Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

November 20, 2007 08:35 ET

Official Languages Commissioner Calls for Improved Management of Linguistic Duality Abroad

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Nov. 20, 2007) - The status of official languages in Canada's foreign affairs remains fragile due to a lack of clear policy direction, said the Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser, today in a follow-up to the Office's 2004 study entitled Doorway to the World: Linguistic Duality in Canada's International Relations. Of the 29 recommendations made in the 2004 study, 10 were implemented, 14 were partially implemented and five were not implemented. "While we have seen progress in a number of important areas, three years after our initial study we were hoping for a more integrated and compehensive management of official languages in Canada's international relations. Given departments' obligations under the new Part VII of the Official Languages Act, I expect to see marked improvements in this area in the coming months," said the Commissioner.

As is the case with all federal institutions, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Privy Council Office are now obliged to take positive measures to foster the full recognition and use of English and French in Canadian society. "These legal obligations apply both at home and abroad," said the Commissioner. "Moreover, these departments have a tremendous opportunity before them to maximize the potential of our linguistic duality abroad by co-operating to promote English and French in Canada's international relations."

The Commissioner made a point of emphasizing that Canadians often turn to missions abroad when they are in vulnerable situations, whether it be a conflict situation, lost passport or other emergency, and service in both languages is essential. The follow-up study shows that while consular services are provided in both official languages, there is still work to be done to improve bilingual security services. "Linguistic duality is a key Canadian value and a distinguishing feature of our collective identity. Our network of over 260 diplomatic and consular offices in 150 countries is Canada's most visible international presence and security services are often the first point of contact," said the Commissioner. "Ensuring services in both official languages is not only a question of safeguarding our image of a welcoming country internationally, it is a question of respect for Canadian citizens."

The Commissioner also indicated his concern about cuts that were made to DFAIT's Public Diplomacy Program as well as the elimination of the Francophonie Promotion Fund and called on the Department to assess the impact of the elimination of the Fund on its capacity to contribute to promoting linguistic duality internationally. "Any weakening in the capacity to promote official languages in Canada's international affairs is a step backward. Instead, the governement should be taking concrete steps to highlight the importance of projecting Canada's linguistic duality in our international relations."



RECOMMENDATIONS
Follow-up study to
Doorway to the World:
Linguistic Duality in Canada's International Relations


Of the 29 recommendations issued to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Privy Council Office in the 2004 study, 10 were fully implemented, 14 were partially implemented and five were not implemented. The Commissioner issued 10 new recommendations (eight to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, one to Privy Council, and one to both the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and Canadian Heritage). Four new deadlines were set for the implementation of the recommendations made in the study Doorway to the World: Linguistic Duality in Canada's International Relations, published in 2004.

A) New recommendations are available at the following address: http://www.ccnmatthews.com/docs/ofa1120.pdf

B) New deadlines for the implementation of the recommendations made in the study Doorway to the World: Linguistic Duality in Canada's International Relations (2004)

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September 2008 for the implementation of the 2004 recommendation that the
Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, in co-operation with
the Department of Canadian Heritage, develop internal communications
strategies to increase awareness of the importance of linguistic duality
among Canada-based employees in missions and locally engaged staff with
respect to cultural diversity and related government initiatives.
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September 2008 for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International
Trade to provide the results of its review of the impact of the English-
only language policy of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation on Canada's
Francophone community.
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September 2008 for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International
Trade to carry out the review recommended in the 2004 study to determine
whether the existing monitoring mechanisms for Canadian studies activities
are adequate, with a view to enhancing their effectiveness and encouraging,
where needed, a proactive approach to promoting Canada's linguistic
duality.
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September 2008 for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International
Trade to adopt the comprehensive program of support referred to in the 2004
recommendation. This program will ensure that all locally engaged staff in
missions possess adequate bilingual skills and will include the necessary guidelines, resources and direct assistance.
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Contact Information

  • To arrange an interview:
    Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages
    Robin Cantin, Manager, Media Relations
    613-995-0374
    Cellular: 613-324-0999/Toll-free: 1-877-996-6368
    robin.cantin@ocol-clo.gc.ca