I speak French. What are my rights to services in Ontario in French?
In Ontario, the French Language Services Act says you have a right to get services from the provincial government in French if you live in one of the 27 designated areas. This includes services provided by:
- all 28 ministries of the Ontario Government
- government agencies that do work on behalf of the government ministries
- agencies funded by the government
- third parties offering services on behalf of the government
Services in French include services provided in person, over the phone, by email, and in writing. You must be given a choice to use either language from the time of first contact. An example of this is the use of “Hello-Bonjour”. This is sometimes called an active offer.
If you live outside a designated area, you still have a right to get services in French, but not necessarily in your area. This depends on resources like the availability of French-speaking staff. You might have to access services in French at a head office or in another area.
Designated agencies and services
There are 243 designated provincial government agencies that must provide services in French. Some of these agencies are not required by law to provide services in French but have applied for and received a French-language designation.
Here are some examples of the kinds of agencies that may be designated:
- children’s aid societies
- colleges and universities
- seniors’ residences
Municipalities are not required to offer services in French, even in designated areas, although some do. And a municipality can pass a by-law providing that all or some of its services to the public is offered in both languages.
If you’re dealing with a federal government department or agency, Canada’s Official Language Act says you always have the right to get services in French. This includes services for things like:
- federal benefits such as Employment Insurance, Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security
- immigration and citizenship
- criminal law
If you don’t get services in French from a federal government department or agency, or if the service is not adequate, you can file a complaint with the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages.
French language rights in your legal case
There is a difference between the right to get services in French and the right to use French in your legal case.
Your right to use French in your legal case is a language right that depends on whether you’re at: