Notes for an address at an ICC community citizenship ceremony

Montréal, Quebec, January 31, 2019
Raymond Théberge - Commissioner of Official Languages

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Beginning of dialog

Good morning ladies and gentlemen.

It is a great privilege for me to be standing here before you today. I was moved by your stories, and I am honoured to be part of such a solemn ceremony. Citizenship is an important bond that unites all Canadians. Our two official languages, English and French, are at the heart of who we are as Canadians. Together with Indigenous languages—Canada’s very first languages—they reflect the linguistic diversity of our society. In fact, Indigenous culture, which places a high importance on welcoming others, is a cornerstone of Canadian society.

My job as an agent of Parliament is to promote official languages and to protect the language rights of Canadians.

Linguistic duality enriches our culture and workplaces in immeasurable ways and is symbolic of our commitment to diversity and inclusion. The equal status of English and French in federal institutions means that citizens can access federal services in the official language of their choice where there is significant demand.

Essentially, linguistic duality is a Canadian value. And being able to speak both English and French is even more relevant today. Our language skills help make Canadian society stronger and more successful.

For almost a century, the world has looked to Canada as a leader in linguistic duality.

During the interwar period, the bilingualism of Canadian diplomats and their advocacy for minority rights earned them the respect and admiration of their fellow League of Nations members. As then Minister of Justice and Canadian diplomat Ernest Lapointe said, “To unite and build a great nation, the world must know that two languages, English and French, are spoken here, and these languages are a source of pride for everyone.”

In conclusion, I see Canada as a large and welcoming home for 36 million people, including you and me. Linguistic duality, which lies at the heart of the Canadian value of inclusion, has helped to show that our diversity and our differences are strengths on which we must build. Now more than ever, young people are demanding respect for Canada’s linguistic duality. Being able to speak both of our official languages is important for young Canadians as they prepare for their future.

They imagine a country where it will be normal to live in English and French; they believe that the federal government needs to lead the way in making this idea a reality; and they have a genuine desire to learn about each other’s cultures. The tide has turned, and Canada needs to continue to be a leader and a beacon of progress in terms of linguistic duality and support for official language communities.

Newcomers, like you, have an immense impact on Canada’s cultural wealth and socio-economic development.

I wish you every success and happiness in your new, adopted country.

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