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ARCHIVED - Chapter 2-2 - Language of Work in "Unilingual" Regions - Archived Version of 1993

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Language of Work in "Unilingual" Regions

Regions referred to as "unilingual" for language-of-work purposes are those regions where one official language predominates. They are all the regions of Canada other than those prescribed in subsection 35(2) of the Official Languages Act and listed in chapter 5-1.

Policy objective

To ensure that federal institutions fulfill their obligations with regard to the language-of-work rights of employees who work in unilingual regions of Canada and that, in accordance with paragraph 35(1)(b) of the Act, the treatment of the two official languages in work environments is comparable between predominantly English-speaking regions and predominantly French-speaking regions.

Policy statement

It is government policy that, in unilingual regions of Canada, the language of work is generally the official language of the majority of the population of the province or territory in which the work unit is located (that is, French in Quebec and English elsewhere).

Employees of federal institutions working in these regions have the right, in certain circumstances, to present a grievance in the official language of their choice and to obtain work instruments in both official languages.


This policy applies to all federal institutions other than the Senate, the House of Commons and the Library of Parliament, and to any other organization when an act or another legal instrument so stipulates it.

Policy requirements

Language of internal administration

1. In unilingual regions, the language of internal administration is French in Quebec and English elsewhere in Canada. Accordingly, work instruments, central and personal services, as well as supervision, are usually provided to employees in this official language.

Comparable treatment

2. Within each federal institution, the treatment of both official languages in the work environment is to be reasonably comparable between regions where one or the other official language predominates. Thus, when the institution has offices both in the unilingual parts of Quebec and in unilingual regions elsewhere in Canada, the treatment of English in Quebec is to be similar to the treatment of French elsewhere in Canada (refer also to the guidelines on this subject).

Provision of bilingual services

3. Work units located in unilingual regions that are responsible for providing personal and central services to, or supervising, employees in bilingual regions are required to have a capacity to provide these services in both official languages.


4. Regardless of their location, the language requirements of their positions or duties, employees for whom Treasury Board is the employer have the right to present a grievance in the official language of their choice. Managers involved must handle grievances in the official language in which they are presented. It is up to other federal institutions to adopt this policy taking into account their own situation.

Work instruments

5. Employees who must work in both official languages in unilingual regions, for the purpose of serving the public or other employees, are entitled to work instruments, such as documents and other material that are regularly and widely used in the institution, in English and in French, in order to perform their functions more effectively.


The Treasury Board Secretariat will ensure that this policy is implemented through:

  • monitoring by either the institution, the Official Languages and Employment Equity Branch, or both;
  • agreements on official languages with the Treasury Board, including annual management reports;
  • follow-up of the reports and special studies done by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages.


Paragraph 35(1)(b) of the Official Languages Act

Annex B of the Treasury Board/Public Service Commission circular 1977-46 of September 30, 1977: Bilingual regions in Canada, i.e., prescribed regions for the purpose of paragraph 35(1)(a) and section 36 of the 1988 Act (see chapter 5-1) [all other regions are unilingual regions]


Please direct enquiries to the person responsible for official languages in your institution. This person may then address policy interpretation questions to the:

Official Languages and
Employment Equity Branch
Treasury Board Secretariat

Appendix A - Guidelines on Language of Work in "Unilingual" Regions

Each federal institution should examine its language of work situation in light of its specific circumstances and adopt a flexible and pragmatic approach to providing services to its employees working in regions referred to as unilingual. Nothing in the guidelines should be construed as preventing the use of either official language in any circumstances that do not interfere with the operational effectiveness of an office or work unit. It is important to keep in mind, however, that if an institution has offices both in the unilingual parts of Quebec and in other unilingual regions, the treatment of both official languages must be reasonably comparable.

Head offices

1. A federal institution with its head office in a unilingual region will already be providing central and personal services to employees in both official languages if it has offices located in bilingual regions. It would be reasonable in such cases to provide some or all central and personal services in both official languages to the employees in its head office and in any other of its offices.


2. A supervisor in a unilingual region may decide to provide employees with supervision in the official language of their choice if this can be accomplished without affecting the language requirements of the position or functions of the supervisor.

For example, if a work unit in a unilingual region is working largely or entirely in the official language of the minority (e.g., a group of English language teachers in Chicoutimi or a group of French language teachers in Halifax), it would be reasonable for the supervision of this unit to be in the official language of the minority.

Work instruments

3. Whenever regularly and widely used documents or other material are already available in both official languages, pursuant to paragraph 5 of this policy, federal institutions should make them available in both official languages to employees in unilingual regions. It is important to ensure, however, that within the same institution the availability of bilingual material in unilingual English regions is comparable to the availability of such material in unilingual French regions.

Personal and central services

4. Federal institutions are encouraged to provide personal and central services in both official languages in unilingual regions, whenever this is feasible, particularly when they currently provide such services in both official languages. For example, an institution that has offices in a bilingual region may already have the capacity to provide personal services to all employees in either official language.

Professional training and development

5. Within a federal institution, the possibilities for professional training and development in English for English-speaking employees should be reasonably comparable to those in French for French-speaking employees, regardless of the location of their offices.

  • Job-related training should be made available according to the language requirements of the positions or functions. Employees who must work in both official languages should be able to choose the language in which they want to take courses.
  • Managers should make every reasonable effort to provide employees with career development training in the official language of the employees' choice.

Federal institutions should inform employees of the availability of professional training and development courses in each of the official languages and invite them to identify the language in which they wish to participate.

Even when relatively few employees express a desire to take a given course in the official language of the minority, a federal institution should investigate all possibilities to ensure that the preference of the employee is respected. For instance, it could consider administering a joint course with other institutions, or taking advantage of other existing courses. Alternatively, the institution might investigate the feasibility of enrolling the employee in an appropriate course outside the region.


6. When an intra- or interdepartmental meeting held in an unilingual region brings together representatives of both linguistic communities who work either in bilingual regions or in English and French unilingual regions, the institution should consider holding the meeting in both official languages.