Department of National Defence

Department of National Defence

November 29, 2006 16:07 ET

Defence Minister Announces New Official Languages Plan

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Nov. 29, 2006) - The Honourable Gordon O'Connor, Minister of National Defence, today announced the release of the National Defence Official Languages Program Transformation Model, which is a new strategic plan to ensure the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Forces (CF) can best comply with Canada's official languages obligations.

In developing this new model to ensure there is full compliance with the Official Languages Act, the CF has had to take in account both the provisions of the National Defence Act, and day-to-day operational realities. This new functional model takes into account, for example, that - unlike most of the public service - the CF manages personnel by unit and not by position.

The plan will ensure that all commanding officers who manage units will be responsible for the delivery of services and supervision in both official languages, when and where required, in compliance with the Official Languages Act. This corresponds to the way CF manages other military qualifications in the Canadian Forces.

The Transformation Model will establish an enhanced awareness and education program to ensure civilian and military personnel are aware of their linguistic rights and obligations, and it will implement a performance measurement system to monitor the success of complying with official languages obligations.

"This is a concrete and accountable plan to ensure full compliance with the Official Languages Act," said Minister O'Connor. "I am committed to a department that is equally strong in French and English, and ensuring that all military and civilian employees of the department can be led, trained, administered and supported in the official language of their choice, when and where required by the Official Languages Act."

"The new official languages plan better conforms to our unique operational structure," said General Rick Hillier, Chief of the Defence Staff. "The approach is more selective - only those Canadian Forces members that must be bilingual, in accordance with the Official Languages Act, will be required to become bilingual. These individuals will have priority access to second language training, based on functional needs and compliance requirements."

The new plan addresses this structure unique to National Defence, and specifically the Transformation Model aims to:

- Ensure linguistically qualified personnel are provided at the right time and place to better support military operations and comply with the Official Languages Act.

- Establish an education program to enhance workforce awareness of official languages rights and obligations.

- Implement a performance measurement system to more accurately monitor the department's ability to provide bilingual services in both official languages.

Note to Editors: For more information about the Official Languages Transformation Model visit http://www.forces.gc.ca/hr/engraph/home_e.asp.


DOCUMENTATION

Official Languages Program Transformation Model

The Department of National Defence (DND) has just released its new strategic plan for official languages - the National Defence Official Languages Program Transformation Model. This Transformation Model establishes DND's official languages strategic vision and outlines the road map to achieve it.

The Transformation Model will ensure that linguistically qualified civilian and military personnel are provided in the right place and the right time to effectively support Canadian Forces (CF) operations and comply with the Official Languages Act (OLA).

The Transformation Model will establish an enhanced OLA awareness and education program to ensure civilian and military personnel are aware of their linguistic rights and obligations, and it will implement a performance measurement system to monitor the success of all personnel in complying with the OLA.

The implementation of the Transformation Model will permit CF members and DND civilian employees to be consistently led, trained, administered and supported in their official language of choice, in accordance with the requirements of the OLA. This will position National Defence to more effectively support its foreign and domestic operations while better meeting its legal obligations.

Unique Structure

The Department of National Defence is made up of CF members and public service employees. CF personnel are regulated by the National Defence Act (NDA), which does not set out specific requirements related to compliance with the OLA. Civilian National Defence employees are regulated by the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA), which does.

In order to implement the OLA, the CF is required to develop its own official languages policies, directives and procedures that take into account both the provisions of the NDA, and day-to-day operational realities.

With the implementation of the Transformation Model, the civilian element of DND/CF's OL program will remain firmly rooted in public service policies and directives under both the OLA and the PSEA.

The CF portion will be extensively revised to bring it more completely in line with the requirements of the OLA and to better realign it with DND/CF's unique administrative organization outlined in the NDA.

History

In 1914, the Royal 22e Regiment officially became Canada's first French-speaking regiment; and several more French speaking regiments were created during World War II. In 1969, after the enactment of the first OLA, the CF formalized this structure and CF units were designated as English-speaking, French-speaking or bilingual. This was known as the CF Official Languages Unit Model.

In 1988, the OLA introduced a regional system of determining the linguistic designation of federal offices. The CF then adopted a universal approach to bilingualism. This universal approach envisioned a CF wherein all personnel would be bilingual. While a laudable aim, the training capacity was insufficient to create the "100% bilingual CF" that the framers of the universal approach envisioned.

Functional Approach

With the transformation of its official languages program, DND/CF reinforces its commitment to comply with the requirements of the OLA by moving away from the universal approach and adopting a functional approach to bilingualism. This approach recognizes that - unlike the public service - the CF manages personnel by unit and not by position.

This new approach will enable National Defence to meet the requirements of the OLA in a manner that better conforms to its unique operational structure. The functional approach will bring a more selective method based on operational and legal-compliance requirements. As a result, only those CF members that must be bilingual will be required to become bilingual. These individuals will then have priority access to second language training, based on functional needs and compliance requirements.

A targeted approach to second-language training also means that DND/CF will make more efficient and effective use of its training capacity than under the former model, which was not sufficiently resourced to meet the ambitious and unnecessary objective of the universal approach to bilingualism in the CF.

For more information about the National Defence Official Languages Program Transformation Model visit http://www.forces.gc.ca/hr/engraph/home_e.asp.

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