Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

April 16, 2007 10:00 ET

Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages/The Charter: 25 Years of Dialogue on Linguistic Duality That has Shaped Canada's Identity

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - April 16, 2007) - Today, the Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser, emphasized the impact of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms on the lives of all Canadians and its particular importance for official language communities across the country.

"The rights and freedoms that underpin our two official languages bear witness to the Canadian values of respect and equality. The inclusion in the Charter of the equality of status and use of English and French is a recognition of the intrinsic value of the English and French communities that have helped shape Canada's identity," said Mr. Fraser at a conference on the 25th anniversary of the Charter organized by the Association for Canadian Studies at the University of Ottawa.

Since 1982, building on a conversation on language that began with the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, the Charter has set off a chain of events that have started the process of restoring language rights, changing the behaviour of governments and creating a new favourable dynamic for linguistic minorities in Canada. "English and French belong to all Canadians and the Charter has accelerated a process to make this claim a reality," added the Commissioner.

The Charter helped to create the foundation for a dialogue based on respect, which has strengthened our language policy over time. A recent demonstration of this dialogue is the changes to the Official Languages Act adopted by Parliament in 2005, which now requires all federal institutions to take positive measures to enhance the vitality of the English and French minority communities and to promote our two official languages. These legislative changes are among the most powerful tools available to official language communities for achieving true equality. "What is needed now is a better understanding of the challenges and realities facing official languages communities," said Mr. Fraser. "These communities need to be given a greater voice in Parliament and in all levels of government in order to make significant progress."

At the same time, acknowledgement of English and French in Canadian society has become an important part of this country's social fabric. According to a recent survey by Decima Research, 7 out of 10 Canadians are in favour of bilingualism, and support is even higher among those aged 18 to 34. "There is now an enormous pool of goodwill toward linguistic equality and bilingualism in Canada," remarked the Commissioner.

Canadian youth in particular have integrated the Charter's values into the way they see themselves, their country, and the world around them. The Commissioner's speech included the video premiere of One Charter, Two Languages, A Thousand and One Voices, in which young Canadians from diverse backgrounds describe in their own words what the Charter and linguistic duality mean to them.

Mr. Fraser also released the Office of the Commissioner's Language Rights 2005-2006. This publication presents an analysis of the main court decisions on language rights in Canada in 2005 and 2006, with cases ranging from access to government services and the use of official languages in Parliament to the promotion of English and French and the vitality and development of official languages communities throughout Canada.

This press release, Language Rights 2005-2006 and One Charter, Two Languages, A Thousand and One Voices are available on the Office of the Commissioner's Internet site at www.ocol-clo.gc.ca under "What's New?"

To order a copy of Language Rights 2005-2006 or One Charter, Two Languages, A Thousand and One Voices, please call 613-996-6368 or 1-877-996-6368.

Contact Information

  • Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages
    Robin Cantin
    Manager, Media Relations
    613-995-0374
    Cellular: 613-324-0999
    robin.cantin@ocol-clo.gc.ca