Why modernize the Official Languages Act?
The Official Languages Act is a legislative framework under which a multitude of initiatives, programs and activities are deployed in a variety of sectors, including the economy, education, immigration, justice, health and translation. The Government of Canada decided to modernize the Act to ensure that it continued to serve Canadians in a changing environment.
There were several reasons for this decision. You will find some of them below:
- Although Canadians speak over 200 different languages, English and French are spoken by 98% of the population. Canada’s official languages are the languages of our shared citizenship, of national public discourse and of federal institutions. Both English and French are international languages. It is important to ensure that they remain catalysts that bring Canada’s population together.
- The Internet and social media have completely changed Canadians’ communications with each other and with the outside world, as well as their access to cultural and information products and to consumer goods, services and knowledge.
- New technologies will continue to impact the work environment in federal institutions given that government is continually becoming more open and the public is accessing a growing number of documents and services.
- The Government’s action areas in official languages have become considerably more diverse, which results in closer collaboration with players from community groups, the business and education sectors and other levels of government.
- Two million Canadians belong to official language minority communities. Even though these populations are dynamic and continue to grow, some trends are worrying, including the decrease in the percentage of Francophones outside Quebec and the slow growth in the bilingualism rate of English-speaking Canadians outside Quebec. English-speaking communities in Quebec also have their own challenges. The particularities and diversity of all of these communities’ needs create challenges in terms of the capacity of local community development associations to act.
An Act to Implement
After royal assent, most provisions of the Act for the Substantive Equality of Canada’s Official Languages are already in force. Some provisions come into effect at specified points in time:
1st anniversary of Royal Assent
- Requirement for simultaneous translation of final decisions, orders and judgments of federal courts with precedential value.
2nd anniversary of Royal Assent
- Duty to ensure managers and supervisors are able to communicate with employees in both official languages, regardless of the linguistic identification of the employees’ position.
By Order in Council
- New requirements for a policy on Francophone immigration.
- Administrative monetary penalty regime in the Official Languages Act.
- Extension of the Commissioner of official languages’ order-making power in relation to the process of positive measures and the inclusion of language clauses in federal-provincial-territorial agreements.
- Coming into force of the Use of French in Federally Regulated Private Businesses Act (UFPBA) in Québec.
Note: The UFPBA will come into force in regions with a strong Francophone presence 2 years later.
The government will eventually launch the regulatory process, another important milestone in the implementation of the Act. During this regulatory process, clarifications of certain concepts and certain obligations, definitions and methods of execution will have to be made in order to properly implement this new regime. Canadian Heritage will post details of its consultation process and how to participate on its website.Visit the Government of Canada’s website on modernizing and strengthening the Official Languages Act to learn more about the bill and the history of the Official Languages Act.
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