The French Language Services Act (1986) (FLSA) guarantees an individual's right to receive services in French from Government of Ontario ministries and agencies in 25 designated areas.
The preamble of the FLSA recognizes the contribution of the cultural heritage of the French-speaking population and wishes to preserve it for future generations. The francophone presence in Ontario dates back more than 350 years.
Thanks to the French Language Services Act, all of the services that are provided to the public by a ministry or agency of the Government of Ontario (driver's licence, birth certificate, information, etc.) are available in French in the government offices located in or serving a designated area.
About 85% of Franco-Ontarians live in a designated area. However, if you do not live in a designated area, you may obtain service in French by contacting the central office of a ministry or a branch office located in a designated area or by going on-line at Service Ontario.
Municipalities are not required to offer French-language services, even in the designated areas. The municipalities themselves are responsible for deciding whether or not to provide their services in French. In the event that provincial services are transferred to the municipalities, agreements must be reached to ensure the delivery of French-language services.
Agencies that are partially funded by the province (hospitals, daycare centers, group homes, etc.) are not automatically subject to the FLSA. These agencies may ask to be officially designated, in which case Cabinet will pass a regulation to designate them as official providers of services in French.
The Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs is responsible for administering the application of the FLSA, but each ministry is responsible for delivering services in French in its offices. The Office of Francophone Affairs and the French Language Services Coordinators assist the ministries in this task.
In May 2007, the French Language Services Act was amended to create the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner. Reporting to the Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs, but independent of the OFA, the Commissioner is responsible for handling complaints relating to the FLSA, conducting investigations to ensure compliance with the FLSA and submitting an annual report to the Minister that is tabled in the Legislative Assembly.
In July 2011, the government passed Ontario Regulation 284/11, Provision of French Language Services on behalf of Government Agencies. This regulation clarifies the existing obligations under the FLSA with respect to services offered by third parties on behalf of ministries and other government agencies.
The French Language Services Act is part of a group of legal provisions guaranteeing the language rights of francophones. Other provincial and federal laws guarantee the language rights of francophones, including the Education Act, Courts of Justice Act, and Child and Family Services Act at the provincial level and the Official Languages Act and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms at the federal level.