ARCHIVED - Language Rights of Federal Public Servants

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The Official Languages Act, adopted in 1988, provides for equality of English and French as the languages of work within the institutions10 subject to it. Thus, in regions designated bilingual, institutions subject to the Act must ensure that their work environments are conducive to the effective use of both official languages and accommodate the use of either official language by their officers and employees, subject to the obligations relating to service to the public and to other employees. For example, institutions must comply with certain minimal obligations:

  • make available in both official languages services that are provided to officers and employees, including services that are provided to them as individuals and services that are centrally provided by the institution to support them in the performance of their duties; (such as payroll, training, professional development, administrative services and computer services);

  • make regularly and widely used documents and work instruments (including manuals, policies, directives, and software) available to officers and employees in both official languages;

  • ensure that supervisors are able to communicate in both official languages with officers and employees in carrying out their supervisory responsibility; and

  • ensure that any management group that is responsible for the general direction of the institution as a whole has the capacity to function in both official languages.


In order to meet these obligations, institutions must develop an organizational culture that fully respects the language rights of their employees, whether these employees are Englishor French-speaking. In other words, all public servants must have access to their work instruments and receive internal services in their preferred official language, without having to wait any longer than their colleagues who belong to the other language group, and without having to request these instruments and services. This also means that employees must feel comfortable speaking in their preferred official language at meetings and in dealings with their colleagues, their supervisors, senior management and head offices.

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