Statement from the Commissioner of Official Languages on the 50th anniversary of the Official Languages Act

News releases | Gatineau, Quebec -

Commissioner of Official Languages Raymond Théberge issued the following statement earlier today to highlight the 50th anniversary of the coming into effect of the Official Languages Act on September 7, 1969:

“Fifty years ago, we decided as a country to recognize the equal status of English and French in Canadian society by adopting the Official Languages Act. We decided that English-speaking Canadians and French-speaking Canadians had the right to access federal services of equal quality in the official language of their choice.

“Much progress has been made since the first Official Languages Act came into effect. Canadians can access services in both official languages much more easily, and our official language minority communities have gained greater recognition and receive more support. It’s safe to say that we’ve come a long way since 1969.

“This progress has been made possible by having language legislation in place for 50 years and by having numerous stakeholders who defend the language rights guaranteed by that legislation. Canadians’ support of bilingualism, as evidenced by the large number of people who have enrolled in French-as-a-second-language education programs, has also helped. Recent survey results show that over 80% of Canadians support both the objectives of the Official Languages Act and bilingualism in Canada.

“It goes without saying that the work of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages has also contributed to these achievements. Through its investigations and court appearances, the Office of the Commissioner has gained nearly half a century of experience and expertise in defending language rights and promoting linguistic duality in Canada.

“I would also like to acknowledge the work of the dedicated federal employees who serve members of the public in the official language of their choice, who foster a bilingual work environment and who contribute to the development of official language minority communities. Every day, these people are committed to respecting language rights, to ensuring the vitality of official language minority communities and to advancing English and French in Canadian society.

“Finally, I would like to recognize the support of all Canadians who, day in and day out, help to make sure that our official languages are heard from coast to coast to coast. Every action counts, no matter how small—whether you are learning your second official language or just proud to know that it’s part of your national culture. I encourage you to continue to be proud of our linguistic duality, but also to speak up against any situation in which language rights are violated. Only by identifying problems can we find solutions and ultimately make improvements.

“My greatest hope is that profound changes are taking place on the official languages landscape—that the language rights of all Canadians are automatically respected and that all communities are stronger and thriving. Let’s continue to work together to make this hope a reality and ensure that English and French can live together in harmony throughout Canada.”