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Official Languages (services to and communications with the public) Regulations

What changes were made to the Regulations?

  • A new and more inclusive calculation method for estimating significant potential demand was adopted. It includes, among others, more people of immigrant background and bilingual families.
  • A qualitative criteria that takes into account community vitality was added to determine the language obligations of offices. This provision will ensure bilingual services when a minority language school (elementary and secondary schools) is within an office’s service area.
  • The list of key services was expanded to include regional development agencies, the Business Development Bank of Canada, and all services offered through Service Canada centres, including passport services.
    • Key services are closer to citizens in general, so more of these services are offered in both official languages. For example, tax services, employment centres, post offices and RCMP detachments.
  • Airports and train stations subject to the Official Languages Act that are located in provincial or territorial capitals, as well as federal offices within those airports, will be designated bilingual.
  • Services offered to the public by means of videoconferencing will be added to the list of services that are automatically bilingual, regardless of demand.
  • A rule was added to protect the bilingual designation of certain offices that depend on the proportion of the local official language minority population (5% threshold).
  • Greater weight, visibility and importance was given to the requirement to consult official language minority communities on the location of bilingual offices by moving this requirement from the Directive to the Regulations.
  • The language of service to the public in embassies and consulates was standardized and simplified by designating as bilingual the offices of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada in these locations.
  • A rule was added to ensure a comprehensive analysis of the regulations 10 years after the adoption of the amendments and every 10 years thereafter.
  • A rule was added to ensure services in the majority language where needed.
    • 3 offices were designated unilingual in the minority language while the demand suggested a need for bilingual services. This rule will correct such situations.
  • A rule will ensure bilingual services in the post office located in Entry Island, Quebec.
  • A provision will improve access to bilingual services in small communities with a large concentration of minority speakers.
  • Rules were updated to allow for a single set of provisions for all immigration services and customs services provided by the Canada Border Services Agency at ports of entry into Canada.
    • The 1991 Regulations provided for two sets of rules at ports of entry: one for immigration services and one for non-immigration services. These provisions reflected the division of responsibilities that existed at the time the 1991 Regulations were adopted, and is no longer accurate.

When will the amendments come into force?

The coming into force of the amendments and their implementation in federal offices will be done in four major stages:

1. Upon registration of the Regulations, in 2019, the provision regarding consultation with minority languages communities will come into force.

2. One year after the registration of the Regulations, so in Spring 2020, the provision for train stations and airports in provincial capitals, the one for immigration offices in embassies and consulates and the provision ensuring services in the majority language when needed will come into force.

3. Most changes will come into force the day of the publication of linguistic data from the 2021 Census. Probably in 2022. Among those changes are the new calculation method, the vitality criteria, the expanded list of key services, the provision ensuring bilingual services in small communities with a large concentration of minority population, the provision for Entry Island and the unique series of provisions for immigration and customs services.

4. Finally, one year after the publication of the linguistic data from the 2021 Census, probably in 2023, the amendment protecting the bilingual designation of some offices and the provision pertaining to services offered by means of videoconferencing will come into force.

Regarding the rule ensuring that an office is bilingual if there is a school in its service area, what happens if a school closes or a new school opens?

  • The rule would certainly apply to any new office subject to service area rules, and at each Regulations Re-Application Exercise (OLRE) for offices subject to service area rules.
  • When a school opens or closes between two censuses, the implementation of the vitality mechanism – and its update – is still to be confirmed by other stakeholders affected, including Heritage Canada, which manages the list of minority schools, and with the communities themselves.