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LANG Committee Report

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GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO THE SECOND REPORT OF THE STANDING COMMITTEE ON OFFICIAL LANGUAGES

BILINGUALISM IN PUBLIC SERVICE OF CANADA

RECOMMENDATION 1

The Committee recommends that people newly appointed to management positions take a formal training session given by the Canada School of Public Service, in cooperation with the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, on the importance of creating and maintaining a workplace conducive to the effective use of both official languages.

The Government of Canada agrees that there is a need for formal training for managers on the importance of creating and maintaining a workplace conducive to the effective use of both official languages. This is the responsibility of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada (PSHRMAC) and the Canada School of Public Service (the School), in collaboration with Justice Canada and the Privy Council Office, and in cooperation with the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages.

The Official Languages Branch of the Agency is currently working with the School to develop official language modules that will be incorporated into as many of the School's training courses as possible, with leadership courses being of particular focus.

The School offers a number of human resources courses with an official languages component. Indeed, nine courses are currently offered, of which two are specifically designed for supervisors and managers. Those courses are:

G501 — Orientation Program for Supervisors (for newly appointed supervisors or individuals with supervisory responsibilities).

G110 — The Essentials of Managing in the Public Service (for all managers wishing to revisit management principles in general to achieve results).

Furthermore, the Official Languages Orientation course offers personnel working in the official languages sector and/or who would be called upon to give advice or services to managers in this field, covers elements such as official languages legal foundations, Official Languages Regulation; OL Exclusion Approval Order; Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders. This course is being updated to take into account the new policies and the message that official languages are rooted in the core values of the Public Service.

In addition, the Agency is working with the Leadership Network, to develop a framework on the training essential in the Public Service of Canada, and to ensure that language training is an integral part of that framework. The School will then develop programs designed to meet the employer's minimum knowledge standards.

The Agency's Official Languages Branch will inform all of its key partners of these new learning opportunities.

RECOMMENDATION 2

The Committee recommends that PSHRMAC develop an appropriate audit mechanism to ensure that the federal public service is a workplace that is conducive to the effective use of both official languages, and that it report on the audit in its annual report to Parliament.

In 2003, the Official Languages Branch (OLB) of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada strengthened its audit program to evaluate institutions' performance in implementing Parts IV, V and VI of the Official Languages Act. Since the launch of the program, the OLB has released a number of audit reports and follow up reports on language of work and service to the public. These reports can be accessed on the OLB's OLLO site.

To strengthen performance evaluation and accountability, the OLB is also developing a “dashboard” - a visual representation of the status of various functions. This tool will combine both quantitative and qualitative data and will make it possible to consult data of varying levels of details. This pilot project will include an automatic update function that will be fed by departmental official languages databases, to facilitate maintenance and ensure that the dashboard includes the most recent data.

There is a second component of the audit program involving the development of self assessment tools. These tools are developed for and made available to institutions to help them assess their own performance in applying Parts IV, V and VI of the Act.

The following tools are already available on the Agency's Official Languages Branch site:

  • Linguistic Needs Designator
  • Can you get 110% on your bilingual service checklist?
  • Diagnostic Grid
  • Self-Evaluation Checklist for the Manager (for service to the public)
  • Self-Evaluation Checklist for the Manager (for language of work)
  • Self-Evaluation Checklist for the Employee (for language of work)
  • 2004-05 Annual Review guide and template

RECOMMENDATION 3

The Committee recommends that the federal government ensure that there are no negative repercussions on service to the public in the official language of the client's choice, on language of work of federal employees and on the development of official language minority communities, when there are major administrative reorganizations, such as the move of the headquarters of a federal institution.

With regard to service to the public, federal institutions have obligations based on established criteria by which individual offices may be designated as bilingual for service to the public. The location of an institution's head or central office has no impact on the institution's obligation to serve the public in the language of choice since all head offices have an obligation to serve the public in both official languages.

