Guidelines for Administrative Tribunals

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GENERAL

What is an administrative tribunal?

An administrative tribunal is an autonomous agency that is independent of the provincial government and is responsible for settling disputes between the Province of Ontario and its citizens. An administrative tribunal is also known as an agency, board or commission.

How many administrative tribunals exist in Ontario?

There are approximately 235 administrative tribunals in Ontario.
http://www.sciencessociales.uottawa.ca/crfpp/pdf/annexes_10-2005.pdf
(Annex 13, page 100 - Available only in French)

In which sectors do the administrative tribunals have authority?

The administrative tribunals have authority in many sectors. In fact, most ministries have jurisdiction over their own administrative tribunals. For instance, the Ministry of Community and Social Services has jurisdiction over the Social Assistance Review Board; and the Ministry of the Environment has jurisdiction over the Environmental Review Tribunal.

OBLIGATIONS

Under which Act do administrative tribunals have obligations to provide French Language Services?

Section 5. (1) of the French Language Services Act states that : “A person has the right in accordance with this Act to communicate in French with, and to receive available services in French from, any head or central office of a government agency […]”. Section 1. (b) indicates that “government agency” means “a board, commission or corporation the majority of whose members or directors are appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council”. Therefore, the administrative tribunals, which are boards and commissions, must offer French Language Services in accordance with the French Language Services Act.

What services do administrative tribunals have to offer in French?

The French Language Services Act requires that administrative tribunals provide French Language Services to the public. This responsibility includes both the services provided to the public by the administrative tribunal’s secretariat and the proceedings conducted by an agency, board or commission (i.e. telephone, correspondence, brochures, websites, etc.).

Do designated areas apply to administrative tribunals?

As is the case for services provided by the Government of Ontario, administrative tribunals are required to provide their services in French in accordance with the French Language Services Act. However, the Act also states that “a person has the right in accordance with this Act to communicate in French with, and to receive available services in French from, any head or central office of a government agency […]”. Since, in most cases, the services of an administrative tribunal are only offered in one location, this means that French Language Services must be offered even if the tribunal is not located in a designated area, if it serves a designated area.

Who pays the costs attributable to meeting linguistic requirements?

Where there is no legal or other requirements, costs attributable to meeting linguistic requirements must be paid by agencies, boards and commissions and cannot be passed along to parties.

Must the secretariat of the administrative tribunals be able to offer French Language Services?

The secretariat of every agency, board and commission must be capable of pro-actively providing French Language Services:

Signs, literature, information and advice should be available in French,

There should be a system of filing and exchanging documents which includes, if necessary, the provision of linguistic assistance or the translation of documents into either English or French,

Agencies, boards and commissions should ensure that French-speaking staff are available on a permanent and reliable basis whether services are delivered by tribunal staff or a private sector service provider.

Why is it important to ensure that the obligations of administrative tribunals under the French Language Services Act are met?

In addition to the importance of providing equal access to tribunal services in French, procedures should reflect the principle that meeting the tribunal’s obligations under the French Language Services Act is one of the components of providing a fair hearing.

What are the consequences if the administrative tribunals fail to offer French Language Services?

Failure to meet the legislative obligations could impact on the fairness of proceedings with resulting inconvenience for citizens and for the Government of Ontario, investigation by the Ombudsman, the French Language Services Commissioner or recourse to the courts. Moreover, confidence in the proceedings within the Francophone community could be undermined.

PROCEEDINGS

Do parties have the right to be heard in French?

Parties can choose to be heard in the language of their choice, English or French.

Do proceedings have to be conducted in French if the parties are not French-speaking?

Where there is a public interest, administrative tribunals will have to meet the linguistic requirements of both French and English communities who wish to avail themselves of the right to participate.

Administrative tribunals must conduct proceedings designed in whole or in part:

To provide opportunity for participation by individual citizens as members of a community or by organizations representing communities;

To inform a community of the plans or activities of the government or of one of its agencies;

To ensure that a decision process is public.

Do parties and officials have the right to speak and to be understood in French?

Linguistic requirements will be met at proceedings where all officials and parties can both understand and be understood in either French or English. In other words, all participants – adjudicators, counsel, parties and support personnel – must be able to make the contribution required of them in linguistic comfort.

DOCUMENTS

Do notices sent to parties have to be written in French?

Parties have the right to receive notice in either English or French. Given time constraints and possible mix-ups, the most effective notification will be in both languages in the first instance. If instead, a unilingual notice is given, the English notice should advise in French that notice is also available in French, and the French notice should advise in English that notice is also available in English.

Do notices sent to the public through the media have to be available in French?

Where notice is given through the media, both the French-speaking and English-speaking public should be notified. French-speaking media should be included in the communication strategy of the administrative tribunal.

Should notices advise the parties of their right to a bilingual proceeding?

Notices should advise that participation can be in either language and should ask participants to indicate their language of choice. A mail-back form might be used.

Do the documents used during the hearings have to be available in French?

All aspects of hearings – the use of documents, the making of arguments and submissions, examination and cross-examination – should be available in French or in English. However, any hearing decision has to be conveyed in the language of choice of the client.

Do tribunals have the responsibility to translate ALL documents from the client or in the client's file (referred as Complainant or Appellant in some instances)?

NO, the tribunal's responsibility is to provide a translation of any correspondence, response or hearing decisions that they are making and conveying it to the Client, which means documents that the tribunal is producing only.

Do the administrative tribunals’ decisions have to be published in French?

Decisions relative to hearings held in both English and French should be published simultaneously in both languages.

Do the administrative tribunals’ reports have to be published in French?

Where agencies, boards or commissions publish a report of actual decisions or a summary of decisions, publication should be in both French and English. Where decisions have an impact on the public, both the French-speaking and the English-speaking public should be advised of decisions simultaneously. If a tribunal makes its decisions available to the public by request only, it must make those decisions available in French if so requested and in a timely manner.

LINGUISTIC NEEDS

Are administrative tribunals required to have French-speaking staff?

Administrative tribunals should have appropriate support services in place throughout the entire process to facilitate the participation of French-speaking clients in hearings. This means French-speaking support staff, arbitrators, prosecutors, as well as any equipment required.

The availability of staff with linguistic competencies eliminates unnecessary translation costs and enables members of the public to understand untranslated lengthy written submissions.

When a panel makes decisions, do all of the members have to understand French?

Some members of the panel must understand the language of the proceedings, others can be assisted by interpreters.

Are there guidelines within respect to the use of linguistic assistance or interpretation services?

There are no specific guidelines in respect with the use of linguistic assistance. But, certain methods of linguistic assistance such as consecutive interpretation, simultaneous interpretation, use of professionals of various backgrounds and qualifications are recognized as being best practices. Different circumstances will require different approaches. At all times, however, linguistic assistance must enable participation by French-speaking persons without prejudice to them and it must be given by professionals. The ad hoc assistance of relatives or other participants is inappropriate and not recommended in a forum where rights are at issue.