Archived - Statement by the Commissioner of Official Languages on the fifth anniversary of the changes to Part VII of the Official Languages Act

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Ottawa, November 25, 2010 - The Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser, issued the following statement today regarding the fifth anniversary of the changes to Part VII of the Official Languages Act:

Five years ago today, the Parliament of Canada adopted landmark changes to Part VII of Canada’s Official Languages Act regarding the promotion of English and French in our nation. These changes were intended to reflect the government’s firm commitment to linguistic duality and to clarify the obligations that federal institutions must meet. All federal institutions now have a duty to take positive measures that contribute to the vitality of official language minority communities and to the promotion of English and French across the country.

Many federal institutions still do not understand, or have a limited interpretation of, their obligations. They need to build a reflex in their day-to-day management and decision-making process to ask themselves, “How are official language communities affected by this program or initiative? Will this decision negatively impact the promotion of the equality of English and French in Canadian society? Have we taken steps to ensure that we understand the impact?”

This goal can be achieved. We have examples of institutions that understand the principles inherent in fulfilling Part VII obligations and that are very good at determining, based on their mandate, the types of positive measures that can be taken. A good understanding of the Act and its implementation requires a strong will, sound planning, rigorous execution and regular analysis of results. This is, in other words, the virtuous circle that I introduced in my annual report this November. Each of these actions is fundamental to achieving success with regard to linguistic obligations.

The Department of Canadian Heritage, which was entrusted with the coordination of the implementation of Part VII, has developed useful tools and offers sound advice on this matter. Hence, federal institutions have many resources available to them when they launch new programs or expand upon existing initiatives. Those departments and agencies that genuinely want to improve their performance will find the knowledge they need by consulting with similar institutions that have demonstrated results, and by working with official language communities themselves. It is incumbent on federal institutions to take action and report results to the public.

Leadership, however, must come from the top. The Government of Canada must ensure that the concept of positive measures is understood and that all federal institutions meet their obligations. Part VII objectives must be seen to be concrete. They must be planned and executed by government departments and agencies to ensure the vitality of official language communities and the promotion of linguistic duality in Canadian society.

The principal theme and focus of my 2010–2011 Annual Report will be Part VII of the Official Languages Act. In that document, I hope to report that more and more institutions are getting involved, deepening their existing collaboration with communities and generally broadening the significant impact of linguistic duality in Canadian society.

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