3. Teaching activities

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3.1 Discussion on the video

Use the following statements to have a discussion on the meaning of bilingualism in Canada. The statements have been taken from the video One Charter, Two Languages, A Thousand and One Voices.

Bilingualism is relative to wherever you’re from. There’sby no means one uniform definition of bilingualism.

[Kate Stokes, 20 years old, Sidney, British Columbia]


I’m so proud to be Acadian, it’s a big part ofmy identity. When I just spoke English anddid everything in English, I felt like a partof me was missing.

[Amy Morris, 27 years old, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia]






If Canada didn’t recognize these two languages, I wouldn’t have the privileges I have.

[Brigitte Noël, 22 years old, Sturgeon Falls, Ontario]


It’s important to protect language rights because there will always be a language in a minority situation.

[François Picard, 22 years old, Alma, Quebec]





I would like my kids to learn all the languages that I learned because I believe having more than one language is a huge asset and it’s something that should not be lost.

[Ramy Sonbl, 19 years old, Alexandria, Egypt]


You can make connections with other Canadians based on things such as music, cinema, art, and always get along with these people and learn so many different things from so many different people.

[Joel Guénette, 23 years old, Saint-Boniface, Manitoba]






Speaking English opens doors for me. It allows me to see things differently.

[Myriam Castonguay, 19 years old, Gatineau, Quebec]





I’ve learned the French language, but I’ve always kept my English culture.

[Marcie Maclean-McKay, 19 years old, Magdalen Islands, Quebec]




3.2 Learning activities

  1. Ask students to write an article for the school newspaper or Web site emphasizing the importance of both official languages in their day-to-day lives.

  2. Invent a Charter path featuring people who have worked to protect language rights in Canada. The students can create plaques to commemorate Canadians and events that marked the protection of language rights.

  3. Ask students to develop a public service announcement promoting language rights. It should make young Canadians aware of their language rights.

  4. Create an “Historica Minute” about an important moment in history related to language rights (e.g., the adoption of the Official Languages Act, the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, the creation of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages). Students can watch a few Historica Minutes at the following Web site for ideas: www.histori.ca/minutes/default.do?page=.indexExternal site.

  5. A vox populi or vox pop is one way of getting people’s opinions on a given topic. Ask students to create a vox pop on bilingualism in Canada. They can use the video One Charter, Two Languages, A Thousand and One Voices for ideas on questions to ask the school’s students. Present the vox pop during the Semaine de la Francophonie.

  6. Present students with the following situation: “HistoriCanada’s publishing director offers you the position of editor-in-chief for a special edition on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. You agree to take up the challenge. The director of the magazine gives you a list of topics to be included in the publication.” Form teams of three to four people and ask the students to write:

    • a biography of the father of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,Pierre Elliott Trudeau;
    • a biography of a public figure who contributed to language rights in Canada (André Laurendeau, David Dunton, F. R. Scott, Jean-Robert Gauthier, Keith Spicer, Graham Fraser);
    • an opinion piece or editorial on the protection of language rights in Canada (e.g., the importance of language rights in Canada, the consequences of not protecting those rights in the Charter).

  7. Ask students to invent a board game on the Charter and, more specifically, language rights (e.g., Reach for the Top, Jeopardy).

  8. Ask students to create an illustrated timeline that shows the important events in the history of bilingualism in Canada or language rights in their province.

  9. Hold a class debate. Here are some suggested topics:

    • All Canadian students should go to bilingual schools.
    • A democratic country has no need for a charter of rights and freedoms.
    • Canada should be a unilingual country.
    • Jobs in the federal government should be filled by bilingual people.

  10. Give students an opportunity to research another country that grants legal and constitutional protection to more than one language (e.g., Ireland, Belgium, Rwanda, Haiti). Then ask the students to compare the language rights of the people of those countries with those of Canadians, using a Venn diagram (see below).
Venn Diagram
  1. Ask students to draw or decode a caricature depicting a major struggle related to language rights in Canada. For more information on decoding political caricatures, visit the following Web sites:

  2. Throughout their history, minority language communities have obtained recognition of their rights after many struggles, but there are still challenges to overcome. Get the students to work in teams and list what has been gained and, the challenges that remain. Ask them to find an original way of presenting their work to the group.

Rights Gained

Remaining Challenges

Canadians can address federal courts in the official language of their choice.

There is a shortage of workers in some legal areas that can provide services in the language of the minority.

  1. Invite students to prepare a photo essay using illustrations or photos, and data pertaining to the adoption of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the recognition of language rights. Students should find at least four illustrations or photos recalling important events and write a paragraph describing each one. The students could present the illustrations or photos and their descriptions in an album with a catchy title.

