Archived - Federal language commissioner releases annual report: Fraser launches new mandate with call for action on immigration, courts and language training
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ottawa, November 7, 2013 – Commissioner of Official Languages Graham Fraser tabled his seventh annual report today on the state of Canada's two official languages. Reflecting on his seven-year mandate as Commissioner, Fraser noted that there has been a subtle erosion of bilingualism in the federal public service through neglect and the unintended consequences of budget cuts.
“Despite the many positive changes since the creation of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism 50 years ago, there are still embarrassing lapses,” said Fraser.
The Commissioner noted that some institutions still have problems meeting their responsibilities year after year, that it is still difficult for travellers to be served in the language of their choice across Canada, and that it is still not an automatic assumption that both official languages will be used equally in federal workplaces or in greeting and communicating with Canadians.
“My work over the past seven years has shown me how much leadership matters in federal institutions,” said the Commissioner. “Federal institutions need to send a clear message to their employees: both English and French have an equal right to be used in the workplace in regions designated as bilingual for language-of-work purposes.”
Still, Commissioner Fraser noted that there are some positive developments. There are now half a million more bilingual Canadians than there were 10 years ago, the majority of Canada's provincial premiers are bilingual, and French has become the “language of ambition.”
“I think we have passed the stage of being surprised to hear the other language spoken,” said Fraser. “The big challenge now is for Canadians to develop a sense of ownership of Canada's two official languages, even if they speak only one of them.”
Fraser remains concerned, however, that he has not been able to convince the federal government of the importance of having bilingual judges on the Supreme Court. “I'm struck by how the argument offered against the idea is the same one used in 1969 against the adoption of the Official Languages Act—that Western Canadians will be excluded from becoming justices,” the Commissioner said. “Once there is a will to change a culture, the change will happen”.
In March 2013, the Prime Minister reappointed Fraser as Commissioner of Official Languages for a new three-year term. The Commissioner's 2012–2013 annual report lays out six broad recommendations focusing on major issues such as access to justice in both official languages, immigration and language training in the federal public service. These will set the tone and direction for his new three-year mandate. Specifically, the Commissioner will encourage the government and federal institutions to implement:
- a federal-provincial collaborative approach to ensure that the bilingual capacity of Canada's superior court judiciary is appropriate at all times;
- a follow-up initiative to the Strategic Plan to Foster Immigration to Francophone Minority Communities, and specify the roles and responsibilities of the various partners, ways of achieving the planned results, and the evaluation and data collection mechanisms; and
- a directive on language training with a report to Parliament in 2013–2014.
The federal government is planning a series of national celebrations to mark significant anniversaries over the next three years, leading up to the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017. Commissioner Fraser called upon the federal government to use these celebrations to lead by example and give real, tangible support to linguistic duality as a fundamental Canadian value from now through to 2017.
The 2012–2013 annual report is available on the Office of the Commissioner's website.
For more information or to schedule an interview with the Commissioner, please contact:
- Nelson Kalil
- Manager, Strategic Communications and Media Relations
- Telephone: 613-995-0374
- Cellular: 613-324-0999
- Toll-free: 1-877-996-6368
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org