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"politics and government of
The official languages of Canada are "English and "French, which "have equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all institutions of the "Parliament and "Government of Canada," according to Canada's constitution. Official bilingualism is the term used in "Canada to collectively describe the policies, constitutional provisions, and laws that ensure legal equality of English and French in the Parliament and courts of Canada, protect the linguistic rights of English and French-speaking minorities in different provinces, and ensure a level of government services in both languages across Canada.
In addition to the symbolic designation of English and French as "official languages, official bilingualism is generally understood to include any law or other measure that:
At the provincial level, "New Brunswick officially recognizes the equal status of French and English. While French has equal legal status in Manitoba restored due to "a court ruling that struck down seventy-year-old English-only laws in 1985, in practice, French language services are only provided in some regions of the province. "Quebec has declared itself officially unilingual (French only). Alberta and Saskatchewan are also considered unilingual (English only). In practice, all provinces, including Quebec, offer some services in both English and French and some publicly funded education in both official languages up to the high school level (English language postsecondary education institutions are also present in Quebec, as are French language postsecondary institutions in other provinces, in particular in Ontario and New Brunswick). English and French are official languages in all three territories. In addition, "Inuktitut is also an official language in "Nunavut, and nine aboriginal languages have official status in the "Northwest Territories.
French has been a language of government in the part of Canada that is today Quebec, with limited interruptions, since the arrival of the first French settlers in Canada in 1604 (Acadians) and in 1608 in Quebec, and has been entrenched in the Constitution of Canada since 1867. English has been a language of government in each of the provinces since their inception as British colonies.
Institutional bilingualism in various forms therefore predates the Canadian Confederation in 1867. However, for many years English occupied a de facto privileged position, and French was not fully equal. The two languages have gradually achieved a greater level of equality in most of the provinces, and full equality at the federal level. In the 1970s French in Quebec became the province's official language.
English and French have had limited constitutional protection since 1867. Section 133 of the "Constitution Act, 1867 guarantees that both languages may be used in the Parliament of Canada, in its journals and records, and in court proceedings in any court established by the Parliament of Canada. The section also mandates that all Acts of the Parliament of Canada be printed and published in both languages. Guarantees for the equal status of the two official languages are provided in sections 16–23 of the "Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which became law in 1982. Sections 16–19 guarantee the equal status of both languages in Parliament, in all federal government institutions, and in federal courts. These sections also mandate that all statutes, records and journals of Parliament be published in both languages, with the English and French versions both holding equal status before the courts. "Section 20 guarantees the right of the Canadian public to communicate in English and French with any central government office or with regional offices where there is "a significant demand for communication with and services from that office". Significant demand is not defined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. One of the purposes of the "Official Languages Act of 1988 was to remedy this omission.
"Section 21 ensured that the new Charter of Rights and Freedoms would be read as supplementing, rather than replacing any rights of the English and French languages, which had been constitutionalized prior to 1982. "Section 22 ensured that the new Charter of Rights and Freedoms would not be interpreted by the courts as placing any new restrictions on non-official languages.
Section 23 provides a limited right to receive publicly funded primary and secondary-schooling in the two official languages when they are "in a minority situation"—in other words, to English-language schooling in Quebec, and to French-language schooling in the rest of the country.
The right applies asymmetrically because section 59 of the Constitution Act, 1982, provides that not all of the language rights listed in section 23 will apply in Quebec. Specifically:
None of these education language rights precludes parents from placing their children in a private school (which they pay for) in the language of their choice; it applies only to subsidized public education.
One practical consequence of this asymmetry is that all migrants who arrive in Quebec from foreign countries only have access to French-language public schools for their children. This includes immigrants whose mother tongue is English and immigrants who received their schooling in English. On the other hand, Section 23 provides a nearly universal right to English-language schooling for the children of Canadian-born anglophones living in Quebec.
Section 23 also provides, subject only to the "where numbers warrant" restriction, a right to French-language schooling for the children of all francophones living outside Quebec, including immigrants from French-speaking countries who settle outside Quebec, and who are Canadian citizens.
However, admission to French-language schools outside Quebec remains restricted in some ways it is not in Quebec. In particular, rights holder parents who choose to enrol their child in English school may thereby deprive that child's descendants of the right to attend French school. In Quebec, under article 76.1 of the Charter of the French Language, rights holders do not deprive their descendants of the right to an English-language education by choosing to enroll their children in French school. (This applies if certain administrative steps are taken at each generation. Otherwise, the right may still be transmitted to grandchildren under article 76.)
Another element of asymmetry between Quebec and most anglophone provinces is that while Quebec provides public English-language primary and secondary education throughout the province, most other provinces provide French-language education only "where numbers warrant".
