ARCHIVED - Audit of the Community Futures Development Corporations and Community Business Development Corporations - Follow-up - Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions

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August 2008

As a result of observations made during the audit, 14 recommendations were addressed to Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions. The recommendations focused on the following:

  • including language clauses in contribution agreements;
  • communicating the obligations of Community Business Development Corporations (CBDCs) to provide bilingual services;
  • ensuring the availability of bilingual signage;
  • ensuring that the content on the Web sites of Community Futures Development Corporations (CFDCs) and Business Development Centres (BDCs) designated to provide bilingual services is available in both official languages;
  • developing a strategy to ensure that CFDCs and BDCs designated to provide services in both official languages comply fully with the requirements for active offer of bilingual service;
  • ensuring that CFDCs and BDCs have sufficient linguistic capacity to offer services of equal quality;
  • including performance indicators in Canada Economic Development’s action plan on Part VII of the Official Languages Act in order to evaluate the measures taken and the results attained by CFDCs and BDCs with respect to the vitality and development of official language minority communities;
  • implementing monitoring and control mechanisms to ensure that CFDCs and BDCs designated to provide bilingual services respect their linguistic responsibilities.

The analysis of Canada Economic Development’s progress report by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages (OCOL) notes the following achievements:

  • Contribution agreements have been negotiated between Canada Economic Development and the CFDCs and BDCs and these agreements contain specific clauses with respect to the delivery of services in English. The clauses clearly specify the institution’s expectations and are in strict compliance with applicable legislation and policies.

  • An official languages information session focusing on legal and operational obligations has been given to 20 CFDCs and BDCs.
  • Funding amounts have been incorporated into the contribution agreements to assist CFDCs and BDCs in covering the costs of bilingual signage.
  • Canada Economic Development has employed the services of Consulting and Audit Canada to conduct an internal audit of CFDCs and BDCs to ascertain compliance with official languages requirements. Of the seven organizations audited, all had bilingual Web sites and, in general, the language quality was the same in both official languages. Canada Economic Development believes the additional funding in the contribution agreements will allow CFDCs and BDCs to make ongoing improvements to the quality of the content of their Web sites.
  • CFDCs and BDCs have submitted action plans dealing with delivery of services in English. The action plans must comply with the provisions of the related contract clauses. One of the clauses stipulates that CFDCs and BDCs must make an “active offer” to clearly indicate services are available in both English and French.
  • The hiring of bilingual staff and additional funding amounts allocated to CFDCs and BDCs for language training has helped to ensure sufficient linguistic capacity and services of comparable quality.
  • A clause has been added in contribution agreements that calls for the corporations to consult with official language minority communities for the purpose of identifying and responding appropriately to their specific needs.

  • A monitoring guide has been created, and all Canada Economic Development employees, including those responsible for monitoring CFDC and BDC agreements, have received training on the use of the guide. Advisors from Canada Economic Development’s regional offices conduct regular monitoring visits of CFDCs and BDCs and Canada Economic Development uses the services of Consulting and Audit Canada to assess CFDC and BDC compliance with official languages requirements.
  • In terms of mechanisms to evaluate the quality of the services in both official languages offered by CFDCs, Canada Economic Development has developed a survey tool that assesses whether Web sites are bilingual, whether the CFDCs are aware of language-related clauses in contribution agreements and whether there is active offer in English over the telephone and in person. Canada Economic Development has also provided training to CFDCs and BDCs on their contractual obligations with regard to official languages. The training covers their responsibilities with respect to communicating with official language minority communities, the importance of regular monitoring and ensuring that performance indicators are incorporated into the performance agreements of their managers.

At the time of the audit, OCOL was satisfied with Canada Economic Development’s plan for implementing nine of the 14 recommendations. Although OCOL expressed concerns about the proposed implementation measures for five of the recommendations, only three recommendations have yet to be satisfactorily implemented.

Recommendation 10

That Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions include in its action plan on Part VII of the Official Languages Act specific measures undertaken by Community Futures Development Corporations and Business Development Centres to adequately enhance the vitality and support the development of official language minority communities.

The agreement between Canada Economic Development and the CFDCs specifies that, as part of their multi-year planning process, the CFDCs must consult the Anglophone minority community in order to ensure that their concerns are clearly identified and taken into consideration. However, OCOL sees no evidence of any specific measures that have been undertaken by CFDCs to foster the development of official language minority communities, nor does it see any evidence that these measures are part of Canada Economic Development's action plan on Part VII. OCOL urges Canada Economic Development to ensure that these commitments are articulated in its action plan on Part VII of the Official Languages Act.

Recommendation 13

That Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions ensure, within three months of receiving this report, that the committees responsible for accepting or refusing loan or project applications are informed of their responsibilities to take into account the specific needs and particular concerns of official language minority communities.

Canada Economic Development indicates that the contribution agreements are clear on the criteria CFDCs and BDCs have to meet to receive funding. However, there is no indication that the committees in question have been made aware of their responsibilities to take into account the specific needs and particular concerns of official language minority communities. Consequently, OCOL does not consider the recommendation to be implemented.

Recommendation 17

That Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions, once the monitoring systems and procedures are in place, periodically measure the quality of the services provided by Community Futures Development Corporations and Business Development Centres that have an obligation to provide services in both official languages and the impact on the development of official language minority communities, and use this information to manage the quality of the services and to produce performance reports.

Contribution agreement monitoring tools, such as a monitoring guide, have been developed to ensure that the clauses related to the active offer and delivery of bilingual services are respected. A two-phased internal audit process was put in place, the first of which was completed by Consulting and Audit Canada in March 2007. This audit process allowed Canada Economic Development to determine whether designated CFDCs and BDCs provide adequate services in both official languages. The audit concluded that, in general, the CFDCs and BDCs provided the public with an acceptable level of service in both official languages, but special attention had be given to the active offer of bilingual service and relations with local official language minority communities. The second phase of the audit took place in November and December 2007 and a final report is being prepared.