Official Languages Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. 31 (4th Supp.))
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Act current to 2023-05-17 and last amended on 2022-07-26. Previous Versions
PART VIParticipation of English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians
Marginal note:Commitment to equal opportunities and equitable participation
39 (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 due account of the purposes and provisions of Parts IV and V in relation to the appointment and advancement of officers and employees by those institutions and the determination of the terms and conditions of their employment.
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.
40 The Governor in Council may make such regulations as the Governor in Council deems necessary to carry out the purposes and provisions of this Part.
PART VIIAdvancement of English and French
Marginal note:Government policy
41 (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; and
(b) fostering the full recognition and use of both English and French in Canadian society.
Marginal note:Duty of federal institutions
(2) Every federal institution has the duty to ensure that positive measures are taken for the implementation of the commitments under subsection (1). For greater certainty, this implementation shall be carried out while respecting the jurisdiction and powers of the provinces.
(3) 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, prescribing the manner in which any duties of those institutions under this Part are to be carried out.
- 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
42 The Minister of Canadian Heritage, in consultation with other ministers of the Crown, shall encourage and promote a coordinated approach to the implementation by federal institutions of the commitments set out in section 41.
- R.S., 1985, c. 31 (4th Supp.), s. 42
- 1995, c. 11, s. 27
Marginal note:Specific mandate of Minister of Canadian Heritage
43 (1) The Minister of Canadian Heritage shall take such measures as that Minister considers appropriate to advance the equality of status and use of English and French in Canadian society and, without restricting the generality of the foregoing, may take measures to
(a) enhance the vitality of the English and French linguistic minority communities in Canada and support and assist their development;
(b) encourage and support the learning of English and French in Canada;
(c) foster an acceptance and appreciation of both English and French by members of the public;
(d) encourage and assist provincial governments to support the development of English and French linguistic minority communities generally and, in particular, to offer provincial and municipal services in both English and French and to provide opportunities for members of English or French linguistic minority communities to be educated in their own language;
(e) encourage and assist provincial governments to provide opportunities for everyone in Canada to learn both English and French;
(f) encourage and cooperate with the business community, labour organizations, voluntary organizations and other organizations or institutions to provide services in both English and French and to foster the recognition and use of those languages;
(g) encourage and assist organizations and institutions to project the bilingual character of Canada in their activities in Canada or elsewhere; and
(h) with the approval of the Governor in Council, enter into agreements or arrangements that recognize and advance the bilingual character of Canada with the governments of foreign states.
Marginal note:Public consultation
(2) The Minister of Canadian Heritage shall take such measures as that Minister considers appropriate to ensure public consultation in the development of policies and review of programs relating to the advancement and the equality of status and use of English and French in Canadian society.
- R.S., 1985, c. 31 (4th Supp.), s. 43
- 1995, c. 11, s. 28
Marginal note:Annual report to Parliament
44 The Minister of Canadian Heritage shall, within such time as is reasonably practicable after the termination of each financial year, submit an annual report to Parliament on the matters relating to official languages for which that Minister is responsible.
- R.S., 1985, c. 31 (4th Supp.), s. 44
- 1995, c. 11, s. 29
Marginal note:Consultation and negotiation with the provinces
45 Any minister of the Crown designated by the Governor in Council may consult and may negotiate agreements with the provincial governments to ensure, to the greatest practical extent but subject to Part IV, that the provision of federal, provincial, municipal and education services in both official languages is coordinated and that regard is had to the needs of the recipients of those services.
PART VIIIResponsibilities and Duties of Treasury Board in Relation to the Official Languages of Canada
Marginal note:Responsibilities of Treasury Board
46 (1) The Treasury Board has responsibility for the general direction and coordination of the policies and programs of the Government of Canada relating to the implementation of Parts IV, V and VI in all 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 and office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer.
Marginal note:Powers of Treasury Board
(2) In carrying out its responsibilities under subsection (1), the Treasury Board may
(a) establish policies, or recommend policies to the Governor in Council, to give effect to Parts IV, V and VI;
(b) recommend regulations to the Governor in Council to give effect to Parts IV, V and VI;
(c) issue directives to give effect to Parts IV, V and VI;
(d) monitor and audit federal institutions in respect of which it has responsibility for their compliance with policies, directives and regulations of Treasury Board or the Governor in Council relating to the official languages of Canada;
(e) evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of policies and programs of federal institutions relating to the official languages of Canada;
(f) provide information to the public and to officers and employees of federal institutions relating to the policies and programs that give effect to Parts IV, V and VI; and
(g) delegate any of its powers under this section to the deputy heads or other administrative heads of other federal institutions.
- R.S., 1985, c. 31 (4th Supp.), s. 46
- 2004, c. 7, s. 29
- 2006, c. 9, s. 24
- 2015, c. 36, s. 148
- 2017, c. 20, s. 183
Marginal note:Audit reports to be made available to Commissioner
47 The Chief Human Resources Officer appointed under subsection 6(2.1) of the Financial Administration Act shall provide the Commissioner with any audit reports that are prepared under paragraph 46(2)(d).
- R.S., 1985, c. 31 (4th Supp.), s. 47
- 2005, c. 15, s. 3
- 2010, c. 12, s. 1676
Marginal note:Annual report to Parliament
48 The President of the Treasury Board shall, within such time as is reasonably practicable after the termination of each financial year, submit an annual report to Parliament on the status of programs relating to the official languages of Canada in the various federal institutions in respect of which it has responsibility under section 46.
