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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.
There are approximately 235 administrative tribunals in Ontario.
(Annex 13, page 100 - Available only in French)
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.
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.
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.).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Parties can choose to be heard in the language of their choice, English or French.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Decisions relative to hearings held in both English and French should be published simultaneously in both languages.
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.
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.
Some members of the panel must understand the language of the proceedings, others can be assisted by interpreters.
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.