Directive on Official Languages for Communications and Services

Gives sound and consistent practices and procedures for deputy heads (or their delegates) in the area of communications with the public and employees, as well as the services provided to them.
Date modified: 2012-10-15

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actively offers (active offer)

Clearly indicate visually and verbally that members of the public can communicate with and obtain services from a designated office in either English or French. Mechanisms are in place to ensure that services are available in the official language chosen. The availability of communications and services in both official languages can be promoted in a number of ways:

  • Prominently displaying the official languages symbol

    The official languages symbol: greeting the public in both official languages, beginning with French displayed first in Quebec and

    The official languages symbol: greeting the public in both official languages, beginning with English displayed first elsewhere in Canada

    Institutions for which Treasury Board is not the employer may use this symbol or a comparable symbol.

  • Greeting members of the public in both official languages, beginning with the official language of the majority of the population of the province or territory where the office is located.
  • Ensuring that the office's recorded messages are entirely in both official languages.
  • Displaying forms and brochures of institutions subject to the OLA in a manner that respects the equal status of English and French.
  • Using permanent or temporary signs in both official languages to direct the public within an office.
  • Ensuring public-access computers permit the use of English and French software and keyboards.
bilingual regions

The list of Bilingual Regions of Canada for Language-of-Work Purposes is available on the TBS Web site.


Through an appropriate mix of financial, material and human resources, including bilingual and unilingual positions, the office is able to provide communications and services in both official languages.

central and common services agencies

Common service organizations are listed in Appendix B of the Common Services Policy.

The Privy Council Office, the Department of Finance and Shared Services Canada are also central agencies for the purposes of this policy instrument.

character encoding

The representation of the information circulating in the network requires use of a particular code. Among other things, the scheme used must allow for the representation of characters specific to each of the two official languages.

collaborative agreements

A collaborative agreement may be necessary in some situations, such as:

  • co-management of a site by an institution subject to the OLA and an entity not subject to it;
  • posting of information belonging to an institution subject to the OLA on the site of an entity not subject to it; or
  • if the institution subject to the OLA grants financial support for a site of an entity not subject to the OLA without the institution being present on the site.

Institutions subject to the OLA that post information on the sites of entities not subject to the OLA comply with their linguistic obligations regarding communications with and services to the public for such information. This does not mean that the OLA applies to information that entities not subject to the OLA post on their sites, but the institution subject to the OLA ensures it enters into an agreement that takes account of its linguistic obligations and of requirements under other federal legislation or policies, including:

For example, the agreement would specify that the portion of the site that provides access to federal government information ensures an active offer of services and communications in both official languages in accordance with Part IV of the OLA and also complies with the official languages requirements of the FIP and the Common Look and Feel.

conducive (workplace)

An organizational culture in which employees are systematically encouraged to use the official language of their choice in the workplace.


The Standard on Web Usability defines content as:

Information and sensory experience to be communicated to the user by means of a user agent, including code or mark-up that defines the content's structure, presentation, and interactions


  • The way the parts of a Web page are organized in relation to each other; and
  • The way a collection of Web pages is organized


Rendering of the content in a form to be perceived by users

Source: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Appendix A: Glossary

deputy heads

This term is equivalent to "deputy minister", "chief executive officer" and other titles denoting this level of responsibility.

designated offices

An office is designated bilingual for communications with and services to the members of the public if it meets criteria set out in the OLA or in the Regulations such as (not an exhaustive list):

  • an institution's head or central office;
  • an office within the National Capital Region;
  • an office of an institution that reports directly to Parliament;
  • an office where there is significant demand for services in either official languages;
  • an office, where due to its nature, it is reasonable that communications with and services from that office be available in both English and French.

A list of offices designated bilingual is available in Burolis.

English and French linguistic minority communities

English-speaking population in Quebec and French-speaking population outside Quebec.

events of national or international scope

Some examples are: an exposition, a fair, an exhibition, a competition, a game or sporting event in Canada or abroad.


Institution means:

  • Any institution subject to Parts IV, V and VI and section 91 of 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 Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. For a formal definition of “federal institutions”, see section 3 of the OLA; and
  • Any institution whose acts of incorporation provide for the application of the OLA (e.g. Air Canada and NavCanada).

The Chief Information Officer Branch, Information Management Glossary – Subject: Metadata states: Term means "data about data", or specifically in the Web context, machine-understandable information to identify, locate, and/or describe Web resources. Equivalent traditional library standards include ISBN and ISSN (identification), shelf mark/call number (location), ISBD and AACR2 (bibliographic description), LC and DDC (subject classification), LCSH (subject headings), and MARC (machine-readable communication format).

method of communication

Any correspondence, memorandum, book, plan, map, drawing, diagram, pictorial or graphic work, photograph, film, microform, sound recording, videotape, machine readable record, and any other documentary material, regardless of whether it's in physical, electronic or any other format, and any copy thereof.

official languages unit

The official languages unit is a structure whose size and role are appropriate with regard to the institution's mandate. The unit may be a distinct unit, or it may be combined with another unit within the institution.

personal and central services

In bilingual regions, personal and central services are offered to all employees in the official language of their choice. These services are those that affect the employee on a personal level (their health and well-being, personal development, their career) or that are essential for the employee to perform their duties. Some examples:

Personal services:

  • pay and benefits services
  • career counselling services

Central services:

  • information systems services
  • legal services

Any person, group of persons (professional associations or others) or organization or company (other than a Crown corporation) in Canada or abroad, any representative of another level of government communicating with or receiving a service from an institution, excluding officers and employees of institutions subject to the OLA when carrying out their duties.

Section 11 of the OLA

Notices, advertisements or other texts that the institution is required or authorized to publish pursuant to an Act of Parliament must comply with the publishing requirements set out in Section 11 of the OLA.

Once it is determined that an Act or regulation to which an institution is subject requires the publication of a notice or advertisement, Section 11 applies, regardless of whether there is significant demand.

substantive equality

Substantive equality is achieved when one takes into account, where necessary, the differences in characteristics and circumstances of minority communities and provides services with distinct content or using a different method of delivery to ensure that the minority receives services of the same quality as the majority. This approach is the norm in Canadian law. Please also see the Analytical Grid (Substantive Equality).

Web pages

For a definition of a Web page, please refer to the Standard on Web Usability.

websites (site de ministère)
p>The Standard on Web Usability defines a Website as:

Websites for which the Government of Canada is accountable. The types of Websites include departmental sites, initiative sites, sub sites and Web applications.

Further definitions about the types of sites are provided below:

  • Departmental site (site de ministère): A collection of Web pages that collectively represents the department (e.g., Environment Canada's Website).
  • Initiative site (site d'initiative): A group of Web pages that collectively represent an initiative of the Government of Canada. Initiative sites frequently have a different domain than the departmental domain (e.g., is an initiative site).
  • Sub site (site secondaire): A group of Web pages within a larger departmental or initiative site, where the collection of Web pages are intended for a particular audience and whose specific purpose is to feature a prominent program or service. Sub sites may have a different sub-domain or domain than their departmental domain (e.g. is a sub site).
  • Web application (application Web): A Web application is one or more Web pages that allow users to interact and perform specific transactions.
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