There are some further restrictions on minority-language education rights:
The phrase, "where numbers ... warrant" is not defined in Section 23. Education is under provincial jurisdiction, which means that it has not been possible for Parliament to enact a single nationwide definition of the term, as the 1988 Official Languages Act did for the constitutional obligation to provide federal services where “there is a sufficient demand.” As a result, disputes over the extent of the right to a publicly funded minority-language education have been the source of much litigation.
The defining case was "Mahe v. Alberta (1990), in which the "Supreme Court of Canada declared that section 23 guaranteed a "sliding scale". In certain circumstances, the children whose parents could exercise the right might be so few that literally no minority language education may be provided by the government. With a greater number of children, some schools might be required to provide "classrooms in which the children could receive minority language education. An even greater number would require the "construction of new schools dedicated solely to minority language education. More recent cases, which have significantly extended these rights, include "Arsenault-Cameron v. Prince Edward Island (2000) and "Doucet-Boudreau v. Nova Scotia (Minister of Education) (2003).
Many of the documents in Canada's Constitution do not have an official French-language version; for legal purposes only the English-language version is official and any French translations are unofficial. In particular, the "Constitution Act, 1867 (which created Canada as a legal entity and still contains the most important provisions of governmental powers) has no official French-language version, because it was enacted by the United Kingdom Parliament, which functions in the English language exclusively. Similarly, all other parts of the Constitution that were enacted by the United Kingdom (with the important exception of the "Canada Act 1982) have no official French-language version.
Sections 55–57 of the Constitution Act, 1982 set out a framework for changing this situation. Section 55 calls for French versions of all parts of the Constitution that exist only in English to be prepared as quickly as possible. Section 56 provided that, following adoption of the French versions, both the English-language and French-language versions would be equally authoritative. To avoid the situation where an inaccurately translated French version would have a weight equal to the English original, Section 55 requires that the French-language versions be approved using the same process under which actual constitutional amendments are adopted.
Pursuant to section 55, a French Constitutional Drafting Committee produced French-language versions of all the British North America Acts in the decade following 1982. However, these versions were never ratified under the Constitution’s amendment procedure, and therefore have never been officially adopted.
Section 57 states that the “English and French versions of this Act [ie. the Constitution Act, 1982] are equally authoritative.” The purpose of this provision is to clear up any ambiguity that might have existed about the equal status of the two versions as a result of the novel way in which this part of Canada's supreme law came into force. Had the Constitution Act, 1982 been enacted as most preceding amendments to Canada's constitution had been, as a statute of the British parliament, it would, like any other British statute, have been an English-only document. Instead, the British parliament enacted a very concise law, (the "Canada Act 1982), written in English only. The operative clauses of the Canada Act, 1982 simply state that an appendix to the Act (the appendix is formally referred to as a "schedule") is to be integrated into the Canadian constitution. The schedule contains the complete text of the Constitution Act, 1982, in both English and French.
Canada adopted its first Official Languages Act in 1969, in response to the recommendations of the "Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism. The current Official Languages Act was adopted in 1988 to improve the 1969 law's efforts to address two basic policy objectives: (1) to specify the powers, duties and functions of federal institutions relevant to official languages; (2) to support the development of linguistic minority communities. As well, following the adoption in 1982 of the Charter of Rights, it was necessary to create a legislative framework within which the Government of Canada could respect its new constitutional obligations regarding the official languages.
In addition to formalizing Charter provisions in Parts I through IV, the Act adopts several specific measures to achieve these objectives. For example, Part V specifies that the work environment in federal institutions in the "National Capital Region and other prescribed bilingual regions be conducive to accommodating the use of French and English at work. Part VI mandates that English-speaking Canadians and French-speaking Canadians not be discriminated against based on ethnic origin or first language learned when it comes to employment opportunities and advancement.
Finally, the Act establishes a "Commissioner of Official Languages and specifies his duties to hear and investigate complaints, make recommendations to Parliament, and delegate authority in matters pertaining to official languages in Canada. Canada's current Commissioner of Official Languages is "Raymond Théberge.
Section 32 of the Official Languages Act authorizes the Governor in Council (i.e., the federal cabinet) to issue regulations that define the geographic regions where the federal government offers services in the relevant minority language (English in Quebec and French elsewhere).
This provides a legal definition for the otherwise vague requirement that services be provided in the minority official languages wherever there is "significant demand." The definition used in the regulations is complex, but basically an area of the country is served in both languages if at least 5,000 persons in that area, or 5% of the local population (whichever is smaller), belongs to that province's English or French linguistic minority population.
Regulations were first promulgated in 1991.