With regard to language of work, the Treasury Board has recently adopted an implementation principle (Appendix 1 to the Government Response), as an interim measure, for cases where a head office relocates from a bilingual region to a unilingual region for language of work purposes. The language of work rights of employees choosing to move in such cases will be maintained.

Under the Official Languages Accountability and Coordination Framework, all federal institutions are required to consider the impact of their activities on the development of official language minority communities, regardless of where their head offices are located.

RECOMMENDATION 4

The Committee recommends that the Governor in Council pass an order guaranteeing the right of federal employees to work in the official language of their choice, when the headquarters of a federal department or agency is moved to a region that is not designated bilingual for the purposes of language of work.

The Treasury Board has adopted an implementation principle, effective June 27, 2005, to maintain the language rights of employees who choose to move when a head office relocates from a bilingual region to a unilingual region for language of work purposes.

The implementation principle is an interim measure that applies to all cases, and remains in effect until such a time as the government has the opportunity to carry out appropriate consultations and consider the necessary adjustments.

RECOMMENDATION 5

The Committee recommends that the Canada School of Public Service promote its language training services and that these services be accessible to all federal employees within a reasonable time frame, without any restrictions in terms of specific groups of employees.

The government shares the committee's view that the acquisition and maintenance of second official language skills by public service employees is a joint responsibility of the employer (departments and agencies) and employees themselves.

Capacity in the second official language must be integrated into employees' career and professional development plans and be supported within a public service learning framework. The new official languages policies stipulate that managers are to encourage this type of training to respond to the career objectives of their employees, while taking into account available resources.

The first priority for language training at the Canada School of Public Service is for those employees who either communicate, or provide services to the public, or manage staff.

In order to facilitate access to official language training by others, the Canada School of Public Service, in June 2005, began to make some of its language training products available on Campusdirect, its e learning portal. The CSPS is working to expand the range of products available electronically.

The full series of interactive products will be made available to users incrementally, enabling employees to acquire and develop second official language proficiency or to maintain previously acquired proficiency.

The CSPS will be actively promoting this service through its course calendar and newsletters.

RECOMMENDATION 6

The Committee recommends that the federal government resolve the waiting-list problem that is reducing accessibility to language training services.

Additional funding in the Action Plan was based on the assumption that the demand would only increase by 20 student requests a month.

The demand for language training has in fact grown to 100 monthly requests due to the following factors: cut off date for attainment of CBC level by EXs in bilingual regions, non imperative staffing in recent years, change in designation of linguistic profile and increased hours for language training.

On average in the National Capital Region, the demand for official language training went from 20 requests per month (2001-02) to 40 (2002-03) to 100 (2004-2005). At this point, we have few indications that the demand is likely to diminish.

At the beginning of 2005/06, 1445 candidates were on the waiting list (1695 candidates prior April 1, 2005). We anticipate that the waiting list will be at 2553 candidates by March 31, 2006. The average waiting time to get access to in class training at LTC is between 24-26 months.

While the Action Plan for Official Languages has made a contribution to addressing the demand for official language training, the demand for language training has been growing faster than was anticipated at the time. The government is pursuing means to reduce the waiting list.

As noted previously, the Canada School of Public Service has begun to make language training available through its e learning portal. Using this tool, public servants can begin language training immediately, without waiting to get into a classroom. This should help reduce the length of formal classroom training that is required, thereby making more spaces available.

As well, the Canada School of Public Service currently has contractual agreements with six private schools who were successful in a standing offer in 2000. These private schools helped increase both seating capacity and offerings of basic language training to clients who could not be accommodated at the Asticou Centre. Clients attending the six private schools are trained according to LTC methods and programs and receive pedagogical support from LTC.

In order to expand the availability of training, the CSPS is pursuing a new master standing offer to expand the number of accredited institutions offering language training to public servants.

RECOMMENDATION 7

The Committee recommends that the PSHRMAC provide the data required on language training services, both those offered by public and by private suppliers, and that it report on this in its annual report on official languages tabled in Parliament, as Treasury Board did until 1999. In particular, departments and agencies must provide PSHRMAC with the financial and non financial data that it needs to conduct analyses of real and forecasted outcomes.

