Directive on Official Languages for People Management

Outlines the requirements related to the linguistic identification of a position, the staffing of bilingual positions, and the equal participation of English-speaking Canadians and French-speaking Canadians in federal institutions.
Date modified: 2012-10-15

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To adapt teaching methods and other teaching approaches, as well as scheduling, duration of training, training-related evaluation processes, premises and materials, to the needs of persons with disabilities or learning disabilities that can impede the learning of a second official language. See the Policy on the Duty to Accommodate Persons with Disabilities in the Federal Public Service.

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 position is indispensible

This applies when the positions are linguistically indispensable because the provision of services depends on direct spoken or written communication by persons and the quality or availability of service in either of the official languages would be inadequate without this capacity.  Imperative staffing should be used in the following circumstances (not an exhaustive list):

  • when the bilingual position is one of the very few in an office that provides services to the public or employees;
  • when the bilingual position is the only one that provides certain services;
  • when the bilingual position is one of several providing similar services but there are not enough incumbents who meet language requirements to ensure service in both official languages at all times;
  • when the functions of the position require the capacity to communicate promptly and accurately in both languages in situations where the communication has a direct bearing on the health, safety or security of the public or the occupants of the office (e.g. a position responsible for communicating instructions within the context of internal security services or for the management of emergency situations).
bilingual regions

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

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.

conducive (workplace)

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

deployed on a non-imperative basis

During the initial period:
The following situations may arise, depending on the language profile of the position to which the person is deployed:

  • If the position to which the person is deployed (2nd position) has the same linguistic profile as the position the person holds initially (1st position), the initial exclusion period for meeting the position's language requirements still applies.
  • If the 2nd position has a lower linguistic profile, the incumbent no longer has to meet the requirements of the 1st position, but does have to meet the requirements of the 2nd position within the initial exclusion period.
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.

  • In institutions listed in Schedules I or IV of the FAA, the term "equivalent" refers to positions approved by the TB as equivalent to the 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, “equivalent” refers to management 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.
exceptional staffing situations

The following are examples of staffing situations in which a candidate who does not meet the language requirements may be considered:

  • when the potential applicant pool is very limited due to the highly specialized nature of the duties and the knowledge needed for a position;
  • when the institution would receive an insufficient number of applications from members of one or the other official language community.
imperative staffing

Staffing procedure for a bilingual position where only applicants who meet all the position's qualifications, including language skills, at the time of appointment can be appointed.


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). 
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.

non-imperative staffing

Staffing procedure for a bilingual position allowing the consideration of applicants who meet all essential qualifications except for the requisite language skills. The Public Service Official Languages Exclusion Approval Order and the Public Service Official Languages Appointment Regulations specify the circumstances in which non-imperative staffing is permitted.

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

The term “position” includes positions or functions.


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.

regularly and widely-used work instrument and electronic systems

For example, the following work tools or instruments are available in both official languages in bilingual regions:

  • manuals and handbooks of policies, procedures and directives;
  • handbooks and documentation needed to deliver services to the public or to employees; and
  • lexicons, official institutional publications, forms and templates that employees consult and other similar tools that they use in performing their duties.

Note that this list is not exhaustive. The institution is responsible for deciding on a case-by-case basis whether work instruments meet the definition of "regularly and widely used."

With regard to computer systems, those provided to employees as information sources or work tools must allow navigation and access to information in either official language; the information must also be available in the official language of the user's choice.

  • This includes software applications, such as an office automation suite (word processor, electronic document management, spreadsheet, e-mail, etc.) made available to employees to perform their duties.
  • In general, this does not include specialized software such as that used by system managers and support technicians to install, configure, maintain and manage the underlying software and hardware infrastructure that makes the institution's software suite available to employees.
  • Regularly and widely used information technology systems, including software packages, acquired or produced by or on behalf of institutions after January 1, 1991, are available in both official languages.
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).

unilingual regions

Any region that is not in the list of bilingual regions.

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