Portal for parliamentarians
Canada’s linguistic duality is one of the core values on which our country was built. Because the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada answers directly to Parliament, we are dedicated to providing you with all the information you need on official languages.
History of Official Languages in Canada
Browse through our timeline to discover—or rediscover—the milestones that have marked the history of linguistic duality in Canada since 1867.
Provisions of the Official Languages Act that affect parliamentarians
The Official Languages Act contains several provisions regarding parliamentarians’ rights and obligations.
- Part I of the Official Languages Act makes English and French the official languages of Parliament. Everyone has the right to use either of those languages in any debate or other parliamentary proceeding.
- The Official Languages Act requires Parliament to provide simultaneous interpretation of its debates and other proceedings. Further, reports of debates or other parliamentary proceedings (e.g. appearances before the various committees) must include a transcription of what was said in one official language and its translation in the other official language.
- Section 90 of the Official Languages Act stipulates that “
nothing in this Act abrogates or derogates from any powers, privileges or immunities of members of the Senate or the House of Commons in respect of their personal offices and staff.” Under this section, parliamentarians are not subject to the Official Languages Act for their own personal offices and staff. Members of Parliament also have certain privileges and immunities with regard to the Official Languages Act when carrying out certain activities or duties solely in their capacity as the Member of Parliament for their riding. However, when they are carrying out duties on behalf of the Government of Canada (for example, if they are head of a department and are speaking on its behalf), parliamentarians must comply with the Official Languages Act.
“I think the primary value underpinning Canadian language policy is respect: we must all demonstrate respect for both official languages, for unilingual Canadians and for minority language communities; respect for citizens, taxpayers, parliamentarians and public servants. Accordingly, linguistic duality and respect for language rights is everybody’s business. We all have responsibilities in this regard. The values of respect, generosity and integrity on which linguistic duality is based should inspire us all.”
Language composition of Canada
How many people speak English in Canada? How many French-speaking Canadians are there? How many are bilingual? The statistics section of our website is a valuable source of information.
Publications of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages
Effective language training practices—On-line tool
Language training in the federal public service has been one of the pillars of Canada’s official languages policy since the 1960s. Language training responds to the requirements of imperative staffing, enables federal employees to progress in their career towards management positions and helps them maintain their language skills. The present tool was developed as part of a study published in September 2013 entitled Challenges: The New Environment for Language Training in the Federal Public Service.
This tool was created for individuals at all levels of the federal government and allows users to create their own personalized list of effective practices simply by exploring various categories and then clicking and dragging their choices to their own language training model.
Beyond Words – Canada’s official languages e-newsletter
Beyond Words is a great on-line resource featuring a wide range of topics related to Canada’s official languages and how Canadians make use of their two official languages. Subjects include arts and culture, languages of the world, current events, history and second-language learning.
The following links are provided as a public service. The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada is not responsible for the content of these sites, and their views do not necessarily reflect those of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages. Please note that only the sites of Canadian federal institutions are subject to the Official Languages Act.
Laws and policies
- Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
- Official Languages Act
- Official Languages (Communications with and Services to the Public) Regulations
- Policy on Official Languages (Treasury Board)
This list includes links to federal organizations that play a specific role with respect to official languages.
- Burolis - Directory of designated bilingual offices
- Regions designated as bilingual for language-of-work purposes
- Official Languages and Parliament
- Canadian Heritage’s official languages support program
- House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages
- Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages
- Canada School of Public Service
- Canadian Heritage
- Federal Court of Canada
- Department of Justice
- Privy Council Office
- Public Service Commission of Canada
- Translation Bureau
- Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat