Archived - Guide to Implementing the Policy on Official Languages in the Appointment Process



Document Status:
Draft: Working version
Effective Date:
December 2005
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This Guide is provided by the Public Service Commission to help human resources advisors support deputy heads in developing organizational approaches.

Table of Contents

I. Introduction

This Guide has been designed to assist human resources advisors in understanding the expectations of the Public Service Commission's (PSC) Policy on Official Languages in the Appointment Process. It is also designed to explain the changes under the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) with respect to official languages in the appointment process.

II. Legal Basis

i. Official Languages Act

The Official Languages Act (OLA) ensures that French and English have equal status, rights and privileges in federal government institutions. The OLA defines the major principles of representativeness of the two official language communities. It contains provisions concerning the delivery of services (Part IV), the language of work (Part V), the full participation of English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians (Part VI) and the advancement of French and English (Part VII). The OLA also stresses that the application of official language requirements to positions must be objective (section 91).

ii. The Public Service Employment Act

The preamble to the PSEA states that Canada will continue to gain from a public service that strives for excellence, that is representative of Canada's diversity and that is able to serve the public with integrity and in their official language of choice.

The preamble goes on to state that the Government of Canada is committed to a public service that embodies linguistic duality.

The PSEA maintains some of the current requirements concerning language in the appointment process, in particular, the following:

  • Section 20 of the PSEA outlines that, with the approval of the Governor in Council, the Commission may exclude a position, person or class of positions or persons from the application of the PSEA or any of its provisions (Public Service Official Languages Exclusion Approval Order (PSOLEAO));
  • Subsection 37(1) outlines that when an examination or an interview, when conducted for the purpose of assessing essential qualifications and additional qualifications considered to be an asset, other than language proficiency, shall be conducted in English or French or both at the option of the candidate, regardless of the linguistic requirements of the position or its location; and
  • Subsection 37(2) outlines that an examination or interview, when conducted for the purpose of assessing the qualifications of the candidate in the knowledge and use of English or French or both, or of a third language, shall be conducted in that language or those languages.

iii. Other Useful Information

  • Some positions may require specialized or expert language proficiency, which is usually acquired through specialized training. This proficiency is designated by the rating P, which applies only to positions designated as bilingual. Unilingual positions may also require specialized or expert language proficiency. However, since unilingual positions do not have linguistic profiles, the manager must specify the specialized or expert language proficiency of a position in the Statement of Merit Criteria. For more information on this subject, please refer to the Assessment Guide of the PSC's Personnel Psychology Centre. Since the Second Language Evaluation (SLE) tests are not designed to assess this type of proficiency, persons conducting the assessment must assess the applicants themselves, using instruments developed by their organization. The results of an assessment of the P rating are not transferable. They are valid only as long as the individual holds the position for which he or she was assessed.
  • When a position is designated as unilingual and the incumbent has asked to be assessed in the other official language, the person(s) responsible for the assessment may conduct a separate assessment in the official language designated for the position in question, for the sole purpose of assessing the qualifications of the candidate in the knowledge and use of this official language.
  • Deployments, which are not appointments within the meaning of the PSEA, are governed by the policies and directives of the Treasury Board.

III. What's New?

i. Official Languages and Area of Selection

The preamble to the PSEA stipulates that the Government of Canada is committed to a public service that embodies linguistic duality. In order to respect this provision and subsection 39(1) of the OLA, which requires the federal government to ensure that English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians have equal opportunities for employment and advancement in federal institutions, the PSC has established in its Policy on Area of Selection that when an area of selection is established for an external appointment process, it should enhance access to persons who reflect a myriad of backgrounds, skills and professions needed to serve Canadians in their official language of choice.

ii. Official Language Proficiency is an "essential qualification"

The PSEA defines merit. Subsection 30(1) stipulates that appointments to or from within the public service shall be made on the basis of merit. Subsection 30(2) of the new PSEA also outlines that an appointment is made on the basis of merit when the person to be appointed meets the essential qualifications, including official language proficiency, established by the deputy head for the work to be performed and the Commission has regard to any current or future asset qualification, operational requirement or organizational need. This is interpreted as meaning official language proficiency cannot be established as an asset qualification, as an operational requirement or as an organizational need.

