Last month the OLIP Interns had the privilege of meeting with Francois Boileau, the Commissioner of French Language Services within Ontario. As a Franco-Ontarian, I was excited to hear about the important work of the Office and what it does for Ontario’s Francophone community.
The Commissioner spoke passionately about the need to ensure French language services in the province. In Ontario, nearly 5 per cent of the population identifies as Francophone — that is a little more than 600,000 people in Ontario! The Commissioner’s Office was created when the 1986 French Language Services Act passed unanimously by the Legislative Assembly. The Act guarantees the right for the public to receive government services in French in 25 designated areas of the province. Commissioner Boileau emphasized the need to provide French services that are of the same quality as those received in English. However, providing services en français goes beyond having documents available in both official languages — citizens also need access to social workers, physicians, counsellors, etc. who can offer their services in French.
Later in our orientation period, many of our Interns got the chance to chat with a group of young Franco-Ontariens at a reception. It was interesting to hear about their past difficulties accessing services in French and their opinions about potential improvements and changes.
Thank you to Commissioner Boileau and everyone at the Office of the French Language Commissioner for your inspiring words and hospitality!