The Action Plan for Official Languages Coordination Program Summative Evaluation
The federal government established the Action Plan for Official Languages Coordination Program (hereafter the “Coordination Program”) in 2003 to support the implementation of the Action Plan for Official Languages (hereafter the “Action Plan”), and particularly its Accountability and Coordination Framework. Both the Privy Council Office (now Canadian Heritage) and the Department of Justice received funding under the Coordination Program and jointly planned the summative evaluation of the Coordination Program, to be conducted in fiscal year 2007–2008. This document constitutes the final report of the summative evaluation of the Department of Justice component of the Coordination Program.
1. Program description
As part of the Coordination Program, the Official Languages Law Group is expected to actively monitor official languages matters affecting the federal government, to support legal counsel in departmental legal services units in their efforts to provide legal advice on legal issues relating to official languages, to promote knowledge among federal departments of the requirements under the Accountability and Coordination Framework and the Official Languages Act, to examine initiatives, programs and policies (including Memoranda to Cabinet and Treasury Board submissions) that could have an impact on official languages, and to support the work of the Committee of Deputy Ministers on Official Languages (now the Committee of Assistant Deputy Ministers on Official Languages), as well as federal ministers involved in official languages issues.
Activities of the Department of Justice Canada are expected to increase awareness among federal institutions of the spirit and purpose of the Official Languages Act and to strengthen horizontal coordination among federal institutions in their efforts to fulfill their obligations in the area of official languages.
Under the Coordination Program, the federal government allocated $500,000 annually to the Department of Justice, starting in 2003–2004. All resources are Vote 1 resources, applicable to salary, operating, and other related expenditures.
The methodology used to conduct this evaluation included a document review and interviews with representatives from a number of federal institutions (Privy Council, Canadian Heritage, Justice Canada, as well as other federal departments) and community organizations.
3.1. Rationale and relevance
As the federal government pursues its implementation of the Accountability and Coordination Framework, it will require the support of the Official Languages Law Group. This is particularly true in the context of the 2005 amendments made to Part VII of the Official Languages Act that create specific responsibilities that are subject to court remedy as needed. Several aspects of the Official Languages Act, including but not limited to Part VII, have yet to be clarified, and the Official Languages Law Group, as the centre of expertise on official languages, is expected to monitor these issues and support departments as required.
The financial support that the Coordination Program is providing to the Official Languages Law Group, combined with the expanded mandate defined in the Accountability and Coordination Framework, allows the Group to play a proactive role in monitoring and responding to legal issues relating to official languages. This approach aligns particularly well with the Department of Justice Canada's legal risk management approach.
Therefore, this evaluation concludes that there is a strong rationale for maintaining the component of the Coordination Program relating to the Official Languages Law Group.
3.2. Results of the program
During the first four years of program implementation covered by this evaluation, the Official Languages Law Group has contributed to the implementation of the Accountability and Coordination Framework through a series of activities:
- It has effectively implemented a monitoring system to scan media for issues relating to official languages and relevant court decisions. This information has been shared with federal departments, particularly with legal counsel within legal services units.
- It has offered multiple training and information sessions on official languages issues to a wide audience throughout Canada, particularly relating to the 2005 amendments to Part VII of the Official Languages Act. These sessions have raised awareness on the impact of these significant legislative changes. Since many dimensions of the Official Languages Act have yet to be clarified, the need for training and awareness activities is expected to remain in the future.
- It has provided legal advice to several federal departments, as they initiate new programs or introduce new policies that may have an impact on official languages. Training and information sessions have contributed to raising the number of requests for legal advice. The Official Languages Law Group has also supported litigant counsel on cases relating to official languages.
- It has actively participated in the various coordinating activities relating to the Action Plan for Official Languages (interdepartmental committees, working groups, reporting, etc.).
These activities have contributed to a heightened awareness throughout the federal government on official languages issues. They have also ensured consistency in the advice given throughout the Department of Justice Canada, particularly its departmental legal services units
3.3. Cost effectiveness / alternatives
The Coordination Program allocates a total of $500,000 annually to the Official Languages Law Group to cover operational expenditures, mostly related to salaries and benefits for three new positions with the Group. At the time of the evaluation, the Official Languages Law Group had filled all three positions. This is a cost-effective initiative, and no alternatives were suggested or identified during the evaluation process.
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