Therefore, persons appointed must meet the required official language proficiency for the work to be performed unless they are excluded under the PSOLEAO.

iii. Official Languages and Informal Discussion

Informal discussion shall be conducted in the official language or languages chosen by the person who was eliminated from consideration.

Section 47 of the PSEA states, "Where a person is informed by the Commission, at any stage of an internal appointment process, that the person has been eliminated from consideration for appointment, the Commission may, at that person's request, informally discuss its decision with that person."

Informal discussion is part of the appointment process. It is essentially a conversation between the decision-maker and the person who has been eliminated from consideration for appointment to discuss the reasons for eliminating the person from consideration for appointment.

Since a person is entitled to participate in an appointment process in the official language or languages of his or her choice, regardless of the official language or languages or location of the position, that person is also entitled to participate in an informal discussion in the official language or languages of his or her choice.

iv. Official Languages and the Public Service Staffing Tribunal

Subsection 77(1) of the PSEA outlines the grounds for bringing a complaint to the Public Service Staffing Tribunal (PSST), one of which is failure to assess the complainant in the official language of his or her choice as required by subsection 37(1).

IV. Why a Policy?

Linguistic duality and service to the public in the official language of its choice are outlined in the preamble to the PSEA. Although the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer (OCHRO) is responsible for overall official languages policies on behalf of the government, the PSEA and the PSC policy address official languages in the appointment process.

The PSC Policy on Official Languages in the Appointment Process both reinforces the requirements set out in the PSEA and provides guidance for ensuring that the linguistic rights of persons participating in an appointment process are respected.

V. Policy Statement

The Policy Statement outlines that a person is entitled to participate in an appointment process in the official language(s) of his or her choice.

It also states that persons appointed must meet the official language proficiency requirements for the work to be performed, except where excluded by the PSOLEAO.

These statements set out official language requirements in two respects. The first addresses the entitlement of the person being assessed. The second statement addresses merit in appointments and the obligation of managers to ensure that a person appointed must meet the official language proficiency of the work to be performed.

VI. Policy Objective

The Policy Objective is established to ensure that the language rights of persons participating in an appointment process are respected.

Subsection 29(3) of the PSEA outlines that the PSC has the authority to establish policies respecting the manner of making appointments. This policy objective clearly outlines PSC's responsibility with respect to official languages and the link that is made between the language rights of individuals and the appointment process.

VII. Policy Requirements

i. Communication

Deputy heads must:

"Communicate information concerning appointment processes in both official languages, except where:

  • the notice is to be made in a region that is unilingual for language-of-work purposes and the work to be performed only requires the knowledge and use of the language of that region; and
  • the Internet at http://www.jobs-emplois.gc.ca or the extranet site for employees of the Government of Canada at http://publiservice.gc.ca is not used to advertise the employment opportunity."

The PSEA does not contain any provisions concerning the official language or languages and advertised appointment processes. However, this requirement is established in the PSC Policy on Official Languages in the Appointment Process in order to ensure that unless the circumstances are those as outlined above, all information communicated in appointment processes are to be in both official languages. As stated in section 16 of the PSEA, the deputy head is subject to any policies established by the PSC.

It must be noted that in order to advertise in only one official language, both conditions outlined above must be satisfied.

The PSC Policy on Advertising specifies that deputy heads must at a minimum, advertise external recruitment employment opportunities and interdepartmental employment opportunities on the common portals, http://www.jobs-emplois.gc.ca and http://publiservice.gc.ca respectively.

A manager who chooses another advertising medium in addition to the common portal must respect the provisions of the OLA concerning service to the public and the language of work.

ii. Availability of Information in Both Official Languages

Deputy heads must:

"Clearly make it known that the information is available in the other official language on request, when information concerning appointment processes is communicated in only one official language."

