Ombudsman Paul Dubé today announced that Ms. Kelly Burke has joined his office as Ontario’s new French Language Services Commissioner. Ms. Burke, an Assistant Deputy Minister and lawyer with several years’ experience in senior roles within the Ontario Public Service, including the Ministry of Francophone Affairs, begins work in her new position this morning.
“A tremendous effort was made to find the best person in Canada to fill this role, and I am confident we have done that,” Mr. Dubé said. “I am thrilled to have found Ms. Burke and I know she will be the successful champion of language rights we all want as Commissioner. We are fortunate to have found someone of her calibre and leadership experience for this role.”
Ms. Burke will be a vital member of the Ombudsman’s Executive Management Team, at the level of Deputy Ombudsman. “With her legal skills and vast experience in government, she will be a tremendous asset to our office as a whole,” the Ombudsman said. “We look forward to working with her and are convinced that the best days for French language services in Ontario are not behind us, but ahead of us.”
Completely bilingual in both official languages, Ms. Burke most recently served as Assistant Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Colleges and Universities. Prior to that, she worked in the Ministry of Francophone Affairs from 2014 to January 2019 as Assistant Deputy Minister and Chief Administrative Officer, serving as Interim Deputy Minister for part of 2015.
She played a key role in such projects as the establishment of a monument at Queen’s Park marking the 400th anniversary of French presence in Ontario, and engaging the community in a pilot project to improve access to justice in French in Ottawa.
Ms. Burke has also held senior positions in the ministries of the Attorney General, Intergovernmental Affairs and Democratic Renewal, and Government and Consumer Services (Management Board of Cabinet, where, among other things, she was counsel to Ontario’s Conflict of Interest and French Language Services commissioners). She is a seasoned labour lawyer, and also worked as a French immersion teacher early in her career.
“It is a privilege to be part of an organization that is renowned as an agent of positive change,” Ms. Burke said of the Ombudsman’s office. “As a passionate franco-Ontarian, I sought out this role because it provides me with a unique opportunity to contribute my knowledge and experience to the promotion of French language service rights within an organization that is known to be effective. With the expertise and resources of the Ombudsman’s Office to draw upon, I am enthusiastic about what the French Language Services Unit will be able to accomplish for francophones and francophiles in Ontario.”
As of May 1, 2019, provincial legislation transferred the responsibilities of the former office of the French Language Services Commissioner to the Ombudsman. “Although my office did not solicit this mandate, we see it as an historic opportunity to enhance respect for French language service rights in Ontario, building on the legacy of the former Commissioner‘s Office,” Mr. Dubé said. “Francophones will benefit from a more powerful and impactful organization promoting their rights, and the new Commissioner will operate within a larger, more experienced organization, with a broader mandate. She will be proactive, highly visible, and accessible to the community.
“The Commissioner’s role is to be an independent, effective agent of positive change. It is also to be a champion of French language service rights. Having played a vital role in the delivery of French language services, Ms. Burke already has extensive knowledge of the key players, stakeholders and issues.”
The Ombudsman is an independent, impartial officer of the Ontario Legislature who resolves and investigates public complaints about provincial government bodies, as well as French language services, child protection services, municipalities, universities and school boards. He does not overturn decisions of elected officials or set public policy, but makes recommendations to ensure administrative fairness, transparency and accountability. The Ombudsman’s recommendations have been overwhelmingly accepted. In 2018-2019, his office received 27,419 complaints, 61% of which were resolved within two weeks.
Source: Ombudsman Ontario, Canada