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ARCHIVED - Archived - Chapter 4-0 - Program Management - Introduction

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With the exception of section 91 of the Act, the policies and guidelines in Part 5 concern more particularly federal institutions for which Treasury Board is the employer. Other federal institutions must, however, comply with the general principles. They may also adapt specific aspects to their own situation, where appropriate.

Legal framework

The Official Languages Act sets out the roles and responsibilities of the principal players in the management of the federal government's official languages program. It clearly establishes that the major responsibility for implementing the provisions of Parts IV, V and VI of the Act — on service to the public, language of work, and participation of English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians, respectively — rests with each federal institution. Furthermore, the obligations flowing from the Act are imposed on the institutions themselves, not on their employees. It is up to each institution to take the measures that best suit its particular situation in implementing its official languages program. All, however, should keep in mind that the provisions relative to communications with and services to the public and language of work have primacy over all other federal statutes and regulations, except the Canadian Human Rights Act (section 82 of the Act).

Part VIII of the Act confers on the Treasury Board the responsibility for the general direction and coordination of the policies and programs relating to the implementation of Parts IV, V and VI in federal institutions (subsection 46(1)). The Treasury Board's role under subsection 46(1) extends to all federal institutions, including Crown corporations, except the Senate, the House of Commons and the Library of Parliament.

While the Treasury Board Secretariat has the responsibility for establishing and interpreting policies on official languages in federal institutions, the Commissioner of Official Languages, in his role as ombudsman, is responsible for ensuring that the spirit and intent of the Act are respected. Part IX of the Act strengthens the Commissioner's role. In addition to investigating complaints and seeking solutions, the Commissioner can, in certain circumstances, initiate or participate in the proceedings before the Federal Court dealing with unresolved complaints. The institution against which a complaint is made or a court action is taken is responsible for taking the necessary measures as a follow-up to the investigation or the court action.

Finally, even if the deputy head or the chief executive officer of each federal institution is ultimately responsible for the successful implementation of the institution's official languages program, the basic responsibility rests with the senior managers of each institution, who must ensure that the policies are respected and the official languages program is successfully implemented in their areas of responsibility. Therefore, when planning their annual objectives, managers with official languages obligations must integrate their objectives in this regard into their area's and the institution's global objectives.