Monday, September 07, 2009

40th Anniversary of Canada's Official Languages Act

Forty years today, on September 7, 1969, the Official Languages Act officially came into force.

The legislation recognized the equal status of English and French in federal institutions and in Canadian society.

All week long, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages will mark the occasion through meetings, discussions, and exhibitions.

More background:
  • Official Languages Act still needs work 40 years later (The Hill Times, August 31, 2009): "Bilingualism 'is at the core of what this country means' but Canadians don't have a sense of ownership of both official languages, says Graham Fraser, the Commissioner of Official Languages (...) 'I think the larger challenge is creating a situation where Canadians feel that both languages belong to them,' said Mr. Fraser, who wrote, Sorry, I don't speak French: Confronting the Canadian Crisis That Won't Go Away prior to being appointed the Official Languages Commissioner in 2006. 'The presence of the other language is something that is inherent in what Canada is about. ... This is what distinguishes us from other countries. This is as central an identifier for a Canadian event as the Canadian flag and the metric system'. "
  • Still bilingual after all these years - Thanks to the tireless work of a courageous crew, in the face of fierce criticism, the dream of language equality endured (Op-ed by Keith Spicer, Canada's first commissioner of official languages 1970-1977, Ottawa Citizen, Spetember 7, 2009): "Many Canadians, elected or public servants, played vital roles in making this reform work. As commissioner of official languages, I knew all the key players, and can testify that they acted with uncommon courage and commitment (...) Why mention courage? Because country-changing stakes drew passionate adversaries. Cynicism in French Canada, fury in parts of English-speaking Canada, and fear of marginalization among 'ethnic' groups made linguistic justice a lightning rod for discontent (...) I saw two strategic goals: 1) anchor the credibility of the Official Languages Act, and make its reforms irreversible; 2) establish the commissioner's job as undeniably non-partisan. I told my colleagues that by achieving both, we should aim to make bilingualism 'boring' -- no longer a constant melodrama, but a normal part of Canada's 'woodwork'."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:46 pm

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