The Agency and the Treasury Board Secretariat agree that it would be desirable to have more complete and relevant data on language training, particularly on the long term results obtained by this investment.

At this time the costs of language training are not accounted for in the same way in each institution. For instance, some include travel expenses, others the cost of replacing personnel in training, others include neither one nor the other, while others do not make any distinction between different kinds of training. To amalgamate the costs of each of the institutions would make the data difficult to interpret.

The obligation to monitor costs and to report on them is the responsibility of each institution. The Directive on Language Training and Learning Retention (Appendix 2 to the Government Response), effective April 1, 2004, is clear on this subject. In fact, it stipulates that "each institution is responsible for keeping its records and information systems up to date and assessing results in order to report on them on request." According to the Directive, each department is responsible for monitoring the costs associated with language training and we will therefore be able to capture costs better in the future.

RECOMMENDATION 8

The Committee recommends that all federal departments and agencies earmark specific funds (dedicated funds) for language training and that a specific and separate budget item be identified for expenditures incurred in this regard.

Deputy Heads are responsible for determining the learning, training and development requirements of their employees and are committed to ensuring that they are met. This includes official languages training. Furthermore, Deputy Heads are accountable for implementing the Directive on Language Training and Learning Retention and the Policy on Official Languages for Human Resources Management (Appendix 3 to the Government Response).

The Government is committed to the right investment in, and accountability for, language training. Deputy Heads have acknowledged challenges in managing effective and adequate training and have invested significantly to address them. The Assistant Deputy Minister Advisory Group on the Language Training and Testing Delivery Model of the Future was set up to review language training and testing. Through a consultative process, the Advisory Group developed key recommendations which have been presented to Deputy Heads.

The key recommendations on training include shifting supply arrangements for language training to the private and educational sectors and provincial governments; increasing the use of new training methodologies such as e learning; and the development of a new funding model. The recommendations were well received by Deputy Heads and will be taken into account in the development of future actions.

RECOMMENDATION 9

The Committee recommends that the Public Service Commission identify the reasons for the high failure rate on French second language evaluation tests for oral communication skills, and that it present a plan for remedying the situation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages.

Issues raised in this recommendation are under the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission of Canada (PSC). The PSC is an independent agency reporting to Parliament and has provided the following response in order to provide a more comprehensive document.

The PSC is also concerned about the increased failure rate. It should be noted that in some circumstances, public service employees (for example, those on language training) may take the oral interaction (OI) test a number of times. According to figures reported by Language Training Canada, more than 90% of students who complete language training are successful on the OI test, though not on their first attempt. In other cases (a job competition for example) individuals are only permitted to take the OI test once.

In response to concerns expressed about the failure rate on the OI test, a series of actions were undertaken during the past year. The PSC determined, through a research study, that the level of difficulty of the OI test has not increased over the years. A number of OI test administration procedures have been modified to make the process more transparent and less stressful for candidates. The PSC increased information-sharing with candidates and teachers; we also enhanced post-test feedback to candidates. We introduced a new questionnaire to gather more information on test-takers and to obtain their views on the test. The response to these initiatives has been positive.

The PSC also introduced pilot case studies on several alternative approaches to the administration of the OI test for use in special cases of difficult-to-explain multiple failures. Examples of these alternative approaches include a presentation by the candidate followed by an interview with an OI assessor, and an interactive discussion with a small group of individuals, one of whom is an OI assessor. We are currently reviewing the initial results and potential applications of these approaches.

Later this year (2005-2006), the PSC proposes to implement a more systematic procedure for addressing cases of multiple (three or more) failures on the OI test. According to the proposed procedure, all candidates who fail the OI test a third time, or who have failed it three or more times in the past, will be referred to an OI Review Board. The members of the Board would include representatives from the PSC, the candidate's department and the Canada School of the Public Service. The Board's mandate would be to gather all relevant information on the particular case, study it, and formally recommend an appropriate course of action for the candidate.

