Rescinded [2012-11-19] - Official Languages Policy Framework

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Effective Date

April 1, 2004

Revision date

The policy statement of the Policy on the Use of Official Languages for Communications with and Services to the Public has been added to the Policy Framework.


The Official Languages Act (OLA) is based on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and conveys values such as equality and respect. The Official Languages (Communications with and Services to the Public) Regulations define the scope of certain provisions of the OLA with respect to service to the public. Policies aim to make institutions and their employees accountable for achieving the government's official languages objectives. The primary objectives of the official languages program are to deliver quality services to the public through institutional bilingualism, to create and maintain a work environment conducive to the use of both official languages, and to provide English- and French‑speaking Canadians with equal opportunities for employment and advancement in federal institutions.


The Treasury Board (TB) is responsible for the development and general co-ordination of the policies and programs of the Government of Canada relating to the implementation of Parts IV, V and VI of the OLA:

In all institutions subject to the OLA, except for the Senate, the House of Commons, the Library of Parliament, the Office of the Senate Ethics Officer and the Office of the Ethics Commissioner, the deputy head is accountable for compliance with the OLA and for implementing the following policies that flow from it:

English and French are the official languages of Canada for communications with and services to the public. Members of the public have the right to communicate with and receive services in either English or French from offices or facilities designated bilingual, including an institution's head or central office, offices located in the National Capital Region, and all offices of an institution that reports directly to Parliament on its activities. These offices or facilities actively offer communications with and services to the public in both official languages.

The institution ensures the public's right is respected when communicating with or receiving services from a third party acting on the institution's behalf. When using media to communicate with the public, the institution ensures that its linguistic obligations are met. The obligation to communicate with and serve the public in the official language of its choice takes precedence over employees' language-of-work rights. These principles apply as defined in the policy requirements.

  • Policy on Grants and Contributions

(to follow)

English and French are the official languages of work in federal institutions. 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. Obligations to provide service to the public as well as supervision and personal and central services to employees take precedence over an employee's right to use one language or the other. These principles apply as defined in the policy requirements.

The language requirements of positions or functions are determined objectively. They reflect the duties of employees or their work units as well as the obligations related to service to the public and language of work in the Official Languages Act (OLA). The positions or functions of executives at the assistant deputy minister level or equivalent are designated as bilingual at a superior level of proficiency throughout Canada. Positions or functions at other executive levels in regions designated as bilingual for language-of-work purposes are also designated as bilingual under the terms of this policy.

A position or function designated as bilingual is filled by a candidate who meets the language requirements of that position. In exceptional cases, a position or function may be filled by an employee who does not possess the required language skills. The institution then provides language training to allow the candidate to acquire these skills and takes measures to ensure that the bilingual functions of the position are carried out in the interim.

Institutions ensure that English- and French-speaking Canadians have equal opportunities for employment and advancement while respecting the merit principle. They use recruitment strategies that ensure equitable participation of both official language communities.

These policies are accompanied by a set of tools (including directives which set out how the obligations in the policies are to be met) designed for those who implement them.

Assessment of results

Institutions subject to the OLA, except for the Senate, the House of Commons, the Library of Parliament, the Office of the Senate Ethics Officer and the Office of the Ethics Commissioner, assess the degree to which expected results have been achieved and report on their achievements to the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada (PSHRMAC), as stipulated in each official languages policy and directive.

PSHRMAC monitors the implementation of the policies and directives in these institutions and the President of the Treasury Board reports to Parliament annually on their implementation.


Any failure to respect Treasury Board (TB) policies and directives may give rise to an assessment, the results of which will be included in the President of the Treasury Board's annual report to Parliament.

In the case of institutions for which TB is the employer, compliance with the OLA and promotion of its objectives are to be integrated in annual performance assessments and influence ratings.

Failure to comply with policies and directives made under the OLA may result in a complaint to the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages under Parts IV, V, VI or section 91 of the OLA. Under Parts IV and V and section 91, it is also possible to seek a legal remedy in the Trial Division of the Federal Court.

Definitions and Notes for the Reader

Institutional bilingualism:

Institutional bilingualism is the capacity of the government and its institutions to communicate with the public, and within these institutions, in the two official languages. Individual bilingualism refers to a person's ability to communicate in the two official languages. Institutional bilingualism does not automatically presuppose individual bilingualism.

According to the Canadian model, the responsibility assumed by the federal government to communicate with its citizens is coupled with a commitment to serve its citizens in their own official language. Having adopted French and English as official languages, the government recognizes that it must adjust linguistically to the needs of the public. In doing so, the government confirms that it is not up to the citizens to adjust linguistically to the workings of government. It is the institution that becomes bilingual, not the public. However, to become operationally capable of serving people in the official language of their choice, the government must acquire the necessary linguistic resources, including a certain number of individually bilingual employees, without requiring all of its employees to be bilingual.

Deputy Heads:
This term is equivalent to "deputy minister", "chief executive officer" or some other title denoting this level of responsibility.
Personal and central services:

Here are some examples:

  • accounting services
  • administrative services
  • financial and budget services
  • computer services
  • evaluation and audit services
  • legal services
  • library, archival and information/communications services
  • management advisory services and consultation services
  • materiel management services
  • purchasing and procurement services
  • asset management services
  • security services
  • staffing and classification services
  • technical services
  • translation services
  • pay and benefits services
  • health care services
  • vocational guidance services
  • grievances
  • In institutions listed in Schedules I and IV of the Financial Administration Act "equivalent" refers to functions or positions approved by the Treasury Board as equivalent to the functions or positions of an assistant deputy minister, even though the title does not include the term "assistant deputy minister."
  • In institutions that do not appear in these schedules, "comparable" refers to management functions or positions where the level of authority exercised and organizational role are similar to those of an assistant deputy minister position (for example, the duties of a vice president in a Crown corporation), considering these institutions' individual administrative and operational structures.
Any institution subject to Parts IV, V and VI and section 91 of the Official Languages Act. (Note: For a formal definition, see section 3 of the Official Languages Act.) Institutions that are not mentioned in section 3 but whose acts of incorporation provide for the application of the OLA (e.g., Air Canada and NavCanada) are also subject to the OLA.
Set of tools:
In addition to directives, instruments might include standards, guidelines and other tools in various formats from the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada designed to support institutional policy implementation.