Book I Chapter 1.C of the report of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, published on 8 October 1967, acknowledges the international influence on Canadian language policy:
Compared to other bilingual states-among them Finland, South Africa, and Belgium, which we shall discuss later-Canada is fortunate that her official languages both have international status…
In Canada, however, one of the two language groups begins with a considerable advantage. As the national language of the United States, one of the most powerful countries of the world, English has a massive preponderance in North America. Thus the English-language group in this country draws much of its strength from the English-speaking population of our neighbour. The French-language group is, on the other hand, a minority on the North American continent and suffers from its isolation not only from France but from the other French speaking peoples of the world.
The introduction to Book I of the report of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism published on 8 October 1967, states:
"Our terms of reference contain no allusion to Canada's native populations. They speak of 'two founding races', namely Canadians of British and French origin, and 'other ethnic groups', but mention neither the Indians nor the Eskimos."
Book II Chapter V.E of the same report, published on 23 May 1968, states that the government's policy with reference to indigenous Canadians is "to integrate these students as completely as possible into the existing provincial school systems".
This last statement is reinforced by the Honourable Jean Chrétien, Minister of Indian Affairs, in Statement of the Government of Canada on Indian Policy (the White Paper) presented in 1969 when he states that "the Indian culture can be preserved, perpetuated and developed only by the Indian people themselves".
The Report of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, Book I, General Introduction, Paragraph 19, states:
"Still, as we have pointed out earlier, there is such a thing as a French culture and a British culture. Of course, the differences between them are not as great as they would be if either were compared to one of the many Asian or African cultures. In Canada, the Anglophones and the Francophones wear the same sort of clothing, live in the same sort of houses, and use the same tools . They are very similar in their social behaviour, belong to religions which are not exclusive, and share the same general knowledge. To a greater or lesser extent, they share a North American way of living."
The issue of proportional hiring and promotion of speakers of both official languages has been an issue in Canadian politics since before Confederation. Members of each linguistic group have complained of injustice when their group have been represented, in public service hiring and promotion, in numbers less than would be justified by their proportion of the national population. For the greater part of Canada’s history, French-speakers were underrepresented, and English-speakers were overrepresented in the ranks of the public service, and the disproportion became more pronounced in the more senior ranks of public servants. However, this trend has reversed itself in recent decades.
The first high-profile complaint of preferential hiring took place in 1834. One of the "Ninety-Two Resolutions of the "Lower Canadian House of Assembly drew attention to the fact that French Canadians, who at the time were 88% of the colony's population, held only 30% of the posts in the 157-member colonial civil service. Moreover, the resolution stated, French Canadians were, "for the most part, appointed to the inferior and less lucrative offices, and most frequently only obtaining even them, by becoming the dependent of those [British immigrants] who hold the higher and the more lucrative offices...."
With the advent of "responsible government in the 1840s, the power to make civil service appointments was transferred to elected politicians, who had a strong incentive to ensure that French Canadian voters did not feel that they were being frozen out of hiring and promotions. Although no formal reform of the hiring and promotion process was ever undertaken, the patronage-driven hiring process seems to have produced a more equitable representation of the two language groups. In the period between 1867 and the turn of the Twentieth Century, French-Canadians made up about one-third of the Canadian population, and seem also to have represented about one-third of civil service appointments at junior levels, although they had only about half that much representation at the most senior level.
Polls show that Canadians consistently and strongly support two key aspects of Canadian official languages policy:["citation needed]
However, among English-speaking Canadians there is only limited support for broadening the scope of official bilingualism, and reservations exist among Anglophones as to the intrusiveness and/or fairness of the policy. Among Francophones, polls have revealed no such reservations.
Among Anglophones, support for providing federal French-language services to French-speakers living outside Quebec has remained consistently high over a quarter-century period—79% in 1977 and 76% in 2002. Over the same period, support among English-speakers for the "right to French language education outside Quebec where numbers make costs reasonable" has ranged from 79% to 91%. Among French-speaking Canadians, support for these policies was even higher.
The national consensus has, at times, broken down when other aspects of official bilingualism are examined. However, a significant shift in anglophone opinion has occurred since the mid-2000s, in favour of bilingualism.
According to a review of three decades' worth of poll results published in 2004 by Andre Turcotte and Andrew Parkin, "Francophones in Quebec are almost unanimous in their support of the official languages policy" but "there is a much wider variation in opinion among Anglophones ..."
This variation can be seen, for example, in responses to the question, "Are you, personally, in favour of bilingualism for all of Canada?" Between 1988 and 2003, support for this statement among Francophones ranged between 79% and 91%, but among Anglophones support was never higher than 48%, and fell as low as 32% in the early 1990s. The ebb in support for bilingualism among anglophones can likely be attributed to political developments in the late 1980s and 1990s, including the failure of the "Meech Lake Accord, and the 1995 referendum on Quebec independence.
