Since 1867

Official Languages in Canada

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Fathers of the Confederation
July 1, 1867

Confederation: A Bold Vision for Canada

In the new country of the Dominion of Canada, English and French are both officially permitted in Parliament.

The Quebec legislature adopts Chapter 16 of the Statutes of the Province of Quebec, an education provision for the English-speaking minority

The new bill grants additional privileges in education for the Anglo-Protestant minority.
Portrait of Louis Riel

The Red River Rebellion, a popular democratic movement led by Louis Riel, leads to the creation of Manitoba

This is the new Canadian government’s first major crisis since Confederation.
Manitoba flag

An important turning point in the history of Manitoba: English is declared the province’s only official language

During the same period, a bill to abolish religious duality is passed.
Studio portrait of Mr. McCarthy

English becomes the sole official language of the Northwest Territories

An ordinance and a resolution make English the only language permitted in schools and in the legislative assembly.
Protest in front of Guigues school in Ottawa (Ontario), February 1916

Regulation 17 is introduced in Ontario

Regulation 17 makes English the only language of instruction in Ontario’s public schools after the first two years of school.
March 10, 1916

The Thornton Act is passed, abolishing the bilingual school system in Manitoba

The bilingual school system is abolished and, along with it, French-language education.

The Bonne Entente League is formed

This marks the beginning of the Bonne Entente movement, which seeks to improve relations between English- and French-speaking Canadians.

The Civil Service Act causes a decline in the use of French in the federal public service

The Civil Service Act, 1918 reforms the federal public service’s hiring practices but ends up reducing the use of French in the government.
Cabinet Meeting, Privy Council Chamber, East Block. The Hons. P.J. Veniot is seating to the left.

Pierre Veniot becomes Premier of New Brunswick

Pierre Veniot is New Brunswick’s first Acadian premier.
Celebrations on July 1st 1927
July 1, 1927

Canada celebrates its 60th birthday, and linguistic duality takes centre stage

July 1, 1927, marks the biggest celebration of Confederation in Canada’s history, and the events organized by Ottawa are fully bilingual.
Image of two documents. One titled "News" and the other "Info"

The Translation Bureau is created

The federal government creates the Translation Bureau in large part to improve access to federal services in French.
House of Commons in session. 

The Lacroix Bill is passed

The Act Amending the Civil Service Act officially recognizes the principle of bilingualism in the federal public service hiring process for the first time in Canada’s history.

The Royal Commission on Government Organization files its report

The 1960–1962 Royal Commission, also known as the Glassco Commission raises the issue of bilingualism in the public service.
The Maritime Premiers pose in Charlottetown (Prince-Edward-Island). Louis J. Robichaud is on the left.

New Brunswick marks a pivotal moment in the recognition of language rights

Under the leadership of Premier Louis Robichaud, the provincial government passes the Official Languages Act, making New Brunswick Canada’s first and only officially bilingual province.

Quebec passes its first piece of legislation to promote the French language in the province

The Quebec government passes the Act to promote the French Language in Québec.
Portrait of Pierre Elliot Trudeau

The Official Languages Act is passed, and the position of Commissioner of Official Languages is created

In response to a recommendation made by the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s government passes the Official Languages Act.

The Office of the Provincial Coordinator of French Language Services is created in Ontario

This office administers the Government of Ontario’s French-language services.

Canada adopts an official multiculturalism policy

The Government of Canada adopts an official multiculturalism policy to recognize the contribution of cultural diversity to the Canadian social fabric.

English or French: Canadian public servants can choose their language of work

The Parliament of Canada adopts the Resolution on Official Languages in the Public Service of Canada.
Hôtel du Parlement du Québec, 1977

Quebec passes its Official Language Act

The Official Language Act replaces the Act to promote the French language in Quebec and makes French the province’s official language.

The Consumer Packaging and Labelling Regulations come into force

The Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and its regulations on the bilingual packaging of products enter into effect.
Charter of the French Language cover's picture
August 26, 1977

Quebec’s National Assembly adopts the Charter of the French Language

The provisions of the Charter of the French Language, commonly known as Bill 101, affect the activities of the government, commerce, business, education and the courts.

