Commissioner of Official Languages calls on Prime Minister to ensure Canadians can exercise their fundamental rights
Tabling of the 2019–2020 annual report
Gatineau, Quebec, September 29, 2020 – Despite being envied internationally for living in a bilingual country, Canadians experience some real challenges in exercising their official languages rights. These include the right to receive services from the federal government, the right to vote and the right to receive safety-related information, such as for the COVID-19 pandemic, in their preferred official language.
Commissioner of Official Languages Raymond Théberge tabled his 2019–2020 annual report today. The report provides an overview of the current state of official languages and presents three solutions for ways in which the Prime Minister can address the lack of respect for Canadians’ fundamental language rights.
Language rights are part of the foundation on which Canada was built. They are guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and protected by the Official Languages Act. In his report, the Commissioner states that language rights are not being respected for three reasons:
- the Official Languages Act is outdated;
- federal institutions are not complying with the Official Languages Act; and
- the government is not doing enough to promote both official languages across Canada.
In his report, the Commissioner also reiterates the critical need for the federal government to implement his recommendation to modernize the Official Languages Act by the end of 2021 at the latest. Significant efforts have been made by official language minority communities, parliamentarians, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, and the federal government itself to consult Canadians on the modernization of the Act. Expectations are high.
We need a commitment from the federal government both to tackle systemic issues that affect Canadians’ language rights and to build an Official Languages Act that is relevant for today’s society, that can adapt in step with change and that provides proper enforcement tools. Last year, I gave the federal government 18 recommendations for modernizing the Act by 2021, and I expect them to be given due attention. Modernizing the Official Languages Act in a meaningful way is about respecting Canadians’ fundamental language rights now and in the future.
- In 2019–2020, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages received a total of 1,361 admissible complaints under the Official Languages Act, a 25% increase compared with 2018–2019.
- Of that number:
- 731 involved communications with and services to the public (Part IV);
- 172 involved language of work (Part V);
- 11 involved equitable participation (Part VI);
- 20 involved the advancement of English and French (Part VII);
- 420 involved the language requirements of positions (Part XI, section 91); and
- 7 involved other parts of the Act (parts II, III and IX).