Recommendations could include suggestions such as further training, retesting, use of an alternative OI test approach (e.g., presentation or interactive discussion), or the use of the Exclusion Order. This process would allow the PSC to obtain much better information and insight on the reasons for multiple failures. It would also ensure that cases where multiple failures have occurred are reviewed systematically on an individual basis. Information on the results of this work would be reported to Parliament through the PSC 2005-2006 Annual Report and the Departmental Performance Report.

RECOMMENDATION 10

The Committee recommends that the PSC ensure that the exclusion order is used only in exceptional cases and, if it is used by federal departments and agencies, the PSC must ensure that the right of members of the public to receive services in the official language of their choice is protected.

Issues raised with respect to the PSOLEAO in this recommendation are under the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission of Canada (PSC). The PSC is an independent agency reporting to Parliament and has provided the following response in order to provide a more comprehensive document.

The PSOLEAO is the tool that enables a unilingual person to be appointed to a bilingual position, subject to certain conditions. The PSOLEAO can be applied only in non imperative appointments to bilingual positions.

It is Treasury Board's policies and directives that govern the circumstances in which managers may use imperative and non-imperative staffing. The current Treasury Board policies and directives stipulate that imperative staffing is the norm and that, exceptionally, managers may use non imperative staffing. In complying with Treasury Board's policies and directives, departments and agencies will likely make less use of PSOLEAO.

The PSC has increased its monitoring and reporting on the use of the PSOLEAO in recent years (see response to recommendation 12) and will continue to monitor the application of the PSOLEAO.

The PSOLEAO is currently being reviewed in light of the government's efforts to modernize human resources management in the context of the new Public Service Employment Act (PSEA). One of the goals of the PSOLEAO review is to reduce the number and duration of exemptions from the application of the merit principle regarding proficiency in both official languages. The PSC is proposing that the number of circumstances under which the PSOLEAO may be used be reduced and that the new order be easier to understand and apply.

Proposed changes to the PSOLEAO will be published in the Canada Gazette, which will start the official consultation process. The PSC would be pleased to present the proposal to the Standing Committee on Official Languages and obtain the feedback of its members.

The Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada's (PSHRMAC) mandate includes putting in place administrative measures to ensure that the public's right to receive services in the official language of its choice is protected. The Agency has provided the following response to this part of the Committee's recommendation.

The Policy on Official Languages for Human Resources Management, which came into effect on April 1, 2004, provides that an institution must take appropriate administrative measures to ensure that the bilingual functions of positions staffed non-imperatively are carried out in the interim. Administrative measures refer to the actions taken by an institution to fully meet the language obligations of a bilingual position held by an incumbent who does not yet meet the language requirements of the position.

The related Directive on the Staffing of Bilingual Positions makes imperative staffing the norm and specifies that non-imperative staffing may be used in exceptional cases. In addition, when a manager uses non imperative staffing, he or she must now provide a justification in writing and receive senior management approval. The manager must also be able to show that the bilingual functions of the position will be carried out while the incumbent is taking language training until he or she meets the language requirements of the position.

RECOMMENDATION 11

The Committee recommends that, in staffing bilingual positions, federal departments and agencies broaden the geographical area of selection for candidates, before making use of the exclusion order.

Issues raised in this recommendation are under the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission of Canada (PSC). The PSC is an independent agency reporting to Parliament and has provided the following response in order to provide a more comprehensive document.

Area of selection is one of the factors considered in staffing a position. The area of selection varies, depending on the level of responsibilities associated with the position, the qualifications required of an applicant and the number of prospective candidates available. In staffing bilingual positions, federal organizations have the flexibility to broaden areas of selection as appropriate to provide for a reasonable number of persons from both official language communities, taking into account the nature and location of the position, the public served and the organization's linguistic obligations.