By 2006, affirmative responses to the question "Are you personally in favour of bilingualism for all of Canada?" had increased considerably, with 72% of Canadians (and 64% of anglophones) agreeing. 70% of Canadians, and 64% of anglophones were "in favour of bilingualism for [their] province". Support for bilingualism is thought likely to continue to increase, as young anglophones are more favourable to it than their elders.
According to Turcotte and Parkin, other poll data reveal that "in contrast to Francophones, Anglophones, in general, have resisted putting more government effort and resources into promoting bilingualism ... What is revealing, however, is that only 11% of those outside Quebec said they disagreed with bilingualism in any form. Opposition seems to be directed to the actions of the federal government, rather than to bilingualism itself ... [T]his distinction is key to understanding public opinion on the issue." This helps to explain results that would otherwise seem contradictory, such as a 1994 poll in which 56% of Canadians outside Quebec indicated that they either strongly or moderately supported official bilingualism, but 50% agreed with a statement that "the current official bilingualism policy should be scrapped because it's expensive and inefficient."
In English Canada, there is some regional variation in attitudes towards federal bilingualism policy, but it is relatively modest when compared to the divergence between the views expressed by Quebecers and those expressed in the rest of the country. For example, in a poll conducted in 2000, only 22% of Quebecers agreed with the statement, “We have gone too far in pushing bilingualism,” while positive response rates in English Canada ranged from a low of 50% in the Atlantic to a high of 65% in the Prairies.
Both French-speaking and English-speaking Canadians tend to regard the capacity to speak the other official language as having cultural and economic value, and both groups have indicated that they regard bilingualism as an integral element of the Canadian national identity. Once again, however, there is a marked divergence between the responses of French-speaking and English-speaking Canadians. In a 2003 poll, 75% of Francophones indicated that "having two official languages, English and French" made them proud to be Canadian. Among English-speakers, 55% said that bilingualism made them proud, but far higher percentages (86% and 94%, respectively) indicated that multiculturalism and the Charter of Rights made them feel proud.
From time to time, boards or panels are commissioned, either by the federal government or the government of one of the provinces, to conduct hearings into the public’s views on matters of policy. Some of these hearings have dealt largely, or even primarily, with official languages policy, and the responses that they have collected provide snapshots into the state of public opinion at particular points in time.
The Advisory Committee on the Official Languages of New Brunswick was commissioned by the provincial legislature as a way of determining the response of the population to the 1982 Poirier-Bastarache Report, which had recommended a considerable expansion of French-language services. Public hearings were conducted in twelve cities and towns across the province in 1985, and a report was submitted by the committee in 1986.
The briefs submitted to the Advisory Committee were subsequently summarized in an academic study of the hearings in the following terms:
|“||Qualitative analysis illustrate[s] that, as the majority, anglophones are reticent about extending opportunities and services to the francophone minority for fear of placing themselves at a disadvantage, whether it be in the education system or civil service employment. Francophones, as the minority, resent the anglophone hesitancy to make available rights and privileges secured under the Official Languages Act of New Brunswick of 1969 and the Constitution Act (1982) ... They favour their own schools, control over their education, increased access to civil service positions and services in their own language through separate institutions and administrations.||”|
In late 1990, a six-man Citizens’ Forum on Canada’s Future was established by the federal government with a mandate to engage in "a dialogue and discussion with and among Canadians ... to discuss the values and characteristics fundamental to the well-being of Canada". The Forum, which was headed by former Commissioner of Official Languages Keith Spicer, published a report in June 1991, which included a detailed discussion of Canadians’ reactions to a variety of issues, including federal official languages policy.
These comments, which probably represent the most extensive consultation ever with Canadians on the subject of official bilingualism, were compiled statistically by the Spicer Commission, and tend to reinforce the findings of pollsters, that Canadians are favourable towards bilingual services, but frustrated with the implementation of official languages policy. Thus, for example, nearly 80% of group discussions sponsored by the Commission produced favourable comments from participants on what the Commission's report refers to as "bilingualism generally", but nearly 80% of these discussions produced negative comments on "official languages policy".
These results prompted Spicer to write,
|“||Canada's use of two official languages is widely seen as a fundamental and distinctive Canadian characteristic. Among many, especially the young, the ability to speak, read and write both French and English is accepted as a significant personal advantage. Even many parents who dislike "official bilingualism" are eager to enrol their children in French immersion.
On the other hand, we find that the application of the official languages policy is a major irritant outside Quebec, and not much appreciated inside Quebec ... In spite of real and needed progress in linguistic fair play in federal institutions, a sometimes mechanical, overzealous, and unreasonably costly approach to the policy has led to decisions to that have helped bring it into disrepute. Citizens tell us that bilingual bonuses, costly translation of technical manuals of very limited use, public servants' low use of hard-acquired French-language training, excessive designation of bilingual jobs, and a sometimes narrow, legalistic approach are sapping a principle they would otherwise welcome as part of Canada's basic identity.
