Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

May 31, 2005 10:30 ET

Annual Report 2004-2005 of the Commissioner of Official Languages: The Government of Canada Must Take Stock of 35 Years of Official Languages, Says Dyane Adam

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - May 31, 2005) - History shows that political will at the highest level is a pivotal factor for progress on official language issues, and the Government of Canada should make the most of the lessons learned by renewing its approach regarding the Canadian linguistic framework. This is the major finding of Annual Report 2004-2005 of Commissioner of Official Languages, Dr. Dyane Adam, which gives an account of the 35 years of the Official Languages Act.

The Commissioner's report shows that linguistic duality is part of a set of values that has moulded the Canadian personality. "We have different communities sharing the same space in Canada, learning to live and grow within this diversity. The original language pact, strengthened through the adoption of the Official Languages Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is now part of who we are as Canadians. This experience has led us to innovate and adopt a governance model that not only allows us to take advantage of our diversity, but also makes us stand out on the international level," emphasizes Dr. Adam.

Since 1970, Canadians have witnessed clear progression in nearly all aspects of their daily lives when it comes to official languages. Almost one-fourth of Canadians from 19 to 25 years of age are now bilingual; the rights to minority language education and to manage schools are now established; and the number of post-secondary graduates among Francophone minority youth has virtually doubled. Within the federal system, there is increased capacity to deliver services in both official languages in all regions of Canada, and both language groups are now more equitably represented. Furthermore, national networks in the arts, the media and community radios are now established in both official languages. Over half of the provinces and territories now recognize the right of the official language minority to receive services in their language. There is widespread support among Canadians for this progress, with nearly 80% in favour of bilingualism.

"The history of linguistic duality in Canada is full of twists and turns, needless repetitions, epic struggles, missed opportunities, strokes of luck, spectacular breakthroughs and tiny steps forward, but the end result is real progress in all sectors," said Dr. Adam. "This slow, progressive movement towards a culture that accommodates more cooperation and acceptance of differences is largely due to the support of the majority, the momentum the French fact in Quebec created for the Canadian Francophonie, and the mobilization of official language communities themselves."

This review also shows that the implementation of the Canadian linguistic framework is still incomplete, and the Government of Canada still has some way to go to attain the objectives it set itself in the Act. "My previous annual reports, just like this one, indicate that a ceiling has been reached, even a stalemate in certain areas, especially that of service to the public. The report card of 29 federal institutions, a first this year, confirms this trend," stressed Dr. Adam.

According to the Commissioner, faced with these findings, the Government of Canada should undertake a careful consideration of its focus and practices in order to break the current trend and better respond to the changing needs of our society. It can start by taking the impact of government restructuring on the provision of services in both official languages into account, such as the effects of the establishment of Service Canada and relocation in the regions.

The Commissioner notes that a lack of consistency and coordination at the political level has led to an uneven implementation of the Action Plan for Official Languages, adopted in March 2003 as a renewal plan for language matters. As a result, long-announced commitments have still not materialized at the local level, communities can hardly contain their impatience, and opportunities may well be lost. "In the meantime, waiting lists for immersion classes in British Columbia are getting longer and longer, and Edmonton still awaits its home for Francophone seniors," Dr. Adam notes.

The implementation of the Action Plan, like the history of the past 35 years, shows that major progress for official languages is made at times of strong leadership at all levels, but the ground gained is lost when leadership flags. "Elected officials must be aware that their action, or failure to act, has a far-reaching effect on the government apparatus," warns the Commissioner.

"With strong, focused leadership, linguistic duality as an original expression of Canadian diversity will remain a key aspect of Canada's image as a world leader in human rights and respect for minorities. Our elected leaders must continue to build on the foundation of this heritage so Canadians can make the most of a stable and prosperous society," concluded Dr. Adam.

The Annual Report and this press release are available on our Web site at http://www.ocol-clo.gc.ca under the heading "What's New?"

For a hard copy of the Annual Report, please call (613) 996-6368 or 1 877 996-6368.

Contact Information