12 significant events in 2012
Year of the Fransaskois
The Government of Saskatchewan gave the province’s French-speaking community important symbolic recognition by designating 2012 as the Year of the Fransaskois, at the same time commemorating the 100th anniversary of the first advocacy group for the Francophone community. In the past year, numerous activities were organized to recognize the community’s contribution to the development of the province, celebrate its history and forge new ties.
The controversial appointment of a unilingual Anglophone to the position of Auditor General caused a media furor in 2011 and led to an investigation by our office. The New Democratic Party reacted by tabling a bill in the spring of 2012 to make bilingualism an essential nomination criterion for 10 agents of Parliament, including the Auditor General, the Information Commissioner and the Commissioner of Official Languages.
Any initial misgivings about the bill’s longevity have been laid to rest with the Harper government’s decision to support the bill “in principle.” To be continued in 2013!
New roadmap in the works
In 2012, nation-wide consultations were held in preparation for the next phase of the Roadmap for Canada’s Linguistic Duality, which expires in March 2013. In total, some 2,600 people shared their points of view with the government about the next official languages strategy. We will find out what the new plan contains and how much has been budgeted for it in 2013.
- Notes for an appearance before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages - Evaluation of the Roadmap for Canada’s Linguistic Duality 2008–2013: Acting for the Future
- Bilingualism consultations launched in N.B.
- Harper Government Consults Canadians on the Next Phase of the Roadmap for Canada’s Linguistic Duality
- Harper lance des consultations sur les langues officielles (In French only)
- Consultation langues officielles, premier bilan (In French only)
Francophonie events in Québec City
In July, close to 1,400 delegates from 100 countries met in Québec City to discuss the future of French in the world at the very first French Language World Forum. A short time before that, in May, the provincial capital also hosted the Canadian Francophonie Forum, which was attended by some 400 delegates from all of Canada’s provinces and territories. These were two wonderful opportunities to discuss common issues and make connections!
NWT Francophone community gets the win
On June 1, after a long wait, French-speaking parents in Hay River and Yellowknife finally got the news they were hoping for: the two Francophone schools in the Northwest Territories will be expanded, and get new gyms, labs and daycare facilities. The French school board will also be able to manage its own admissions. This is an important victory not only for NWT Francophones, but for minority French schools throughout Canada.
Improving New Brunswick’s Official Languages Act
New Brunswick’s Official Languages Act, adopted in 2002, stipulates that the Act must be reviewed before December 31, 2012. The provincial government therefore undertook the review this year and held public consultations. Some 30 organizations, as well as the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, suggested improvements with regard to French in the workplace, the language of signs and the role of the Commissioner of Official Languages. A Select Committee will study the proposals and make recommendations to the government in 2013.
Grand Pré named UNESCO World Heritage Site
This summer, Nova Scotia’s Grand Pré historic park was added to the list of UNESCO world heritage sites as a “cultural landscape.” When Grand Pré’s new status was announced, René Légère, president of the National Acadian Society, said in an interview, “It’s a big day for Acadie. This decision recognizes the beauty and heritage of Grand Pré and an important (part) of the history of the Acadian people.”
Founded in 1682, Grand Pré is the place where the Acadian deportations began in 1755. The Mi’kmaq presence and the arrival of the Planters after the Great Upheaval are also among the important cultural features associated with Grand Pré.
An initiative by the Quebec Community Groups Network resulted this year in the creation of "Notre Home", a bilingual anthem on the identity of English-speaking Quebecers. Written by David Hodges and a group of Montréal artists calling themselves The Honest Family, the song talks about the sense of belonging of young English-speaking Quebecers and aims at building bridges between language groups in the province.
A new family portrait
Canadians were eagerly awaiting the findings of the 2011 Census, and so when Statistics Canada published the data on language in October, it generated a lot of ink.
One of the things that caught the media’s attention was Canada’s growing linguistic diversity, a phenomenon that saw the percentage of households speaking at least two languages rise from 14.2% in 2006 to 17.5% in 2011. The rate of French-English bilingualism across Canada increased slightly from 17.4% in 2006 to 17.5% in 2011, and there are now more Francophones in Alberta, British Columbia, the three territories, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Ontario.
Fraser and Boileau join forces
On November 26, Canada’s Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser, and Ontario’s French Language Services Commissioner, François Boileau, signed an agreement to allow their organizations to work together and share information.
“Citizens who contact us don’t always know which services fall under the federal government and which fall under the provincial government,” said Commissioner Fraser. “Better communication between our offices will help us to react more quickly and efficiently to problems identified by the public.”
The vital role of CBC/Radio-Canada
In November, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission held public hearings regarding the licence renewal of 11 CBC and Radio-Canada radio and television channels. Many people who participated in the hearings, including Commissioner Graham Fraser, underlined the vital role played by the public broadcaster with respect to Canadian culture and, in particular, official language minority communities.
- Radio-Canada's Quebec-centric focus doesn't meet licence mandate, study claims
- Notes for an appearance before the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission - CBC/Radio-Canada licence renewal
- Audiences du CRTC sur Radio-Canada : plaidoyers pour les minorités linguistiques (In French only)
A new French Language Charter?
In early December, the Quebec government tabled a bill to amend the Charter of the French Language. The bill addresses the use of French in workplaces, schools and businesses, including measures to promote the learning of French in English CEGEPs and restricting the use of “bridging” schools. In addition, the right to live and work in French would be written into the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. Quebecers will have an opportunity to share their views on the bill during on-line consultations in February and public hearings in March.
Published on Friday, December 21, 2012