A number of groups exist, which, as part of their mandate, seek to promote official bilingualism or to extend the scope of the policy (although advocacy is not always the sole, or even the primary activity, of the groups). Among these groups:
A number of groups have existed, since the first "Official Languages Act was proclaimed in 1969, which sought to end official bilingualism or to reduce the scope of the policy. Among these groups:
In the first decade or so following the 1969 adoption of the Act, opposition to the new policy sometimes took a radical form that has subsequently nearly disappeared. Books such as Jock V. Andrew's "Bilingual Today, French Tomorrow, advocated either the repeal of the Official Languages Act or an end to the policy of official bilingualism. "Leonard Jones, the mayor of "Moncton, New Brunswick, was an aggressive opponent of bilingualism in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Jones challenged the validity of the Official Languages Act in court, arguing that the subject matter was outside the jurisdiction of the federal government. In 1974, the "Supreme Court of Canada ruled against Jones, and "found the law constitutional. In 1991, a local resurgence in anti-bilingualism sentiments allowed the "Confederation of Regions Party to win 21.2% of the vote in New Brunswick's provincial election and to briefly form the "official opposition with eight seats in the "provincial legislature.
Some organizations or individuals within certain movements also propose introducing a more inclusive language policy either via official multilingualism, or an official unilingual language policy in an auxiliary language so as to intrude minimally into the first-language choice of residents. Such ideas are sometimes inspired by Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights relating to discrimination on the basis of language, and Article 26(3) of the same Declaration so as to give parents the freedom “to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.” Others can be inspired by religious or other beliefs.
Assembly of First Nations: National First Nations Language Strategy, presented by the Assembly of First Nations on 5 July 2007, inspired by previous statements including the report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples presented in 1996, rejects official bilingualism in favour of linguistic equality for speakers of indigenous languages:
“First Nations seek legislated protection via a First Nations Languages Act that would be consistent with First Nations and Government of Canada laws dealing with languages.”
The issues on which Canada’s political parties have most recently shown divergent voting patterns are two "private members’ bills.
The first, An Act to amend the Official Languages Act (Charter of the French Language) (Bill C-482), was introduced by Bloc MP "Pauline Picard. If adopted, it would have had the effect of amending the Official Languages Act, the Canada Labour Code, and the Canada Business Corporations Act, to cause them to conform to the "Charter of the French Language, “effectively making the federal government French-only in the province,” according to "Maclean’s. This bill was defeated on May 2008, with Bloc and NDP MPs voting in favour and Conservative and Liberal MPs opposed.
The second private member’s bill is NDP MP "Yvon Godin’s Act to amend the Supreme Court Act (understanding the official languages) (Bill C-232). If adopted, this bill will have the effect of blocking any candidate who is not already sufficiently bilingual to understand oral arguments in both official languages from being appointed to the Supreme Court. This bill was passed at third reading on March 31, with all NDP, Liberal and Bloc members in support and all Conservative MPs opposed. and is currently before the Senate.
The "Conservative Party of Canada was created in 2003 by the merger of the old "Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and the Canadian Alliance. The new party adopted the principles of the old Progressive Conservatives as its founding principles, with only a handful of changes. One of these was the addition of the following founding principle, which is lifted almost verbatim from Section 16(1) of the Charter of Rights:
"A belief that English and French have equality of status, and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all institutions of the Parliament and Government of Canada."
At its founding convention in 2005, the new party added the following policy to its Policy Declaration (the official compilation of the policies that it had adopted at the convention):
Prior to this, in the 1980s and 1990s, the "Reform Party of Canada had advocated the policy's repeal. However, the party's position moderated with time. By 1999, the Blue Book (the party's declaration of its then-current policies) stated that "The Reform Party supports official bilingualism in key federal institutions, such as Parliament and the Supreme Court, and in critical federal services in parts of the country where need is sufficient to warrant services on a cost-effective basis." By 2002, the policy declaration of the Reform Party's political successor, the "Canadian Alliance, had been moderated further, and stated that it was "the federal government's responsibility to uphold minority rights" by providing services in both languages in any "rural township or city neighbourhood where at least ten percent of the local population uses either English or French in its daily life".
The "Liberal Party sees itself as the party of official bilingualism, as it was a Liberal prime minister, "Pierre Trudeau, who enacted the first Official Languages Act in 1969 and who entrenched detailed protections for the two official languages in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982.
The depth of the party’s commitment to official bilingualism is demonstrated by the fact that the constitution of the Liberal Party contains provisions modelled almost word-for-word on "Section 16(1) of the Charter of Rights: "English and French are the official languages of the Party and have equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all federal institutions of the Party. In pursuing its fundamental purposes and in all its activities, the Party must preserve and promote the status, rights and privileges of English and French."
