Notes for an address on Linguistic Duality Day

September 9, 2021
Raymond Théberge - Commissioner of Official Languages

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Beginning of dialog

Hello! I would like to acknowledge that I’m speaking to you from Treaty One territory, the traditional territory of the Anishinabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota and Dene peoples, and the homeland of the Métis Nation. I am happy to be joining you in your respective territories and communities.

And I’m very pleased to be here with you today to celebrate Linguistic Duality Day.

It’s important to take time to celebrate our two official languages. They are at the heart of Canada’s linguistic diversity, along with Indigenous languages and the heritage languages of cultural communities.

Since I took office in 2018, I’ve seen a great deal of goodwill in the public service when it comes to official languages. I’ve noted several promising actions from public servants, champions, and federal institutions. Of course, it goes without saying that there is still work to be done.

The reason for shortcomings in terms of official languages in the public service is often a lack of understanding of procedures and policies, or a lack of awareness of the impact of not using both official languages.

My latest annual report talks about the considerable challenges that federal institutions are having in establishing the language requirements of positions. This has an impact on the use of English and French in the federal public service workplace and, ultimately, on the quality of services delivered to Canadians.

Some of you may know about my office’s study report on linguistic insecurity in the federal public service, and maybe some of you even participated in our survey of federal public servants on their experiences.

Linguistic insecurity is a feeling of unease when using your first or second official language. It’s a real and ongoing issue both in Canadian society and in the federal public service.

As Commissioner of Official Languages, I am particularly concerned about linguistic insecurity. In Canada, everyone should feel that they can express themselves freely in either official language.

To strengthen linguistic security in Canadian society and in the federal public service, we need to be open to others. In terms of official languages, we also need to recognize that there are many varieties of English and French, and we need to better include official languages equally in our workplaces and in our public spaces.

We all have a role to play in making the public service—and Canadian society—more linguistically inclusive when it comes to official languages, whether it’s encouraging English speakers to practise their French without fear of judgment, inviting French speakers to use their first official language without fear of causing trouble or inconvenience, or ensuring that all team members can use the official language of their choice in a virtual meeting.

All federal public servants need to respect Canada’s official languages, regardless of whether they are a leader, a manager, a support worker or a service provider. And we need to work together in the public service to make progress.

This is why I think the theme of this year’s Linguistic Duality Day, which is inclusion, is especially fitting on many levels.

We are at a pivotal time where we are taking a good hard look at our Canadian identity. But despite the turbulence, we are also in a period of enormous potential, and it is my great honour to serve as Commissioner to help shape the future of Canada’s official languages for the generations to come.

As we forge ahead, it’s important to remember that it is entirely possible—and desirable—to foster respect for our official languages while building a more inclusive society in Canada.

I applaud your continued commitment and wish you an excellent Linguistic Duality Day.

Thank you very much for your attention.

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