Canada’s Official Languages: Highlights of 2013
The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages and the University of Ottawa formed a partnership to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism. This partnership nurtured the development of a series of lectures held in conjunction with leading educational institutions in Toronto, Moncton, Winnipeg and Montréal to discuss the history, heritage and impact of the B and B Commission. The series ended in June at the University of Ottawa with a final lecture whose participants included the first commissioner of official languages, Keith Spicer, and former governor general of Canada the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean.
New appointments, extensions, and partnerships
In February 2013, Prime Minister Stephen Harper asked Graham Fraser to stay on as Commissioner of Official Language for an additional three years. He was honoured to accept.
Katherine d’Entremont became the new commissioner of official languages for New Brunswick in June 2013. Ms. d’Entremont brings with her extensive experience and expertise in diverse sectors, such as municipal, human resources, workplace equality and official languages. Michel Carrier’s distinguished career as Commissioner ended last year with the marking of the 20th anniversary of section 16.1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the signing of an agreement to increase cooperation between his office and the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada.
In July 2013, Shelly Glover was appointed Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages. Ms. Glover has a history of success with Canada’s official languages, including being part of the first French immersion program west of Ontario and holding the position of Parliamentary Secretary of Official Languages in 2008.
Snookie Henrietta Catholique started her four-year mandate on December 1, 2013, as Languages Commissioner of the Northwest Territories.
A new roadmap for linguistic duality
The federal government unveiled its new five-year roadmap for official languages, covering investments for the period 2013 to 2018. As the cornerstone of federal initiatives in education, community development and immigration, the plan was widely commented on.
In November 2013, Canadian Parents for French and Canadian Youth for French announced the launch of a bilingual, youth-led musical and story-telling tour called O Canada! Over 46,000 students from 120 middle and high schools in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and Yukon will have the opportunity to see the performance.
Also in November, the Edmonton Public School Board launched its “French for Life!” promotional video to increase awareness of the benefits of learning French and support the promotion and expansion of French immersion programs.
Official languages acts in the news
In June 2013, amendments to update New Brunswick’s 2002 Official Languages Act were introduced by the Progressive Conservative Party and endorsed by the Liberal Opposition.
Nunavut’s Official Languages Act came into effect on April 1, 2013, establishing Inuktitut, English and French as the official languages of Nunavut. This is the first time in Canadian history that an aboriginal language has had equal status to English and French.
Celebrating PEI in both official languages
The year 2014 will mark the 150th anniversary of the 1864 Charlottetown Conference. Prince Edward Island has chosen “Forever Strong” as its 2014 theme song to celebrate and embrace the history of Canada and the spirit of the more than 150 events that will take place throughout PEI in 2014.
New resources and activities in Quebec
In March 2013, the Quebec Anglophone Heritage Network and its partners launched the Identity of English-speaking Quebec in 100 Objects Web site. These objects and the stories behind them collectively tell the history of English Quebec through the lens of that community’s most significant cultural artifacts.
Also in March, the English Language Arts Network launched an on-line platform called Made au Québec. The Web site has been developed to provide a new space to spotlight the thriving Anglo arts scene in Quebec.
The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages released a study in November 2013 called Enjoying Your Senior Years in Your Own Language, Culture and Community: Federal support from key institutions and a portrait of English-speaking seniors in Quebec. “I decided that a portrait of English-speaking seniors was needed, because there has been, until now, little data on their reality,” explained Commissioner Graham Fraser. For fast facts and figures on seniors in Quebec, check out our infographic. The study was presented at the launch of a new organization called Seniors Action Quebec. Its goal is to help maintain and enhance the vitality of English-speaking Quebec seniors by helping to identify key issues and challenges while promoting a healthy and active lifestyle.
Also in November, Commissioner Graham Fraser attended the Vanier Cup in Québec City and presented his Award of Excellence to Justin Morrow in honour of his achievements in the promotion of linguistic duality across Canada.
Celebrating Canada’s official languages at the Canada Games
Major sporting events like the Canada Games are a critical gateway for the celebration and promotion of Canadian culture and official languages. The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages was in Sherbrooke for the 2013 Canada Summer Games.
- Canada Games opening ceremony
- A message from the Commissioner of Official Languages to all of the athletes participating in the Sherbrooke Canada Games
- Advice from athlete Tannis Kemp: “Take advantage of the opportunity!”
- Alberta wrestling team, proudly wearing our “double kiss” T-shirts
- The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages’ kiosk at the Games
The double kiss T-shirt
Our double kiss T-shirt was a big hit with athletes at the Games. See our T-shirts in action at the Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke and our surprise visit with the Badgers basketball team from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Summer Games poster now on-line!
The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages presented yet another great free tool to learn both of Canada’s official languages. Order your free copy today!
2012-2013 annual report
Commissioner of Official Languages Graham Fraser tabled his seventh annual report in November 2013 on the state of Canada’s two official languages. This report was a reflection of his seven-year mandate as Commissioner. A live broadcast of his press conference to launch the annual report was held and Canadians were invited to join the conversation on Twitter. An infographic about English and French in Canadian airports was created to highlight the results of observations published in the report.
Access to justice in both official languages
On August 16, the language commissioners of Canada, New Brunswick and Ontario made 10 concrete and pragmatic recommendations to the federal Minister of Justice to ensure that Canadians have access to justice in both official languages. These recommendations are the result of a joint study on the bilingual capacity of the superior court judiciary. “The consequences of inaction are real for the citizens who must contend with the judicial system and who are not guaranteed to be heard in the official language of their choice,” said Graham Fraser at the release of the study during the Canadian Bar Association’s annual conference.
Bill C-419 Language Skills Act
Bill C-419, otherwise known as the Language Skills Act, was passed in June 2013. The Act designates 10 key positions in the federal government as bilingual.
English-French bilingualism in Canada: Where do we stand?
On May 28, 2013, Statistics Canada released a study called The evolution of English-French bilingualism in Canada from 1961 to 2011. According to the study, the number of bilingual people in Canada has continuously increased over the past 50 years, despite the slight decline in proportion in the past 10 years.
Official languages complaint form available on-line
The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages continued to move forward into the digital era, adding a new on-line complaint form in February 2013.
Published on Monday, March 31, 2014