"New Democrat MPs voted in favour of the 1969 Official Languages Act, the 1988 Official Languages Act, and the protections for the two official languages contained in the Charter of Rights. More recently, the party has edged towards supporting an asymmetrical version of bilingualism. Early in 2008, the party’s languages critic, "Yvon Godin, stated that its MPs would vote in favour of a bill, sponsored by the Bloc Québécois, which would cause federal institutions to operate on a French-preferred or French-only basis in Quebec.
Although the main objective of the "Bloc Québécois is to assist in the secession of Quebec, the party’s parliamentary caucus has maintained an active interest in issues relating to official languages policy (for example, sending MPs to participate in the standing Commons committee on official languages). The party seeks to alter federal language policy, as it applies within Quebec, so as to eliminate the statutory equality of English that is guaranteed under the Official Languages Act and other federal legislation. In recent years, this has included introducing a private member's bill (An Act to amend the Official Languages Act (Charter of the French Language) (better known as Bill C-482), intended to supersede the Official Languages Act with the Charter of the French Language for all federally regulated corporations within Quebec.
Canada's thirteen provinces and territories have adopted widely diverging policies with regard to minority-language services for their respective linguistic minorities. Given the wide range of services, such as policing, health care and education, that fall under provincial jurisdiction, these divergences have considerable importance.
Of Canada's ten provinces, only one ("New Brunswick) has voluntarily chosen to become officially bilingual. New Brunswick's bilingual status is constitutionally entrenched under the "Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Sections 16–20 of the Charter include parallel sections guaranteeing the same rights at the federal level and at the provincial level (New Brunswick only).
Manitoba is the only province that was officially bilingual at the time of its establishment. Following the "Red River Rebellion led by the Francophone "Métis "Louis Riel, the "Manitoba Act was passed, creating the province and mandating the equal status of English and French in all legislative bodies, legislative records, laws and court proceedings. At this time, Manitoba had a majority Francophone population, but within 20 years mass immigration from Ontario and non-Francophone countries had reduced the Francophone proportion of the population to less than 10%. In 1890, the provincial government of "Thomas Greenway stripped funding from the French school system and revoked the equal status of French, a controversial move that caused tension between French and English speakers throughout Canada.
Despite the protests of Franco-Manitobans that the Manitoba Act had been violated, Manitoba remained monolingual in practice until the early 1980s, when legal challenges created a crisis that threatened to invalidate almost all laws passed in Manitoba since 1890, on the grounds that these statutes were not published in French as required by the Manitoba Act. The provincial government under "Howard Pawley tried and failed to address the crisis, with the opposition refusing to attend legislative sessions. In 1985 the Supreme Court ruled that the Manitoba Act had been violated and that all provincial legislation must be published in both French and English, restoring the legal equality of the languages that had existed when the province was created. While this restoration of legal equality faced overwhelming public opposition at the time, polls taken in 2003 showed a majority of Manitobans supported provincial bilingualism.
Due to Manitoba's unique history, it has a complex bilingual profile combining that of a province with a "small official-language minority and one with constitutional protection of said minority". Currently, the French Language Services Policy guarantees access to provincial government services in French, though in practice French language services are available only in some areas. Public primary and secondary education is provided in both French and English, and parents are free to choose instruction in either language. Post-secondary Francophone education is provided by the "Université de Saint-Boniface, the oldest university in Western Canada.
French has been the only official language in Quebec since 1974, when the Liberal government of "Robert Bourassa enacted "The Official Language Act (better-known as "Bill 22"). However, the province's language law does provide for limited services in English. As well, the province is obliged, under Section 133 of the Constitution Act, 1867, to allow the provincial legislature to operate in both French and English, and to allow all Quebec courts to operate in both languages. Section 23 of the Charter applies to Quebec, but to a more limited degree than in other provinces. Quebec is required to provide an education in English to all children whose Canadian citizen parents were educated in English in Canada, while all other provinces are required to provide an education in French to the children of Canadian citizen parents who either received their education in French in Canada or whose native tongue is French.
In 1977, the "Parti Québécois government of "René Lévesque introduced the "Charter of the French Language (better known as "Bill 101") to promote and preserve the French language in the province, indirectly disputing the federal bilingualism policy. Initially, Bill 101 banned the use of all languages but French on most commercial signs in the province (except for companies with four employees or fewer), but those limitations were later loosened by allowing other languages on signs, as long as the French version is predominant. Bill 101 also requires that children of most immigrants residing in Quebec attend French-language public schools; the children of Canadian citizens who have received their education in Canada in English may attend English-language public schools, which are operated by English-language school boards throughout the province. The controversy over this part of Quebec's language legislation has lessened in recent years as these laws became more entrenched and the public use of French increased.
