MODERNIZATION OF THE OFFICIAL LANGUAGES ACT

The Quebec Community Groups Network welcomes the opportunity to continue contributing to the conversations on modernizing Canada’s Official Languages Act. Our organization and other community leaders have been actively engaged in discussions to modernize the Act for a number of years, including Parliamentary Official Languages Committees studies, consultations with the Commissioner of Official Languages, and close coordination with Francophone communities outside Quebec.

    • English-speaking Quebec is one of Canada’s two official language minority communities;
    • The English-speaking community of Quebec is diverse, bilingual and resilient; and,
    • The vitality of the English-speaking community of Quebec does not threaten French in Quebec.

“The Official Languages Act is a lifeline for English-speaking Quebec”, says QCGN President Geoffrey Chambers. “It is the one of the laws protecting the linguistic interests of English-speaking Quebecers as a community. Having said that, after 50 years, the Act is somewhat antiquated and is in serious need of an update. We are particularly keen that English-speaking Quebec participates in the forums and towns halls announced by Mélanie Joly,  the Minister of Tourism, Official Languages and La Francophonie. We must make sure that our voices are heard.”

MODERNIZATION OF THE OFFICIAL LANGUAGES ACT

A modernized Official Languages Act must include:

The guiding principle of the Official Languages Act must be the equality of status of English and French. The Act must categorically guarantee this equality of status in all institutions subject to the Act across Canada.

Two additional key features:

  • Substantive Equality: In its implementation, the Act must enable adaptation to the specific contexts and needs of the different official language minority communities.

  • Capacity, Consultation, and Representation: The Act should provide for robust, mandatory, and properly-resourced consultation at all levels, including a formal mechanism for consultation at the national level.

A modernized Official Languages Act must include a guarantee for equity in services and a work environment where linguistic minority employees are welcome and able to work and advance in their official language.

A modernized Official Languages Act must include a commitment to enhancing the vitality of minority language communities

A modernized Official Languages Act must provide for effective implementation and central accountability for application of the entire Act

BRIEF HISTORY OF THE OFFICIAL LANGUAGES ACT

What is the Official Languages Act and what is its purpose?

In 1969, Canada adopted its first Official Languages Act in the hopes of properly protecting and promoting English and French in Canada

Ensure respect for English and French and ensure equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in federal institutions

Support the development of English and French linguistic minority communities

Advance the equal status and use of English and French

The Act sets out quasi-constitutional rights for English-speaking Quebecers, including the right to access federal services in English, the representation of English-speakers in the federal public service, and the right to work in English in the federal public service

The Official Languages Act provides the framework for much-needed financial support for the community’s institutions and networks in a variety of sectors including the economy, education, immigration, justice, health and translation.

To whom does the Act apply?

The Official Languages Act applies to federal institutions, including the Parliament of Canada, Crown corporations (such as VIA Rail and Canada Post) and federal departments. It also applies to certain organizations, such as Air Canada, CN and NAV CANADA, that retained their language obligations after they were privatized.

MAKE YOUR OPINION KNOWN

March 12 2019: Moncton – Promotion of culture and bilingualism

March 18 2019: Ottawa – Federal Institutions that Embody Official Languages

April 15 2019: Sherbrooke – Official Languages and Canada’s Place in the World

April 23 2019: Edmonton – Mobilization, Development and Vitality of Official-Language Minority Communities

April 24 2019: Vancouver – Official Languages and Canada in the Digital Age

May 27 and 28 2019: Ottawa- Symposium on Official Languages

If you wish to express your opinion or are unable to attend the consultations live, you can find more information and a live-stream on the Government of Canada’s website.

Have questions about the Official Languages Act? Contact Stephen Thompson, Director of Government Relations, Policy and Research.

MODERNIZATION OF OFFICIAL LANGUAGES IN THE NEWS

LINKS TO MORE INFORMATION ON THE OFFICIAL LANGUAGES ACT