Office québécois de la langue française: accept complaints written in English

  • January 19, 2015

dear-sirThe complaint

A man complained to the Québec Ombudsman about the requirements for filing a complaint with the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF). His complaint concerning public signage was not handled because it had not been written in French and had not been sent using the form available on the Office website.

The investigation

  • When the man saw a public sign which he felt did not comply with the provisions of the Charter of the French Language, he decided to report it to the OQLF.
  • The man, who is English-speaking, said that he can speak and read French, but cannot write it. Furthermore, he said that he does not have access to a computer.
  • This is why he decided to file his complaint in English and mail it in.
  • The OQLF replied in French that he had to use the appropriate form from its website and, in the same letter, invited the citizen to write his complaint in French.
  • However, the Charter of the French Language provides that “the civil administration shall draw up and publish its texts and documents in the official language. This section does not apply to relations with persons outside Québec, to […] correspondence between the civil administration and natural persons when the latter address it in a language other than French.”
  • The OQLF's language policy stipulates that when a staff member replies to a letter written in a language other than French, he or she may enclose with the French reply a version in another language, with the indication that the appended version is a translation.
  • The OQLF also acknowledged that a staff member can process a complaint sent by email, mail or fax, provided it contains all the information required for processing it.

The Québec Ombudsman's conclusions

Because of the Québec Ombudsman's intervention, the citizen received a letter in both languages in which the OQLF apologized for how his complaint had been received. It also processed the citizen's complaint in its initial format (a letter), without the citizen having to fill out the form on the OQLF website.