizes both official languages as having the same rights, status and privileges.” The Policy governs a number of aspects of municipal activity, including communications; the proactive delivery of services to the public and employees in both languages; the organization of work, including the designation of bilingual positions; language training; and management of cultural programs.
The Bilingualism Policy also provides a mechanism for receiving and processing complaints from the public and from employees concerning the offer and quality of services in both official languages. That responsibility is assigned to the French Language Services Division, which is under the authority of the Office of the City Clerk and Solicitor, which is responsible for implementing the Policy.
In 2017, the Ontario legislature entrenched the language obligations of the City of Ottawa in its enabling Act, thus bringing the City under the French Language Services Act and the oversight of the Ontario Ombudsman.
There are two language complaint mechanisms that apply to the City of Ottawa: the French Language Services Division and the Ontario Ombudsman, with the two mechanisms operating parallel to each other. As a result, it is not necessary to file a complaint with the French Language Services Division before going to the Ombudsman, although it is generally more effective to exhaust the internal remedies before exercising external recourses.
1. French Language Services Division (FLSD)
The FLSD, in cooperation with the municipal administration, implements the Bilingualism Policy. It works with the City’s Departments to ensure that they proactively offer services and programs in French to residents and employees. In addition to receiving and processing complaints concerning the offer and quality of services in French, the FLSD coordinates the City’s translation services. A language complaint can be submitted to the FLSD:
2. The Ontario Ombudsman
Because it has adopted a municipal by-law concerning the offer of services in both official languages, the City of Ottawa must comply with the FLSA. As a result, the Ontario Ombudsman may receive language complaints against the City of Ottawa, but complaints may relate solely to violations relating to the services identified in the
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