Brief – Expert Panel on Language of Work and Service in Federally Regulated Private Businesses
By The Honourable Marlene Jennings, P.C. President, and Kevin Shaar, Vice-President
Canada has two official languages and two official language minorities.
In its recent paper on official languages, English and French: Towards a Substantive Equality of Official
Languages in Canada, the Government of Canada makes a legislative proposal to increase the use of
French in federally regulated private enterprises. The paper outlines specific proposals to provide rights
to work and rights to services in French – but not in English – in federally regulated private businesses in
Quebec and in regions with a strong Francophone presence.
The Government of Canada’s proposal to grant language rights to one language group and not the other
runs counter to the purpose of the Official Languages Act and offends the government’s constitutional
obligation to ensure respect for English and French as the official languages of Canada. It also poses
significant challenges for the substantive equality of the English-speaking minority in Quebec.