Introduction of the bill — An Act for the Substantive Equality of Canada’s Official Languages

The Official Languages Act (OLA) is the key instrument ensuring that Canada’s two official languages, English and French, are promoted and protected for the benefit of all Canadians. The unique reality of French in North America and, Canada’s evolving linguistic dynamics call for, changes to our language regime and a modernization of the OLA, a statue that has not undergone a major reform since 1988.

Introduction of the bill

On March 1st, the Government of Canada introduced a bill to modernize the Official Languages Act in order to reflect an evolving society. Linguistic realities are changing. More than ever, the exchange of digital content and the globalization of trade are favoring the use of the English language. In order for the French language to continue to flourish in Canada, it must be further protected and promoted. There continue to be numerous challenges, including the need to strengthen the use of French in multiple sectors, such as, culture and diplomacy; the need to provide Anglophones in majority communities with more opportunities to learn French; and the need to vigorously support the institutions of English and French linguistic minority communities in Canada.

The bill recognizes the diversity of provincial and territorial language regimes, and focuses on opportunities to learn one’s first language in minority settings and opportunities to learn a second official language in a majority settings, in order to improve the rate of bilingualism among Canadians.

The bill also seeks to protect the institutions of official language minority communities – Quebec’s English-speaking communities and Francophone minority communities in the rest of the country – and proposes stronger tools to protect French in Canada. For example, the bill would grant the right to receive services in French and to work in some French federally regulated private businesses in Quebec and in regions with a strong Francophone presence.

For more information on the bill:

Expected results of the Act

The expected results of the bill are as follows:

Next steps

If the bill is passed by Parliament, the Minister of Official Languages and Minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency will begin the process of adopting related sets of regulations on positive measures by federal institutions to enhance the vitality of official languages minority communities and promote the official languages. Regulations would also be on administrative monetary penalties and on the new obligations of federally regulated private businesses. In addition, the Government of Canada will implement administrative measures accompanying the modernized Act, measures that will form part of the next Action Plan for Official Languages.

The introduction of the official languages modernization bill is a testament to the Government of Canada’s efforts to adapt the language regime in order to bolster the official languages in a changing society.

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