The Parliament of Canada amends the Criminal Code

The Criminal Code is amended to extend defendants’ rights.

New Brunswick recognizes both official language communities

The Act Recognizing the Equality of the Two Official Linguistic Communities in New Brunswick is passed.
Signing of the Constitution
April 17, 1982

The Constitution is repatriated and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is adopted

The Government of Canada repatriates the Constitution and entrenches the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms within it.
Sign for government-run eye clinic in Yellowknife, with all 11 official languages of the Northwest Territories

The Northwest Territories passes its first official languages legislation

The Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories adopts the Official Languages Ordinance, giving English and French equal status in government services.

Quebec passes a bill to provide its English-speaking citizens with health care and social services in their language

Section 15 of the Act respecting health services and social services recognizes the right of English-speaking Quebecers to receive health care and social services in their language.
Franco-Ontarian Flag

Ontario passes the French Language Services Act

The French Language Services Act guarantees many language rights for Franco-Ontarians.
Fransaskois flag

Saskatchewan adopts its Act Respecting the Use of the English and French Languages in Saskatchewan

It is the first provincial act to define the status of the French language in Saskatchewan.

The Government of Canada passes the new Official Languages Act

The new Official Languages Act ensures the full implementation of the language rights guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Parliament Building

The Parliament of Canada passes the Canadian Multiculturalism Act

The Act supports Canada’s linguistic duality, where English and French are Canada’s official languages.
The Franco-Yukonnais Flag

Yukon adopts its Languages Act

Yukon’s Languages Act recognizes the status of French and highlights the importance of Aboriginal languages.
Government of Manitoba's logo

Manitoba develops its French Language Services Policy

The Policy is adopted 10 years after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the province’s Official Language Act, which made English Manitoba’s sole official language, was unconstitutional.
Aerial picture of the Soo Locks (downriver view) — in Michigan between Lake Superior and Lake Huron

A national controversy ignites in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

The City adopts a municipal resolution, declaring itself to be unilingual English.

The Official Languages Regulations are adopted

The government adopts the Official Languages (Communications with and Services to the Public) Regulations.

Manitoba amends Part III of the City of Winnipeg Act

Part III covers the delivery of municipal services in French.
Franco-Albertan flag

Franco-Albertans regain control of their schools

Alberta’s School Act is amended to recognize the right of Francophones to manage their own schools.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is amended

The Charter is amended to include the principles of An Act Recognizing the Equality of the Two Official Linguistic Communities in New Brunswick.

The federal government establishes an accountability framework for official language minority communities

The framework encourages federal institutions to actively contribute to the development of official language minority communities.

The Committee for Canadian Francophonie Human Resources Development is established

The Committee is composed of representatives from several federal institutions and Francophone minority communities.

The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Agreement on the management of Francophone schools is signed

The province develops a French-first-language program for Franco-Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who want their children to have French-language instruction.
Judge Richard Chartier

A report is published on Manitoba’s French language services policy

The recommendations in the Chartier Report lead to the adoption of a new French Language Services Policy.
Prince Edward Island Wordmark

Prince Edward Island passes its first French Language Services Act

The French Language Services Act specifies the extent of French language services to be provided by provincial government institutions.

Nunavut adopts the Northwest Territories’ Official Languages Act

On April 1, 1999, the newly created territory of Nunavut inherits the Northwest Territories’ Official Languages Act.
The Franco-Newfoundland and Labrador flag
May 30, 1999

May 30 is declared to be the Journée de la francophonie terre-neuvienne-et-labradorienne

An Order in Council is passed by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Parliament Building

The first minister responsible for official languages is appointed

The federal government assigns responsibility for the interdepartmental coordination of official languages files to Stéphane Dion.
New Brunswick Legislative Assembly

New Brunswick passes a new Official Languages Act

The new Act is a legislative milestone for the Government of New Brunswick.