Minister Joly Announces a Review of the Official Languages Act to Support the Vitality of Official Languages Across Canada and the Full Recognition of English and French in Canadian Society

News release

OTTAWA, March 11, 2019

This year, Canada marks the 50th anniversary of the Official Languages Act. The Act, which came into force in 1969, recognized the equal status of English and French, and gave all English- and French-speaking Canadians the right to communicate with the federal government and to receive government services in the language of their choice.

This morning, the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Tourism, Official Languages and La Francophonie, announced the launch of a review to modernize the Official Languages Act. The purpose of this review is to strengthen the Act to ensure that it meets the expectations of the people of Canada; responds to the new challenges posed by social transformations and the expansion of government action sectors; and maintains its positive effect over the long term.

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Official Languages Act, the Government of Canada is reaffirming the importance of English and French, which, together with Indigenous languages, are a powerful symbol of the diversity and inclusiveness that characterize Canadian society. They are at the heart of who we are as Canadians.

The rights acquired in 1969 have since been extended to include access to education in the minority language (in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms) and to the language of work in federal institutions. Recognizing that linguistic duality has a collective dimension, the Act is also accompanied by a series of measures designed to support the continuity and vitality of official-language minority communities across the country.

Despite the many advances the Act has allowed, new issues have arisen that call for its review: the number of Francophones is growing less rapidly than the Canadian population as a whole; the rate of bilingualism among the English-speaking majority outside Quebec is stagnating; and, given our increasingly open government, new technology has disrupted communication methods and the work environment in federal institutions.

Minister Joly made the announcement during a public meeting at the University of Ottawa attended by university students and representatives of official-language minority communities. They spoke to the Minister about the major issues related to the continuity of Canada’s official languages. Over the next few months, Canadians will be invited to express their views on the review of the Official Languages Act. Forums, round tables and a symposium will be held to discuss key issues that might affect the scope of official languages, and to explore ways to ensure the long-term survival of official-language minority communities.

Members of the public are invited to submit their comments and suggestions regarding this review. For more information, visit the website.

The results of the review, expected in June 2019, will help identify major issues and guide the modernization of the Official Languages Act.

Quotes

“The Official Languages Act has had a profound influence. It has contributed to the strengthening of linguistic communities across the country, and the emergence of generations who are proud of the linguistic duality that defines us as Canadians. We are undertaking a review to better equip our official-language communities to meet the new challenges they face, and thus ensure their long-term vitality. It goes without saying that a law that is essential to our collective identity, our cohesion and our prosperity must be reviewed so that it can continue to meet the needs of Canadians.”

—The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Tourism, Official Languages and La Francophonie

Quick facts

  • The Official Languages Act, which came into force in 1969, confirmed to Canadians their right to receive federal government services in the language of their choice. It recognized French and English as the country’s two official languages. It has helped to better protect the rights of people living in official-language minority communities, and to promote the full recognition and use of English and French in Canadian society.

  • In June 2018, the Government of Canada announced its intention to modernize the Official Languages Act.

  • As part of this review, the Government of Canada is conducting national discussions on the following topics:

    • Official languages and Canada in the digital age
    • Promoting culture and bilingualism
    • Federal institutions that embody official languages
    • Official languages and Canada’s place in the world
    • The mobilization, development and vitality of official-language minority communities
  • This exercise will complement the consultations and reviews already conducted by other bodies in the areas of the administration of justice, the language of government communication, the language of work of federal public servants, the role of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, the promotion of official languages, and debates and parliamentary proceedings.

Associated links

Contacts

For more information (media only), please contact:

Jérémy Ghio
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Tourism, Official Languages and La Francophonie
jeremy.ghio@canada.ca

Media Relations
Canadian Heritage
819-994-9101
1-866-569-6155
pch.media-media.pch@canada.ca


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