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Public Works and Government Services Canada

4.20. Official languages obligations in procurement

  1. PWGSC must comply with the Official Languages Act and the Official Languages Regulations. The basic rule is that any member of the public in Canada has the right to communicate with and to receive available services in either official languages from federal institutions head or central office or from any office in the National Capital Region, or elsewhere where there is significant demand in that language. Relating to procurement, this generally means that a supplier may receive solicitation documents and bid in either official language.
  2. The official languages parameters provided below are pursuant to the TB Contracting Policy, Appendix F - Official Languages, Official Languages, for all federal departments and agencies that are subject to the Government Contract Regulations.
  3. When procurements are national in scopeor originate from an office having the obligation to serve the public in both official languages, pursuant to the Act and Regulations, all regular or standardized documents must be provided in both official languages. This requirement also applies to public notices, statements of terms and conditions, basic forms, bid solicitations, standards, purchase descriptions and contracts.
  4. On an exceptional basis, when a bilingual office can justify that demand will be in one language only or that it is legally and/or technically impossible to provide the non-standard documents such as specifications in both languages, those documents may be issued in one language only. When this occurs, the reason for not issuing the documents in both official languages must be clearly documented on file.
  5. Such a decision requires before the factsubstantiation. Acceptable justifications might include:
    1. an industry that has specifically requested documents in one language; and
    2. a two-stage procurement, in which second stage suppliers have all indicated that the working language is either English or French - not both.
  6. The fact that documents have never been asked for in the second official language in the past is NOT an acceptable justification. If there is subsequently a request from a supplier for documents in the second official language, the client department must be notified immediately and requested to provide a translation of the document, as soon as possible. The bidding process must be suspended while the document is being translated and the solicitation closing date must be extended, accordingly. The requester must have sufficient time, after receipt of the translated documents, to prepare a proper bid using those documents. This may require an additional extension to the closing date in order to provide equity of opportunity.
  7. When the procurement is not national in scopeor when an office of a federal institution does not have official languages obligations (i.e. unilingual offices), the solicitation documents may be prepared in the official language of the majority of the population concerned only. It is suggested that when a unilingual office anticipates significant demand for service (documents, etc.) relating to a particular procurement in the second official language, it considers transferring the file to a bilingual office before the Notice of Proposed Procurement (NPP) is issued, so that bilingual services will be available.
  8. Another reason that could justify not publishing a bilingual solicitation is when the owner of a copyright, trademark, patent, or licensed material refuses permission to have the material translated. In that case, the NPP must indicate that the documents will be issued in one language only and the reason included, when this would provide useful information to suppliers. A NPP might state: "Due to copyright restrictions, document X is available only in English or in French."
  9. Suppliers who carry out work on behalf of a department or agency in a location where the department or agency would have to provide services or communications to the public in both official languages must also do so in both official languages. This means that the Statement of Work must include the conditions to ensure that, when the public includes members of both official language communities, the supplier observes the requirements of the Act and Regulations on service to the public and, where applicable, of Treasury Board policies.
  10. While the Treasury Board Secretariat requires that contracts be available in the two official languages, PWGSC Legal services advise that only one version should be signed, that is, that selected by the contractor.