History of the Official Languages Act

Important dates

1867: The Constitution Act recognizes the use of two languages, English and French, in Parliament and before the federal courts. However, the concept of “official languages” is still not in use.

1962: The Royal Commission on Government Organization recommends that the government provide its services in English and French.

1963: The Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism is established with a mandate to recommend steps to develop the country on the principle of equality between English and French.

1967: The Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism recommends to the Government of Canada that English and French be declared the official languages of Canada.

1969: The first federal Official Languages Act is adopted, and it declares English and French to be the two official languages of Canada.

1982: The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is adopted, and language rights are now strengthened.

1988: The second federal Official Languages Act is adopted to ensure the implementation of the federal language rights enshrined in the Charter. The new Act also states the Government of Canada’s commitment to enhancing the vitality of official language minority communities and to supporting their development as well as to fostering the full recognition and use of both English and French in Canadian society.

2005: The Official Languages Act is amended in order to specify that federal institutions must take positive measures to implement the Government of Canada’s commitment to official language minority communities, and a legal remedy before the Federal Court is now applicable to that part of the Act.

2019: The Government of Canada is taking steps to modernize the Official Languages Act.

August 2019: Publication of the Summary document: Engaging Canadians as a step towards modernizing the Official Languages Act, which reported on consultations with Canadians as part of a pre-modernization review of the Official Languages Act. 

September 2020: Speech from the Throne – A stronger and more resilient Canada, in which the government committed to strengthening the Official Languages Act, taking into consideration the unique reality of French.

February 2021: Release of the public reform document, which presented Canadians with the Government of Canada’s agenda for the modernization of the Official Languages Act: English and French: Towards a substantive equality of official languages in Canada.

June 2021: Introduction of Bill C-32 – An Act to amend the Official Languages Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts. This bill died on the Order Paper when the 44th federal election was called on August 15, 2021.

November 2021: Speech from the Throne –Building a resilient economy: a cleaner & healthier future for our kids, which reaffirmed the government’s commitment to introduce its proposed Act for the Substantive Equality of French and English and the Strengthening of the Official Languages Act.

March 2022: Introduction of Bill C-13 – An Act to amend the Official Languages Act, to enact the Use of French in Federally Regulated Private Businesses Act and to make related amendments to other Acts.

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