It is rarely good news when an organization announces that it has placed itself under the creditor protections in the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act. While not the same as bankruptcy, it nonetheless denotes a precarious financial position. For some Francophone students at Laurentian University, the announcement in February 2021 that their institution would be entering creditor protection was especially troubling, as the financial woes quickly led to the elimination of 28 French-language programs. For directly affected students, this meant they could no longer pursue their degree at Laurentian University in French.
In response to this situation and more than 60 complaints from members of the public, the French Language Services Commissioner at the Ontario Ombudsman launched an investigation in June 2021 into the cuts to French-language programming at Laurentian University. Recently, the Commissioner’s investigative report – Strengthening the Designation: A collaborative effort – was published, making 19 recommendations to Laurentian University, the Ministry of Francophone Affairs and the Ministry of Colleges and Universities. For public sector lawyers who represent organizations subject to the French Language Services Act (FLSA), as well as for others interested in language rights, the report is an important reminder of how the requirements to provide services in French may interact with other legal processes.
While I strongly encourage everyone to read the report in its entirety, here are 5 key takeaways for public sector lawyers: