Chief of the Defence Staff Responds to Ombudsman Concerns Regarding the Treatment of Francophone Recruits at CFB Borden

April 5, 2007

Mr. Yves Côté
National Defence and Canadian Forces Ombudsman
100 Metcalfe Street, 12th Floor
Ottawa, ON K1P 5M1

 

Dear Mr. Côté,

Thank you for your letters dated 8 January and 6 March 2007 in which you articulated your concerns related to the provision of French-language occupation training and French-language services at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Borden.

The ability of the Canadian Forces (CF) to consistently deliver occupation training and services to its members in both official languages has been an issue with which we have struggled for many years. While recruit training is always offered in both French and English, the consistency with which training at more advanced levels is provided in both official languages varies with each Environment (Army, Navy, Air Force), its location and the occupation. That is one reason for which Language of Instruction was specifically addressed in the recently released National Defence Official Languages Program Transformation Model. The Model acknowledges that the CF’s official languages performance falls short of its Official Languages Act obligations in several areas, and outlines a course of action to address the shortcomings in order of relative priority, as established by the Act.

I am pleased to announce that we are making excellent progress in developing the Master Implementation Plan that will ensure that the Transformation Model’s objectives are implemented as quickly and effectively as possible. Having said that, I must also emphasize that Language of Instruction is but one shortcoming among others. It is linked to other areas of weakness such as awareness of official languages rights and obligations, which are not limited solely to CFB Borden. Hence, our overall plan to remedy the Language of Instruction situation will be a CF-wide remedy, and not one that focuses on one location.

Given that your concerns were the result of a visit to CFB Borden, it is appropriate that I highlight specific corrective measures being taken at the Base to address systemic weaknesses in the delivery of training and services in both official languages, as identified in your letter of 8 January 2007.

First, the Canadian Forces Base Borden Official Languages Strategic Plan is in the process of being completed to achieve the National Defence Official Languages Program Transformation Model’s short-term specific aims of: (1) having linguistically qualified personnel employed in the right place and at the right time to meet Official Languages Act obligations; (2) implementing an enhanced Official Language Awareness and Education Program; and (3) introducing a results-based performance measurement system to accurately monitor the Base’s ability to consistently provide services and instruction in the language of choice. Some of the initiatives that will be included in the Base Borden Official Languages Strategic Plan include the following:

a. the immediate implementation of awareness education by making it part of all initial indoctrination briefings so that new students and personnel awaiting training (PAT) are informed of their linguistic rights and responsibilities;

b. the immediate introduction/activation of a rapid (48-hour response time) observation and feedback mechanism that allows students and PAT to voice language concerns separate from the training chain of command, thereby circumventing potential or perceived negative consequences;

c. the immediate appointment of an Official Language Champion from within the Senior Officer Corps of CFB Borden. The Champion will engage directly with school Commandants and the Base Commander to exercise official languages oversight and to maintain focus on the official languages program and related issues, including the speedy resolution of official languages feedback and observations;

d. the immediate production and use of an out-clearance survey to monitor, on a continuous basis, language of choice issues in order to address shortfalls as they occur;

e. the immediate inclusion of official languages obligations in all current senior officer personnel development reviews and personnel evaluation reports, as a key component of the accountability framework; and

f. the immediate allocation of additional financial resources required by the current official languages program within CFB Borden’s Business Planning process.

In addition to these immediate measures, an Official Languages Policy Statement from the Base Commander will direct military and civilian leaders to comply with the Official Languages Act and to ensure the protection of language rights of CF personnel and their families. The Base Commander will also direct his staff to:

a. improve the frequency and quality of bilingual communications;

b. promote a positive official languages culture throughout CFB Borden, with particular emphasis at integral and lodger schools and units;

c. work with Career Managers to ensure that, following the 2007 Annual Posting Season, military personnel serving in bilingual functions within national-level training establishments or within service-oriented Base units meet the minimum required language profile; 

d. provide Second Language Training (SLT) opportunities for staff and students, with priority being given to those serving in bilingual functions;

e. undertake the translation of currently untranslated material required for all qualification level-three courses. This will be carried out on an ongoing basis to provide training in both official languages in compliance with the Official Languages Act;

f. appoint school and unit Coordinators of Official Languages (COLs) to assist the Official Languages Champion in promoting and addressing official languages issues;

g. continue to provide SLT opportunities to the dependents of military personnel; and

h. continue to maintain and disseminate a database of those community services that are available in both official languages.

CFB Borden expects to face a number of challenges in meeting its Official Languages Act obligations, primarily in the form of resource limitations. Requirements for additional resources have been identified and provided to the Chief Military Personnel. These include requests for additional bilingual personnel to instruct and update courseware, and additional funds to cover both one-time, up-front and longer-term, ongoing translation costs.

These requirements are currently being examined to ensure that the most practical and effective means are selected to reach the desired endstate. Fiscal and personnel resources alone will not be enough to overcome many longstanding challenges, particularly as the CF copes with other priorities requiring similar resources. Initiatives are underway to determine if innovative training patterns might be adopted to match the Functional Approach outlined in the Transformation Model, perhaps employing civilian schools, contractors and Reserve Force personnel to augment the existing bilingual Regular Force training cadre. The Training Development System must also look at which course elements must be sent for translation, most notably in cases where course material is being updated or drawn from doctrine or well-documented practice that has been published in both official languages. In sum, the training system as a whole must be engaged to develop new and innovative practices related to developing and maintaining bilingual course curriculae.

In addition to the measures described above, CFB Borden will be subject to the objectives of the forthcoming National Defence Official Languages Program Transformation Model Master Implementation Plan, including those measures related to Language of Instruction and Service Delivery. These will serve to reinforce the aforementioned Base initiatives.

As mentioned in the Chief Military Personnel’s letter dated 01 March 2007, the Chief of Review Services has been provided with a proposal to conduct an evaluation on the Language of Instruction at CF training establishments. The proposal and related draft plan are being reviewed by Chief of Review Services to determine whether his organisation is in a position to assist us in developing a concrete plan of action to address the issue of Language of Instruction (Objective 14 of the National Defence Official Languages Program Transformation Model). Discussions between the Chief Military Personnel and Chief of Review Services on this matter are ongoing. The National Defence Official Languages Program Transformation Model has clearly identified significant concerns surrounding Language of Instruction in the CF and indicated specific measures to be undertaken to address these concerns. I have, therefore, ordered that the forthcoming Transformation Model Master Implementation Plan provide a detailed outline of the steps that must be taken to effectively address the issues that you have raised related to Language of Instruction.

As one of the largest training bases in Canada, CFB Borden has important obligations and responsibilities to meet the linguistic needs of all CF members, students and their families. The Base recognizes that there is room for improvement in its compliance with the Official Languages Act and will continue to work towards improving the quality and quantity of training offered in a student’s official language of choice and in the services it offers to students and their families.

This letter provides an initial sketch of the route CFB Borden will take to foster full recognition and use of both official languages. This sketch, however, can only become a full portrait when included as an element of a comprehensive, focused and integrated CF plan, supported by consistent and appropriate resources. The Canadian Forces Base Borden Strategic Plan will significantly improve overall compliance with the Official Languages Act within CFB Borden, however, the CF as a whole must make these changes to address the issues of Language of Instruction and Service Delivery. This will be done through the proactive implementation of the National Defence Official Languages Program Transformation Model. To this end, the CF will continue to work with central agencies responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Official Languages Act.

Again, thank you for raising these concerns. I welcome your continued involvement as the CF continues to move forward in its implementation of the Official Languages Program Transformation Model.

Sincerely,
 

R.J. Hillier
General

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