Tabling of the improved Bill entitled 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
GRAND PRÉ, Nova Scotia, March 1, 2022
Just as Indigenous languages remain an integral part of the linguistic landscape of Canadian society, our two official languages are an integral part of our country’s heritage. Protecting and promoting our two official languages and defending official-language minority communities are a priority for the Government of Canada.
Today, the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister for Official Languages and Minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, supported by the Honourable Mona Fortier, President of the Treasury Board, and the Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, tabled an improved bill for substantive equality between Canada’s official languages.
More than 30 years after the last major reform, the Official Languages Act required modernization to keep pace with a society that has experienced profound social, demographic and technological changes.
After sharing our vision for official languages reform in the document English and French: Towards a substantive equality of official languages in Canada, and after introducing Bill C-32 in June 2021, we continued to listen to Canadians, communities and interested stakeholders. With this in mind, we decided to significantly improve the bill, which today enables us to take a historic step forward.
In addition to the key measures in the previous bill, this new version significantly improves the Official Languages Act to address the decline of French in Canada; clarify and strengthen the part of the Act concerning the promotion of official languages and supporting official-language minority communities; improve compliance by federal institutions concerning official languages; and achieve a balance so that as many Canadians as possible can identify with this modernization, including through the following measures:
- Modify the Treasury Board’s powers to further strengthen its official languages monitoring obligations.
- Strengthen the powers of the Commissioner of Official Languages, including new authority to enter into compliance agreements with institutions subject to the Act, to issue orders, and to impose administrative monetary penalties on certain privatized entities and Crown corporations that are currently subject to the Official Languages Act in the area of transportation serving the travelling public.
- Strengthen Canada’s Francophone Immigration Policy, which should include objectives, targets and indicators to increase Francophone immigration outside Quebec.
- Add the principle of remedial nature of language rights to the principles of interpretation of the Act to better protect linguistic minorities across the country.
- Add amendments and clarifications regarding federal institutions taking positive measures for official-language minority communities and the promotion of English and French.
- Establish new rights and obligations to protect the French language in private businesses under federal jurisdiction in an Act of Parliament dedicated to this objective.
- Add a preamble to the Official Languages Act reminding that official-language rights apply even in emergencies. Add language that clearly states the equal importance of the country’s two major linguistic communities and the requirement to consider the specific needs of each, and the historical and cultural importance of Canada’s Anglophone and Francophone minorities and their unique and plural character.
The tabling of this improved bill is a concrete step in our efforts to ensure the protection of French, the promotion of our two official languages, and the revitalization of minority communities and bilingualism across the country.
“Today is a historic day for advancing the language rights of Canadians across the country. Our government made a commitment to move forward quickly to modernize the Official Languages Act, and this ambitious reform is concrete proof of that commitment. Thanks to true teamwork, we are taking an important step to achieve substantive equality of English and French.”
—The Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Official Languages and Minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
“Canadians must be able to use the justice system in the official language of their choice. This improved bill touches on many aspects of the federal linguistic framework to improve access to justice in both official languages. The bill will have a major impact on the administration of our justice system and our courts. More than 30 years have passed since the last Official Languages Act reform. As promised, our government is delivering on its commitment to modernize and revitalize the Official Languages Act.”
—The Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
“Official languages are an integral part of our culture and identity. Modernizing the Official Languages Act will enable the Treasury Board to reaffirm its role as a central agency by strengthening and expanding its powers, including monitoring compliance of federal institutions, which will improve our ability to serve Canadians in the official language of their choice.”
—The Honourable Mona Fortier, President of the Treasury Board
The federal Official Languages Act was adopted in 1969, recognizing English and French as the two official languages of Parliament and the Government of Canada. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was adopted in 1982, making English and French the two official languages of Canada.
The Act was revised in 1988 to ensure that language rights enshrined in the Charter were implemented at the federal level. This version of the Act also declares the Government of Canada’s commitment to enhance the vitality of official-language minority communities, support their development, and promote the full recognition and use of both official languages in Canadian society. In 2005, it added the obligation for federal institutions to take positive measures to implement this commitment.
From March to May 2019, the Government of Canada conducted a pan-Canadian conversation on the modernization of the Act, culminating in a national symposium in Ottawa.
In the fall of 2019, the Government of Canada committed to modernizing the Act and subsequently included this commitment in the mandate letter of the Minister of Official Languages.
On February 19, 2021, the Minister tabled her reform paper outlining the Government of Canada’s vision and intentions for modernizing the Act. The document contained 56 proposals that affect several parts of the Act, 33 of which are legislative in nature.
On June 15, 2021, the Minister tabled Bill C-32 – An Act to amend the Official Languages Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts. The calling of a federal election on August 15, 2021, ended the process of passing this bill.
For more information (media only), please contact:
Office for the Minister of Official Languages and Minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
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