The PSC is committed to, and is working towards, expanding areas of selection to enhance access to federal Public Service employment opportunities. Under the Public Service Resourcing Modernization project, a short-term strategy is under way that will help enable the gradual implementation of national area of selection (that is, providing access to federal job opportunities to qualified Canadians across Canada). We are examining ways to increase the use of a national area of selection, focussing first on all officer-level positions open to the public in the National Capital Region, to coincide, as much as possible, with the coming into force of the new Public Service Employment Act. In doing so, we will take into account the staffing flexibilities delegated managers will have under the new legislation.

The PSC will also take into account the availability of technological improvements, such as electronic screening tools, to manage the anticipated large volumes of applications. The value of these tools has been tested and proven by means of pilot projects conducted in several of our regional offices.

RECOMMENDATION 12

The Committee asks that the PSC report on the use of the exclusion order in its annual report to Parliament.

Issues raised in this recommendation are under the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission of Canada (PSC). The PSC is an independent agency reporting to Parliament and has provided the following response in order to provide a more comprehensive document.

The PSC agrees that the use of the PSOLEAO by departments and agencies was not sufficiently monitored. As a result, the PSC conducted an initial survey in spring 2004 on the application of the PSOLEAO with the 80 departments and agencies governed by the PSEA. The survey results were included in the PSC's 2003-04 Annual Report to Parliament. In April 2005, departments and agencies were asked to submit action plans to correct instances of non-compliance. These action plans will enable the PSC to assess the progress made by the departments and agencies between the time of the survey and April 2006. This follow-up will be conducted annually to ensure that departments and agencies are in full compliance with the PSOLEAO.

In October 2004, the PSC approved a PSOLEAO monitoring plan. The plan provides for annual data collection, analysis of that data, the development of action plans by targeted departments and agencies, and follow-up on those action plans. The analysis of the data will be included in the PSC's annual report.

RECOMMENDATION 13

The Committee recommends that the Privy Council Office require that those appointed to deputy minister positions meet the CBC requirements in the second official language.

As public service leaders, Deputy Ministers are responsible for ensuring a work environment conducive to both official languages, consistent with the provisions of the Official Languages Act. This is not an issue solely for the leaders of today, but for the future leaders of the public service. Consequently, effective April 1, 2004, a new policy was issued stating that all Assistant Deputy Minister positions must have a CBC linguistic profile and must be staffed imperatively, requiring that all incumbents meet this requirement prior to appointment. In addition, a similar requirement was established for all Executive positions in bilingual regions, with a phased-in implementation.

As the majority of appointments to the Deputy Minister positions continue to be made from within the public service, specifically from the ADM group, this policy will ensure that over time, the majority of Deputy Ministers will meet the CBC linguistic requirement.

RECOMMENDATION 14

The Committee recommends that Treasury Board eliminate the bilingualism bonus and that the knowledge of the two official languages be considered a professional skill that is reflected in the salaries of federal employees.

Since the National Joint Council Bilingualism Bonus Directive forms part of the collective agreements, the bilingual bonus could not be amended without consulting the bargaining agents participating on the National Joint Council.

APPENDIX: TREASURY BOARD POLICY ON LANGUAGE OF WORK

The Treasury Board Policy on Language of Work is the instrument used for the application of certain key provisions in Part V of the Official Languages Act (OLA) concerning the language of work in federal institutions.

The Policy specifies that in regions designated as bilingual for language of work purposes, both official languages are the languages of work. In unilingual regions, the language of work is generally the one that predominates in the province or territory. The Policy does not provide for any transition period, following the move of a head office from a bilingual region to a unilingual region for language of work purposes.

For these reasons, pursuant to its authority under paragraph 46(2)(a) of the OLA, the Treasury Board establishes the following implementation principle to give effect to Part V of the Act, Language of Work: whenever a head office currently located in a bilingual region for language of work purposes is required to move to a unilingual region, the status quo pertaining to language of work rights of employees choosing to move will be maintained by the institution in order to enable Ministers to carry out appropriate consultations and consider the necessary adjustments. Once these consultations are completed and a general policy decision is made relating to language of work, this implementation principle will be cancelled or replaced.