Official Languages Policy

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council & Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
Parts IV, V, VI, and VII (section 41) of the Official Languages Act

Effective Date

This policy takes effect on July 1, 2015. It replaces the following policies:

  • SSHRC Official Languages Policy Parts IV, V, and VI (March 2011);
  • SSHRC Official Languages Policy Part VII (section 41) (June 2012);
  • NSERC Official Languages Policy Parts IV, V, and VI (March 2011); and
  • NSERC Official Languages Policy Part VII (section 41) (June 2013).


The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Official Languages Act (OLA) and the Official Languages Regulations are the three authorities that form the basis for official languages programs and policies in federal institutions in Canada.

According to the OLA, every federal institution, including the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), must ensure respect of the rights of individual Canadians to receive services from, and to work in, federal institutions in the official language of their choice.

In addition, Part VII (section 41) of the OLA requires that all federal institutions adopt positive measures to enhance the vitality of Canada’s Official Language Minority Communities (OLMCs), support and assist the development of those OLMCs, and foster the full recognition and use of both English and French throughout Canadian society.


To inform the research community and the Canadian public on how SSHRC and NSERC (“the agencies”) are meeting their official languages obligations, and to provide staff and management at the agencies with direction as to their rights and obligations under the OLA, with respect to:

  • Communications with and services to the public (Part IV);
  • Language of Work (Part V);
  • Equitable participation of both official language groups in employment and advancement within the granting agencies (Part VI); and
  • Promotion of linguistic duality and recognition of the realities specific to OLMCs (Part VII, section 41).

Policy Statement

The policy reflects the agencies’ commitment— within the context of their activities and decisions—to meet and comply with official languages legislative obligations.

The policy also reflects the agencies’ shared values of excellence, integrity, respect for people, stewardship and respect for democracy, as well as those outlined in the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector.

With this policy, the agencies:

  • Recognize English and French as their official languages. They commit to taking concrete and positive measures to serve members of the Canadian public in their official language of choice, to build an exemplary workplace respectful of linguistic duality and to actively promote official languages.
  • Recognize the value of Canada’s linguistic duality and the realities specific to OLMCs (Francophone communities outside of Quebec, or Anglophone communities within Quebec).
  • Aim to facilitate equitable access to their programs and services for these communities.

Application and Scope

The policy applies to all the agencies’ activities.

The implementation of the policy shall be carried out while respecting the jurisdiction and powers of the provinces.

Policy Requirements

The agencies are required to do the following:

  • Communicate with and provide services to the public in both official languages:
    • Ensure that the public can communicate with and obtain services, both orally and in writing, in English and French in regions designated bilingual.
    • Ensure that appropriate measures be taken to clearly indicate to members of the public their right to communicate with, and to receive services from, the agencies, in the official language of their choice.
    • Provide members of the public with materials (calls for proposal, competition postings, press conferences, news releases, etc.) in both official languages, simultaneously and of equivalent quality, regardless of delivery method.
    • Ensure that all signs identifying the agencies’ offices or facilities are in both official languages.
    • Actively offer services in both English and French.
  • Create and maintain a work environment conducive to the effective use of both official languages in regions designated as bilingual for language-of-work purposes:
    • Respect the right of incumbents of bilingual positions to work and be supervised in the official language of their choice in regions designated as bilingual for language-of-work purposes.
    • Make regularly and widely used work instruments, including software products, available simultaneously in both official languages.
    • Provide personal and central services, including training, to employees in the official language of their choice.
  • Provide equal opportunities for employment and advancement, in all occupational groups and levels within the granting agencies, to both English- and French-speaking Canadians, provided they meet all qualifications for the position.
  • Provide directives on meeting and managing official languages obligations:
    • Determine the language requirement(s) of a position, taking into account the clients to be served, to ensure services are provided, both orally and in writing, in the official language of the client’s choice.
    • Provide information on the administration of second language evaluation and outline the conditions for eligibility of the Bilingualism Bonus.
    • Provide information on access to language training.
  • Implement Part VII (section 41) of the OLA
    • Adopt positive measures to ensure compliance with Part VII (section 41) of the OLA;
    • Ensure awareness among the agencies’ staff and management about their responsibilities with respect to Part VII (section 41);
    • Increase knowledge and inclusion, where appropriate, of OLMC concerns in the development of the agencies’ corporate strategies, policies and programs;
    • Inform the broader research community about linguistic duality and OLMCs in Canada;
    • Ensure OLMC institutions have equitable access to the agencies’ programs and information; 
    • Ensure accountability on the agencies’ results in the implementation of Part VII (section 41); and
    • Ensure integration of responsibilities related to Part VII (section 41) in the agencies’ strategies, policies, programs and services.

Policy Implementation

The implementation of the official languages policy is supported by directives, tools and an action plan.

Directives and Tools

Directives and tools are meant to facilitate policy implementation. They provide practical guidance on how to ensure compliance with some of the policy requirements.

Some examples of such tools include:

  • Communications with and Services to the Public;
  • Language of Work;
  • Linguistic Identification of Positions;
  • Second Language Evaluations and Bilingual Bonuses;
  • Official Languages in Staffing;
  • Language Training, Development and Maintenance;
  • Advancement of French and English;
  • Self-assessment Checklist for Managers: to assist in identifying where improvements are required and in preparing an action plan to take appropriate corrective measures; and
  • Official Languages Learning Toolbox.

Official languages directives and tools are made available to staff and management through the agencies’ respective intranets and by other means, as appropriate.

Action plan

The action plan is a tool to plan, harmonize and coordinate official languages-related activities, to identify leads and to monitor progress.

Monitoring and Reporting

The agencies’ official languages practices are tracked and monitored on an ongoing basis. Data on official languages is kept up-to-date to report on commitments and, when required, to adjust practices. It is used to prepare documents including:

  • Official languages action plans;
  • Corporate and divisional HR dashboards; and
  • Reports to Canadian Heritage, Treasury Board Secretariat and the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages.


Official languages complaints received from employees, managers, the public or the Commissioner of Official Languages are investigated by the agencies.

Complaints do not necessarily mean there has been non-compliance. If the complaint is substantiated, corrective measures will be taken to ensure compliance.

If the policy requirements described above have not been met, please contact us.


The agencies will review and adapt the policy every three years, as well as update the action plan. Amendments to the policy will only be made with the approval of SSHRC’s Senior Management Committee (SMC) and NSERC’s Executive Management Committee (EMC).


The agencies’ official languages policy and directives have been developed in the context of the following acts, regulations and policies:

  • Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms;
  • Official Languages Act;
  • Official Languages Regulations;
  • Regions designated bilingual for language-of-work purposes;
  • SSHRC’s Collective Agreement and NSERC’s Terms and Conditions of Employment;
  • Delegation of HR Management Functional Authorities;
  • Learning and Development policies;
  • Staffing policies; and
  • Treasury Board Secretariat’s policies and directives.


Enquiries relating to this policy should be directed to Human Resources.