The purpose of the advertisement is to provide interested individuals with the necessary information to enable them to make an informed decision about their possible candidacy. In order to promote fairness, transparency, access and representativeness, managers are required to indicate clearly in their advertisements that the information is available on request in the other official language.

iii. Language proficiency of persons responsible for conducting the assessment

Deputy heads must:

"Ensure that each person conducting the assessment of persons participating in an appointment process is sufficiently proficient in either or both official language(s) to enable effective communication with the persons to be assessed in the official language of their choice and to enable their qualifications to be properly assessed."

Section 37 of the PSEA outlines that an examination or interview, when conducted for the purpose of assessing essential qualifications and additional qualifications considered as an asset, other than language proficiency, shall be conducted in English or French or both at the option of the candidate, regardless of the linguistic requirements of the position or of its location. Of note, section 37 would apply, regardless of the official languages or location of the position. However, if the purpose of an examination or interview is to assess the qualifications of the candidate in the knowledge and use of French or English or both, or of a third language, the examination or interview shall be conducted in the language or languages in question.

In order to stress the importance of the requirements regarding the language of assessment, the PSC established in its policy, the language proficiency requirements for persons conducting the assessment in an appointment process. This will help to ensure that the guiding values will be respected and persons conducting the assessment will be competent and able to carry out their roles, responsibilities and duties in a fair and equitable manner.

This does not mean that the persons conducting the assessment are required to always have a high level of proficiency in both official languages. The level of proficiency in the official languages required of each person conducting the assessment depends on the nature of the qualifications assessed and on the complexity of the interaction and communication with persons being assessed in the process. Failure to assess a person in the official language or languages of his or her choice is a ground for complaint to the PSST.

iv. Second Language Evaluation

Deputy heads must:

"Ensure that proficiency in the second official language, other than specialized or expert proficiency in one or both official language(s), is assessed by means of the Second Language Evaluation, or other assessment method approved by the Commission."

At the present time, the SLE tests are used to determine the language proficiency of a person in his or her second official language. The SLE tests are not required for assessing students or casual workers. Students and casual workers may be assessed by the persons responsible for assessment in the appointment process.

The PSC requires that the SLE test be mandatory for indeterminate appointments where the positions are designated as bilingual and for term appointments where the position is designated as bilingual. The reason for this is under the new PSEA. A term extension and a conversion of term employment to indeterminate employment are not appointments, therefore the assessment at the time of the initial appointment may be the first and only time the PSC standardized test is used for assessing second language proficiency.

VIII. Roles and Responsibilities

i. Deputy heads

  • Ensure that all employees in their organization respect and comply with the OLA, the PSEA and the PSC Policy on Official Languages in the Appointment Process; and
  • Ensure that all employees in their organization are informed of their obligations, rights and responsibilities in regard to official languages in the appointment process.

ii. Managers

  • Ensure that the advertising of employment opportunities is in accordance with the requirements of the OLA and the PSC Policy on Official Languages in the Appointment Process;
  • Ensure that information regarding the employment opportunity is provided to persons in the official language of their choice;
  • Ensure that the assessment tools used are in the official language or languages chosen by the candidate;
  • Ensure that the persons conducting the assessment are sufficiently proficient in either or both official languages to enable effective communication and a proper assessment of the persons to be assessed;
  • Ensure that all correspondence to persons in the appointment process (e.g., letters and e-mails) is in their chosen official language;
  • Monitor the use of the PSOLEAO and ensure compliance with its provisions; and
  • Ensure that informal discussion takes place in the official language or languages chosen by the person who requested it.

iii. Human Resources Advisors

  • Inform managers of their roles and responsibilities; and
  • Advise managers regarding the PSC policy and the PSEA.

IX. Other Requirements

The Policy on the Duty to Accommodate Persons with Disabilities in the Federal Public Service, a joint policy of the PSC and the Treasury Board, requires that, where necessary, accommodation measures be taken during the staffing process.

Treasury Board Directive on the Linguistic Identification of Positions or Functions

Treasury Board Directive on the Staffing of Bilingual Positions

Treasury Board Directive on Language Training and Learning Retention

Treasury Board Bilingualism Bonus Directive

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