As an ombudsman, the Commissioner of Official Languages is responsible for ensuring that federal institutions respect your language rights.
In some cases, however, the Commissionerís investigation may not produce the desired results or the institution may not follow up on the Commissionerís recommendations.
If so, one option that may be available to you under the Official Languages Act is to take your case to court. This option is called a ďcourt remedy.Ē
What is a court remedy?
The court remedy is provided for in Part X of the Official Languages Act. It allows you to initiate legal proceedings against the federal institution that was the subject of your complaint. If the Federal Court concludes that the institution failed to comply with the Official Languages Act, it can order that corrective measures be taken.
If you apply for a remedy under Part X of the Official Languages Act, the Commissioner may intervene with leave of the Court. The Act also authorizes the Commissioner to apply to the Court himself or appear on your behalf.What is the time frame for applying for a court remedy?
The Official Languages Act states that the court remedy must be applied for
- within 60 days of your being informed of the following:
- the Commissionerís decision to refuse to investigate your complaint;
- the Commissionerís decision to cease to investigate your complaint;
- the results of the Commissionerís investigation of your complaint;
- the results of a follow-up to the investigation;
- six months after a complaint is filed, if you have not been informed of the results of the investigation or of the Commissionerís decision to refuse or cease to investigate your complaint.
For what type of complaint can I apply to the Court for a remedy?
Members of the public, including federal public service employees, may apply for a court remedy if they have filed a complaint with the Commissioner concerning a right or duty stemming from:
the provisions concerning the advancement of English and French (sections 41 to 48);
section 91, which deals with the application of official languages requirements to a staffing action.
It should be noted that seeking a court remedy under the Official Languages Act does not prohibit you from pursuing other legal recourse.
How do I apply to the Court for a remedy?
Applying for a court remedy involves drafting several complex legal documents (including a notice of application, affidavits and a memorandum of fact and law). Therefore, it is advisable that you hire a lawyer if you decide to go to court; however, it is not necessary to do so. For information on the procedures to follow when applying for a remedy, contact the office of the registry of the Federal Court.
What will it cost to apply for a court remedy?
It is difficult to predict how much it will cost to seek a court remedy. Generally speaking, however, you should anticipate covering the following:
- a filing fee payable to the Federal Court;
- lawyer's fees;
- costs related to the production of documents; and
- legal costs and expenses of the other party, to be paid at the Court's discretion, if your case is lost.
However, if the Federal Court is of the opinion that your case has raised an important new principle in relation to the interpretation of the Official Languages Act, it may award costs to you even if your application is dismissed.