PART IXCommissioner of Official Languages
Office of the Commissioner
49 (1) The Governor in Council shall, by commission under the Great Seal, appoint a Commissioner of Official Languages for Canada after consultation with the Leader of the Government in the Senate or Government Representative in the Senate, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, the Leader or Facilitator of every other recognized party or parliamentary group in the Senate and the leader of every recognized party in the House of Commons and approval of the appointment by resolution of the Senate and House of Commons.
(2) Subject to this section, the Commissioner holds office during good behaviour for a term of seven years, but may be removed for cause by the Governor in Council at any time on address of the Senate and House of Commons.
Marginal note:Further terms
(3) The Commissioner, on the expiration of a first or any subsequent term of office, is eligible to be re-appointed for a further term not exceeding seven years.
Marginal note:Interim appointment
(4) In the event of the absence or incapacity of the Commissioner or if that office is vacant, the Governor in Council may appoint any qualified person to hold that office in the interim for a term not exceeding six months, and that person shall, while holding office, be paid the salary or other remuneration and expenses that may be fixed by the Governor in Council.
- 1985, c. 31 (4th Supp.), s. 49
- 2006, c. 9, s. 111
- 2022, c. 10, s. 249
Marginal note:Rank, powers and duties generally
50 (1) The Commissioner shall rank as and have all the powers of a deputy head of a department, shall engage exclusively in the duties of the office of the Commissioner and shall not hold any other office under Her Majesty or engage in any other employment.
Marginal note:Salary and expenses
(2) The Commissioner shall be paid a salary equal to the salary of a judge of the Federal Court, other than the Chief Justice of that Court, and is entitled to be paid reasonable travel and living expenses while absent from his or her ordinary place of residence in the course of his or her duties.
- R.S., 1985, c. 31 (4th Supp.), s. 50
- 2002, c. 8, s. 157
51 Such officers and employees as are necessary for the proper conduct of the work of the office of the Commissioner shall be appointed in the manner authorized by law.
Marginal note:Technical assistance
52 The Commissioner may engage, on a temporary basis, the services of persons having technical or specialized knowledge of any matter relating to the work of the Commissioner to advise and assist the Commissioner in the performance of the duties of his office and, with the approval of the Treasury Board, may fix and pay the remuneration and expenses of those persons.
Marginal note:Public Service Superannuation Act
53 The Commissioner and the officers and employees of the office of the Commissioner appointed under section 51 shall be deemed to be persons employed in the public service for the purposes of the Public Service Superannuation Act.
- R.S., 1985, c. 31 (4th Supp.), s. 53
- 2003, c. 22, s. 225(E)
Marginal note:Order exempting Commissioner from directives
54 The Governor in Council, on the recommendation of the Treasury Board, may by order exempt the Commissioner from any directives of the Treasury Board or the Governor in Council made under the Financial Administration Act that apply to deputy heads or other administrative heads in relation to the administration of federal institutions.
Duties and Functions of Commissioner
Marginal note:Duties and functions
55 The Commissioner shall carry out such duties and functions as are assigned to the Commissioner by this Act or any other Act of Parliament, and may carry out or engage in such other related assignments or activities as may be authorized by the Governor in Council.
Marginal note:Duty of Commissioner under Act
56 (1) It is the duty of the Commissioner to take all actions and measures within the authority of the Commissioner with a view to ensuring recognition of the status of each of the official languages and compliance with the spirit and intent of this Act in the administration of the affairs of federal institutions, including any of their activities relating to the advancement of English and French in Canadian society.
(2) It is the duty of the Commissioner, for the purpose set out in subsection (1), to conduct and carry out investigations either on his own initiative or pursuant to any complaint made to the Commissioner and to report and make recommendations with respect thereto as provided in this Act.
Marginal note:Review of regulations and directives
57 The Commissioner may initiate a review of
(a) any regulations or directives made under this Act, and
(b) any other regulations or directives that affect or may affect the status or use of the official languages,
and may refer to and comment on any findings on the review in a report made to Parliament pursuant to section 66 or 67.
Marginal note:Investigation of complaints
58 (1) Subject to this Act, the Commissioner shall investigate any complaint made to the Commissioner arising from any act or omission to the effect that, in any particular instance or case,
(a) the status of an official language was not or is not being recognized,
(b) any provision of any Act of Parliament or regulation relating to the status or use of the official languages was not or is not being complied with, or
(c) the spirit and intent of this Act was not or is not being complied with
in the administration of the affairs of any federal institution.
Marginal note:Who may make complaint
(2) A complaint may be made to the Commissioner by any person or group of persons, whether or not they speak, or represent a group speaking, the official language the status or use of which is at issue.
Marginal note:Discontinuance of investigation
(3) If in the course of investigating any complaint it appears to the Commissioner that, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, any further investigation is unnecessary, the Commissioner may refuse to investigate the matter further.
Marginal note:Right of Commissioner to refuse or cease investigation
(4) The Commissioner may refuse to investigate or cease to investigate any complaint if in the opinion of the Commissioner
(a) the subject-matter of the complaint is trivial;
(b) the complaint is frivolous or vexatious or is not made in good faith; or
(c) the subject-matter of the complaint does not involve a contravention or failure to comply with the spirit and intent of this Act, or does not for any other reason come within the authority of the Commissioner under this Act.
Marginal note:Complainant to be notified
(5) Where the Commissioner decides to refuse to investigate or cease to investigate any complaint, the Commissioner shall inform the complainant of that decision and shall give the reasons therefor.
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