Complaint Procedures and Guidelines

What kinds of complaints can the Languages Commissioner investigate?
The Languages Commissioner can investigate any allegation that the Official Languages Act has been violated.

The Official Languages Act applies to all institutions of the Legislative Assembly and GNWT departments, corporations, boards, agencies, and courts established by the authority of the Legislative Assembly. The Act does not apply to municipal or community governments or private businesses.

Following are some examples of government boards and agencies covered by the Official Languages Act:

All departments of the GNWT
Aurora College
Boards of Education
Health Authorities
Labour Standards Board of the Northwest Territories
Legal Services Board of the Northwest Territories
NWT Water Board
Workers’ Compensation Board
Highway Transportation Board
NWT Council on the Status of Women
NWT Housing Corporation
NWT Business Credit Corporation
NWT Development Corporation
NWT Power Corporation
Science Institute of the NWT

What kinds of complaints can’t the Languages Commissioner investigate?

The Official Languages Act does not apply to municipal or community governments, private business, or other private institutions. As such, the Languages Commissioner cannot investigate complaints against these agencies.

Some types of complaints that cannot be investigated:

Complaints against private companies or individuals
Complaints regarding federal programs
Complaints against municipalities
Complaints regarding native bands
Complaints regarding unions
When should I bring a complaint to the Languages Commissioner?

If you believe that your rights under the Official Languages Act have been violated, then you have the right to bring a complaint to the Languages Commissioner. However, it is usually best to think of the Languages Commissioner as a last resort – someone who will help you when other approaches have failed.

If you have a problem, first discuss it with the person or office involved. Many times they will deal with the matter on the spot, and sometimes they can correct a problem immediately. In fact, government staff can often solve problems quicker and more easily than the Languages Commissioner.

When trying to solve a problem on your own, consider the following:

Be prepared. Write down your concerns, and have all the information you need to discuss the issues.
Do not be bashful about writing and calling government offices.
Be pleasant. Government workers do not like rudeness any more than you do.
Keep good records and take notes. Ask for the names of any employees you talk to, and save all your notes.
Do not be afraid to ask questions.
If you have made reasonable efforts to resolve your problem and still have not had any success, then you should contact the Languages Commissioner. If you decide to contact the Languages Commissioner, be prepared to give details of your complaint:

Start at the beginning. How and why do you think your rights were violated under the Official Languages Act? When did it happen? What happened? Include all dates.
Give details. What did people say or do that you believe violated your rights under the Act? What did you say or do to respond? Use quotation marks to show when the words are “exactly what the person said”.
Include copies of all documents that are related to your complaint, including letters and emails.