Audit of Official Languages
June 2012

1. Introduction

1.1 Background

1.1.1 The Official Languages Act establishes the official languages rights that Canadians may exercise when dealing with or working for federal institutions. The Act recognizes the constitutional principle that English and French are the official languages of Canada and have equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in federal institutions.

1.1.2 The Department of Justice is subject to the requirements of the Official Languages Act. This involves ensuring the right of Canadians to communicate with and receive services in either official language (Part IV of the Act); ensuring the right of employees to use the official language of their choice at work in regions designated bilingual for language-of-work purposes (Part V of the Act); supporting the federal government's commitment to ensuring that English- and French-speaking Canadians have equal opportunities for employment and advancement in the Department, and consequently, in the government as a whole (Part VI of the Act). The Department of Justice is also responsible for applying Part XI (specifically section 91) of the Act. This section states that the official languages requirements for the purpose of a staffing action must be objectively established. In other words, these requirements must be genuinely necessary to perform the duties of the position to be filled.

1.1.3 In the Department of Justice, the Corporate Staffing, Official Languages and Recognition Unit of the Human Resources and Professional Development Directorate is responsible for applying Parts IV, V, VI, and section 91 of Part XI of the Official Languages Act. The unit’s mandate includes developing policies, directives, guidelines, strategies, programs, plans, and tools pertaining to official languages. It provides departmental staff with advice and guidance on all official languages matters covered by the parts of the Act noted above (e.g. non-imperative staffing and requests for exemption under the Public Service Official Languages Exclusion Approval Order). The unit also promotes the Official Languages Program, monitors related programs and policies, and responds to complaints filed with the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages.

1.2 Audit Objectives and Scope

1.2.1 This audit was identified in the 2011-12 Risk-Based Audit Plan. The overall objective of the audit was to provide assurance that the management framework in place to govern the activities of the official languages group in the Corporate Staffing, Official Languages and Recognition Unit is effective and that the Department is complying with the requirements of the Official Languages Act.

1.2.2 The audit included the official languages-related operations and activities of the Corporate Staffing, Official Languages and Recognition Unit. The Department of Justice has two other organizational units that address the Official Languages Act. The Office of La Francophonie, Justice in Official Languages and Legal Dualism fulfills the Department’s responsibilities with respect to Part VII of the Act. In addition, the Department has an Official Languages Law Section that supports the Government of Canada with respect to the Act. While these two organizations were interviewed in the context of coordination of official languages programs within the Department, they were not included in the scope of this audit.

1.2.3 The audit focused on the following areas:

  1. Governance and strategic direction (e.g. strategic objectives, oversight bodies, lines of communication with oversight bodies);
  2. Business planning (e.g. establishing objectives; business, annual, and work plans);
  3. Organizing (e.g. accountability elements relating to roles and responsibilities: organizational structure, position descriptions, number of positions, span of control);
  4. Controlling (e.g. workload management, accountability elements relating to performance monitoring and reporting);
  5. Leading and communicating (e.g. providing direction and communicating information to staff (i.e. meetings, minutes, retreats, mentoring, e-mail updates, open door policy);
  6. Reliability of information contained in information systems to support decision-making and accountability; and
  7. Appropriateness of functional direction provided to the Headquarters and selected regional offices (e.g. language designations of positions, staffing of imperative/non-imperative positions, requests for explanation under the Public Services Official Languages Exclusion Approval Order, language training).

1.3 Audit Criteria

1.3.1 Audit criteria were developed in consideration of the risks identified during the planning phase of the audit and were derived from the Framework of Core Management Controls and Audit Criteria (CMC – May 2010) established by the Office of the Comptroller General of Canada (OCG) and the Management Accountability Framework (MAF VIII) that sets out the Treasury Board's expectations of senior public service managers for good public service management.

1.3.2 For high level criteria, see Appendix A.

1.4 Approach and Methodology

1.4.1 The planning and on-site examination phases of the audit were carried out between September and December, 2011. A detailed description of the approach and methodology is outlined in Appendix B.

1.5 Strengths Identified

1.5.1 Throughout the audit fieldwork, the audit team observed several examples of controls being properly designed and applied effectively by management, which are listed below:

  • Official languages are provided with effective and adequate governance and strategic direction. As such, the Department of Justice’s Official Languages Champion and Co-Champion are formally mandated with oversight responsibilities for official languages. The Department’s Executive Committee, along with the Official Languages Champions Network, integrates official languages into the culture and values of the organization and its planning processes. Goals and strategic objectives for these two committees with regard to official languages are documented and approved.
  • The Department of Justice has identified and complies with external reporting obligations on official languages. It was also noted that the Department received positive comments from central agencies such as the Treasury Board Secretariat (MAF rating) and the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for its performance with regard to official languages.
  • Formal complaints pertaining to official languages are resolved in accordance with the requirements of the Official Languages Commissioner.
  • A documented and approved departmental policy on official languages is accessible for consultation by departmental staff through the intranet.
  • Departmental organizations (headquarters and selected regional offices) and staff are provided with appropriate functional direction with regard to official languages (e.g. tools, training and awareness programs).
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