French Language Services in the Ministry of the Attorney General’s Adjudicative Tribunals
What is an adjudicative tribunal?
Adjudicative tribunals conduct hearings and make decisions on a variety of subjects covering hundreds of statutes to resolve disputes regarding the obligations, rights and responsibilities of an individual, business or corporate body, independently of government.
The Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG) has adjudicative oversight for 19 adjudicative tribunals, boards and commissions grouped under three clusters:
- Social Justice Tribunals Ontario (SJTO)
- Environment and Land Tribunals Ontario (ELTO)
- Safety, Licensing Appeals and Standards Tribunals Ontario (SLASTO)
Adjudicative tribunals operate as alternatives to the courts, but exercise a similar function in making decisions about rights and entitlements. Tribunal processes are less costly, simpler, speedier and less formal than the courts.
MAG’s adjudicative tribunals are independent in their decision-making, and are accountable to the government and subject to all Management Board of Cabinet Directives and Policies, which includes the delivery of French Language Services.
Under which Act do adjudicative 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”.
In accordance with the French Language Services Act, adjudicative tribunals, which are considered government agencies under the Act, must offer French Language Services.
What services do adjudicative tribunals have to offer in French?
The French Language Services Act requires that adjudicative tribunals provide French Language Services to the public. This responsibility includes the services provided to the public by the adjudicative tribunal as well as all materials and communications (e.g., telephone, forms, correspondence, brochures, websites, etc.).
Signs, literature, information and advice should always be available in French. The public should also be made aware that services in French are available through an active offer of service.
These services should be:
- consistently offered at the earliest opportunity
- clearly visible and available
- easily accessible and publicized, and
- equivalent in quality to services offered in English
Adjudicative tribunals should ensure that French-speaking staff are available on a proactive, permanent and reliable basis whether services are delivered by tribunal staff or on behalf of them by a private sector service provider.
Do designated areas apply to adjudicative tribunals?
Adjudicative tribunals are required to provide their services in French in accordance with the French Language Services Act. 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 […]”.
As most services of an adjudicative tribunal are offered in one location, French Language Services must still be offered if the tribunal is not located in a designated area.
Do parties have the right to be heard in French?
Parties can choose to be heard in either English or French.
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.
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 the tribunal and cannot be passed along to parties.
Why is it important to ensure that the obligations of adjudicative 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 adjudicative 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.
Provision of French Language Services
Each of the Ministry’s three adjudicative tribunal clusters has developed its own French language services policy to help facilitate their compliance with the provisions of the French Language Services Act and to help support the provision of quality services in French which meet the needs of the Francophone communities in Ontario.
Each of the cluster’s French language services policy should be consulted for more specific details on the provision of services in French within them.
- Environment and Land Tribunals Ontario’s (ELTO) French Language Services Policy
- Social Justice Tribunals Ontario’s (SJTO) French Language Services Policy
- Safety, Licensing Appeals, and Standards Tribunals Ontario’s (SLASTO) French Language Services Policy