Proposed amendments to the Official Languages Regulations 

Backgrounder

The Official Languages (Communications with and Service to the Public) Regulations (Regulations) have not been reviewed since they were adopted in 1991. To better serve Canadians, we must account for changing demographics, new technologies and lessons learned in the more than 25 years since these regulations were made.

The Government of Canada has tabled proposed amendments to the Official Languages Regulations. The regulations implement key provisions of Part IV of the Official Languages Act regarding communications with, and services to, the public.

The regulations specify the circumstances under which an office of a federal institution has to provide bilingual services. This includes the criteria that determine whether or not there is significant demand in the minority official language.

The proposed regulatory amendments cover the following areas:

  1. Demography: Adopt a new, more inclusive calculation method for estimating significant demand that better captures immigrants and bilingual families who primarily or regularly speak the minority language at home. The amendments will increase the overall minority official language population for the purpose of applying the regulations.
  2. Vitality: The incorporation of a community vitality criterion will add a qualitative measure that ensures bilingual services when a minority language school is within an office’s service area.
  3. Key services: The goal of the amendments is to provide for more services in both official languages. Current key services include tax services, employment centres, post offices and RCMP detachments. The proposed amendments expand key services to include regional development agencies, the Business Development Bank of Canada, and all services offered through Service Canada centres.
  4. Transportation: Airports and train stations, including federal offices within those airports, that are subject to the Official Languages Act and are located in provincial or territorial capitals will be designated bilingual.  
  5. Technology: Services offered by videoconference will be added to the list of communications services such as toll-free lines that are automatically bilingual, regardless of demand.

To best serve Canadians in the language of their choice, the amendments will:

  • protect the bilingual designation of certain offices that depend on the proportion of the local official language minority population (5% threshold)
    • With this amendment, an office will remain bilingual when the official language minority population that it serves has remained the same or has increased, even if its proportion of the general population has declined
  • result in more than 600 newly bilingual offices, therefore increasing the percentage of bilingual offices from 34% to almost 40%
  • give greater weight, visibility and importance to the requirement to consult official language minority communities on the location of bilingual offices
  • provide more than 100,000 Canadians living outside of major urban centres access to a Service Canada office in the official language of their choice for the first time
  • streamline the language of service to the public in embassies and consulates by designating as bilingual the offices of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada in these locations 
  • ensure a comprehensive analysis of the regulations 10 years after the adoption of the proposed amendments and every 10 years thereafter, along with a requirement on the President of the Treasury Board to table that analysis in Parliament

These proposed amendments to the regulations were tabled in Parliament on October 25, 2018. In accordance with the Official Languages Act, the proposed amendments will be published in the Canada Gazette Part I to give interested groups, individuals and all Canadians another chance to review and comment on proposed regulations before they are enacted. 


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