Quebec's language laws have been the subject of a number of legal rulings. In 1988, the "Supreme Court of Canada ruled in the case of "Ford v. Quebec (A.G.) that the commercial sign law provisions of Bill 101, which banned the use of the English language on outdoor signs, were unconstitutional. In 1989, the Quebec National Assembly invoked the ""Notwithstanding Clause" of the Charter of Rights to set aside enforcement of the court ruling for five years. A UN appeal of the 'McIntyre Case' resulted in a condemnation of Quebec's sign law — regardless of the legality of the notwithstanding clause under Canadian law. In response, in 1993 Quebec enacted amendments to the sign law, availing itself of the suggestions proposed in the losing 1988 Supreme Court ruling by allowing other languages on commercial signs, subject to French being markedly predominant .
On March 31, 2005, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously that the interpretation made by the provincial administration of the "major part" criterion in Quebec's language of instruction provisions violated the "Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This criterion allows students who have completed the "major part" of their primary education in English in Canada to continue their studies in English in Quebec. The Court did not strike down the law but, as it had done in its 1988 ruling on sign laws, presented the province with a set of criteria for interpreting the law in conformity with the Charter of Rights, broadening the interpretation of the phrase "major part".
Although no Canadian province has officially adopted English as its sole official language, English is the de facto language of government services and internal government operations in Canada's seven remaining provinces. Service levels in French vary greatly from one province to another (and sometimes within different parts of the same province).
For example, under the terms of Ontario's 1986 "French Language Services Act, Francophones in 25 designated areas across the province—but not in other parts of the province—are guaranteed access to provincial government services in French. Similarly, since 2005, the City of Ottawa has been officially required under Ontario law, to set a municipal policy on English and French.
In Alberta, the "Alberta School Act protects the right of French-speaking people to receive school instruction in the French language in the province.
French and English are official languages in the "Yukon.
In addition to English and French, the "Northwest Territories accords official status to nine aboriginal languages ("Chipewyan, "Cree, "Gwich’in, "Inuinnaqtun, "Inuktitut, "Inuvialuktun, "North Slavey, "South Slavey and "Tłįchǫ or Dogrib). NWT residents have the right to use any of the territory's eleven official languages in a territorial court and in debates and proceedings of the legislature. However, laws are legally binding only in their French and English versions, and the government publishes laws and other documents in the territory's other official languages only when asked by the legislature. Furthermore, access to services in any language is limited to institutions and circumstances where there is significant demand for that language or where it is reasonable to expect it given the nature of the services requested. In practice, this means that only English language services are universally available, and there is no guarantee that any particular government service will use other languages except the courts. Following a 2006 court ruling, universal French-language services are also mandatory.
There is considerable variation across Canada concerning the right to use English and French in legislatures and courts (federal, provincial and territorial). Rights under federal law are consistent throughout Canada, but different provinces and territories have different approaches to language rights. Three provinces (Manitoba, New Brunswick and Quebec) have constitutional guarantees for bilingualism and language rights. Three other provinces (Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan) have statutory provisions relating to bilingualism in the legal system, as do each of the three territories (Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon). Four provinces (British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island) are unilingual English.
Language rights in the legal system are summarized in the following table:
|Jurisdiction||Right to use English and French in Parliament/Legislature||Laws are Bilingual||Right to use English or French in the courts|
|"Alberta||Yes.||No: English only.||Yes, but only in oral submissions, not written.|
|"British Columbia||No: English only.||No: English only.||No: English only.|
|"Newfoundland and Labrador||No: English only.||No: English only.||No: English only.|
|"Nova Scotia||No: English only.||No: English only.||No: English only.|
|"Prince Edward Island||No: English only.||No: English only.||No: English only.|
|"Saskatchewan||Yes.||Laws and regulations can be in English only, or in both English and French.||Yes.|
|"Northwest Territories||Yes, as well as any of the other nine official territorial languages.||Yes.||Yes. A party can also use one of the other nine official languages for oral submissions.|
|"Nunavut||Yes, and also the Inuit language.||Yes.||Yes, and also the Inuit language.|
|"Yukon||Yes, and also Yukon aboriginal languages.||Yes.||Yes.|
"Official bilingualism should not be confused with "personal bilingualism, which is the capacity of a person to speak two languages. This distinction was articulated in the 1967 report of the "Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, which stated:
|“||A bilingual country is not one where all the inhabitants necessarily have to speak two languages; rather it is a country where the principal public and private institutions must provide services in two languages to the citizens, the vast majority of whom may well be unilingual."||”|
Nonetheless, the promotion of personal bilingualism in English and French is an important objective of official bilingualism in Canada.
At least 35% of "Canadians speak more than one language. Moreover, fewer than 2% of Canadians cannot speak at least one of the two official languages. However, of these multilingual Canadians, somewhat less than one fifth of the population (5,448,850 persons, or 17.4% of the Canadian population) are able to speak both of the official languages. However, in Canada the terms "bilingual" and "unilingual" are normally used to refer to bilingualism in English and French. In this sense, nearly 83% of Canadians are unilingual.
