# 2013-063 - Course Failure, Language Skills at Enrollment, Official Languages Act, Progress Review Board (PRB)

Course Failure, Language Skills at Enrollment, Official Languages Act, Progress Review Board (PRB)

Case Summary

F&R Date: 2014–03–25

The grievor submitted a grievance about her removal from the Basic Public Affairs Officer Course (the “occupational course”). The grievor puts her failure down to the fact that the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) did not respect her right to receive her instruction in the first Official Language of her choice.

The Initial Authority (IA) denied the grievance on the grounds that it was filed after the six-month period specified in the policy. The IA nevertheless noted that the grievor had significant difficulty regarding proficiency in her first Official Language, which was not her first language, and that the Progress Review Board members had recommended that she be reassigned to another military occupation.

While reviewing the file, the Committee held a public hearing where the former and current heads of the educational establishment, and National Defence's Director of Official Languages, were heard. In light of the information received, the Committee recommended that the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) grant the grievance.

The Committee concluded that the CAF had failed in their obligation to deliver training in the Grievor's first Official Language, as provided in the Official Languages Act and the Defence Administrative Orders and Directives (DAOD) 5039 6, Delivery of Training and Education in Both Official Languages. The evidence obtained confirmed the Grievor's allegation that 70% of the course material, in a supposedly bilingual course format, was delivered in only one Official Language. That said, the Committee also found that the course format had evolved since then, and pronounced itself satisfied that it now met CAF Official Language requirements. The Committee recommended that the grievor take her occupational course again in the present bilingual format.

Concerning the grievor's lack of proficiency in her first Official Language, the Committee observed that the CAF should reasonably have noted the grievor's deficiencies when she failed her aptitude test during enrolment. The Committee also found that, at that time, the CAF delivered language training to recruits who were having difficulties in their training owing to insufficient proficiency in their declared first Official Language. While the Committee recognized that the CAF have no obligation to provide first language refresher training, it nevertheless recommended that the CDS go beyond the new directives so as to allow the grievor, on an exceptional basis, to benefit, through refresher language training, from the same tools given to individuals who had been having difficulties of the same nature and to whom the CAF had given training. To justify this exception, the Committee considered the Grievor's impeccable attitude, her academic training, the references submitted, and the fact that, after withdrawing from her occupational course, she continued to perfect her aptitudes, both in language and in the field of communications.

The Committee recommended that the CDS grant the grievance and allow the grievor to take her occupational course again and to benefit from language training in her first Official Language before retaking her occupational course.

CDS Decision Summary

CDS Decision Date: 2014–09–12

The FA is in partial agreement with the Committee's findings and recommendations. The FA agrees with the Committee's finding that the grievor's right to receive training in the language of her choice had been breached and that, in fact, the Basic Public Affairs Officer Course (BPAOC) at the time violated the provisions of the Official Languages Act and of the DAOD 5039-6. The FA does not agree with the Committee's recommendation to provide the grievor with training in her first reported language. Although the Committee reported signs that the grievor had difficulty in her first reported language during her enrolment and that the CAF should have offered her language training to address these issues, the FA is of the view that Instruction 03/11 of the Canadian Defence Academy was in force when the grievor later experienced difficulty with the course. Since that instruction stipulates that the CAF are not required to offer training in the first reported language, the FA determined that it was reasonable for the CAF to rely on the eligibility criteria in force for public affairs officers, namely, a university degree. However, the FA finds that the grievor had not been sufficiently prepared to meet the requirements of the BPAOC and that the error in managing her file was to have allowed her to participate in the BPAOC without a minimum required language profile of BBB in the second language, English. The FA therefore required the grievor to take second language training and that measures be taken to ensure a spot for her in the BPAOC in January 2015. Considering the situation, the FA ordered that the process undertaken to release the grievor from the CAF be abandoned.

The FA is in partial agreement with the Committee's systemic recommendation and determined that there was no problem of a systemic nature, as only the grievor's MOC is affected by this recommendation. While the FA acknowledges that it is imperative for PAOs to master their first official language and that this ability should be assessed, the FA does not order that this occupational requirement be developed and enforced, but sends the C&R to the Assistant Chief Military Personnel to guide him in his deliberations on the issue.

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