Knowledge of the two official languages is largely determined by geography. Nearly 95% of Quebecers can speak French, but only 40.6% speak English. In the rest of the country, 97.6% of the population is capable of speaking English, but only 7.5% can speak French. Personal bilingualism is most concentrated in southern Quebec and a swath of territory sometimes referred to as the "bilingual belt, which stretches east from Quebec through northern and eastern New Brunswick and west through "Ottawa and that part of Ontario lying to the east of Ottawa, as well as north-eastern Ontario. There is also a large "French-speaking population in Manitoba. In all, 55% of bilingual Canadians are Quebecers, and a high percentage of the bilingual population in the rest of Canada resides in Ontario and New Brunswick.
Canada’s thirteen provincial and territorial education systems place a high priority on boosting the number of bilingual high school graduates. For example, in 2008 New Brunswick's provincial government reconfirmed its goal of boosting the percentage of bilingualism among graduates from its current rate of 34% to 70% rate by 2012. In 2003, the federal government announced a ten-year plan of subsidies to provincial education ministries with the goal of boosting bilingualism among all Canadian graduates from its then-current level of 24% to 50% by 2013.
Three methods of providing French second-language education (known as "FSL") exist side-by-side in each of the provinces (including Quebec, where extensive French-language education opportunities are available for the province’s large population of non-Francophone children):
Non-Francophone students learn French by taking courses on the French language as part of an education that is otherwise conducted in English. In Quebec and New Brunswick, French classes begin in Grade 1. In the other provinces, French classes typically start in Grade 4 or 5. Students normally receive about 600 hours of French-language classes by the time of graduation. The goal of “Core French” programs is not to produce fully bilingual graduates, but rather "to provide students with the ability to communicate adequately in the second language, and to provide students with linguistic tools to continue their second-language studies by building on a solid communicative base". There are no mandatory core French class in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, and second-language courses are mandatory only in BC.
One result of this is that comprehension levels are often lower than parents would prefer. A scholar who interviewed a former New Brunswick premier, as well as the province's deputy ministers of education and health and the chairman of its Board of Management and Official Languages Branch reports: "[A]ll expressed reservations about the effectiveness of the Core program in promoting individual bilingualism and believed the program must be improved if anglophone students are to obtain a level of proficiency in the French language."
Non-Francophone students with no previous French-language training learn French by being taught all subjects in the French language, rather than by taking courses on the French language as part of an education otherwise conducted in English. In early immersion, students are placed in French-language classes starting in kindergarten or Grade 1.
In late immersion, children are placed in French-language classes in a later grade. Currently, 7% of eligible students outside of Quebec are enrolled in French immersion programs.
Some schools in Ontario offer a third method of FSL education: the Extended French program. Students enter into this program as early as Grade 4—the starting grade is set by each region's school board—and may continue the program through to graduation. The program can also be entered when beginning "secondary school; however, as there is a prerequisite number of previous instruction hours, usually only students previously enrolled in the Extended French or French Immersion programs can enter. In this program, at least 25% of all instruction must be in French. From Grades 4 through 8, this means that at least one course per year other than "French as a Second Language" must be taught solely in French. From Grades 9 through 12, along with taking the Extended French language course every year, students must complete their mandatory Grade 9 "Geography and Grade 10 "Canadian History credits in French. Students who complete these required courses and take one extra credit taught in French receive a certificate upon graduation in addition to their "diploma.
Intensive French is a method of FSL education that originated in Newfoundland. In 2004, Intensive French began in some schools in British Columbia. Intensive French is a choice program (in offering schools) during the grade 6 year. For the first five months of the school year students spend 80% of their time learning French, with the other 20% being for math. The rest of the core curriculum (Social Studies, Science, and Language Arts in English) is condensed for the second half of the year, comprising 80% of the time, with one hour for French. In the grade 7 year students continue to have one hour of core French per day. This results in 600 hours of French instruction over the two years.
New Brunswick, being an officially bilingual province, has both anglophone and francophone school districts.
Quebec's educations system provides ESL on a more restricted basis to the children of immigrants and to students who are members of the province's Francophone majority.
The purpose of this Act is to (a) ensure respect for English and French as the official languages of Canada and ensure equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all federal institutions, in particular with respect to their use in parliamentary proceedings, in legislative and other instruments, in the administration of justice, in communicating with or providing services to the public and in carrying out the work of federal institutions; (b) support the development of English and French linguistic minority communities and generally advance the equality of status and use of the English and French languages within Canadian society; and (c) set out the powers, duties and functions of federal institutions with respect to the official languages of Canada.