  2. Read Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s speech given during the patriation of the Constitution and the coming into effect of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms with the students. See the following Web site: www.collectionscanada.ca/primeministers/h4-4024-e.htmlExternal site.

    Ask students to write a new conclusion to the speech or a new speech that Pierre Elliott Trudeau would have given to students of their age.

  3. Ask students to write a letter to the Commissioner of Official Languages sharing their views on the protection of language rights in Canada in the 21st century.

  4. Invite a senior citizen to come speak about his or her experience of linguistic duality and the challenges associated with it.

  5. Get students to interview someone who has immigrated to Canada and ask him or her to talk about becoming a member of Canadian society and the language communities.

  6. Organize a virtual rally related to the important events in the development of language rights in Canada. Prepare questions using the following Web sites:

  7. Hold a conference entitled The future of language rights—Where are we now? Assign a province, territory or organization (Francophone or Anglophone) to each student. Specify that they will have to represent that province, territory or organization during the conference. Each student should be entitled to take the floor at least once and express his or her views (e.g., observations, successes, challenges, resolutions) to the group. Rearrange the classroom for the conference and encourage dialogue, respect and the exchange of ideas throughout the activity.

  8. Read the following scenario: “Your school has chosen you to meet with the Commissioner of Official Languages. Prepare a list that you will present to him of at least five recommendations to help promote linguistic duality in Canada”.

  9. Linguistic duality is one of the cornerstones of Canadian identity. Ask the students to prepare a chart showing which language rights are guaranteed in the Constitution and give examples of their usefulness in everyday life (e.g., I can present a petition in my first language to my member of Parliament).

3.3 Case studies

  1. Your friend François is visiting you from Belgium. He’s very interested in Canada and would like to learn more about linguistic duality. He wants to know how language rights are guaranteed in Canada. What would you tell him?

  2. As a member of your school’s parliamentarian club, you are keenly interested in political life and the various Canadian bills. You have something to say about a particular bill, so you decide to make a submission to the appropriate parliamentary committee. Do you have the right to testify in French? What section of the Charter deals with your rights?

  3. John Smith of Québec City has to appear in provincial court. His official language is English. Is he entitled to be heard by a judge who understands his language? Why?

3.4 Discussion topics

  • What questions would you have asked Pierre Elliott Trudeau if you had had an opportunity to meet him in 1982?

  • What young people’s comments in the video entitled One Charter, Two Languages, A Thousand and One Voices struck you the most? Do you share any of the opinions expressed by those young people? If so, which ones?

  • Why is it important to respect both official languages?

  • What activities can we organize at school or in the community to promote and enforce our linguistic duality?

  • Throughout their history, minority language communities have obtained recognition of their rights after many struggles, but there are still challenges to overcome. What are the policies and legal bases that allow Anglophones in Quebec to receive services in English today? Talk about the contributions of institutions that provide services to the Anglophone minority in Quebec.

3.5 Theme-based projects

  1. Tell students that they will take part in a conference entitled Language Rights in Canada: Successes and Challenges. Divide the class into 13 teams and assign a province or territory to each team. At each stage of the activity, ask the students to choose a secretary and spokesperson.

Step A
Ask the teams to discuss language rights in the province or territory that has been assigned to them. The teams will be required to search the Internet for information on:

• laws that have been adopted           • organizations
• success stories                                  • cultural activities
• education

Ask each team to share their research with the class.

Discuss the similarities and differences between the provinces and territories.

Step B
Ask the teams to discuss the challenges that minority-language groups have had to overcome or must now overcome in order to make a place for themselves in the province. Ask each team to present their ideas to the class. Discuss as a group and encourage dialogue and respect for other’s opinions during the course of the conference.

Step C
Ask teams to discuss the integration of new Canadians into Canadian linguistic duality (e.g., ways to encourage their integration, challenges to overcome, future). Ask teams to present a brief summary of their discussion to the class. Discuss as a group.

  1. Tell students that they are going to research a public figure who has promoted language rights in Canada. Students should then prepare a fictional interview based on the information gathered during their research. Ask students to work in pairs.

a) Assign a different public figure to each pair of students. For example:

• William Johnson • André Laurendeau • Brent Tyler
• F. R. Scott • Lester B. Pearson • David Dunton
• Graham Fraser • Dyane Adam • Brian Mulroney
• Jean Chrétien • Daniel Cuerrier • Father Léger Comeau
• Michel Bastarache    

b) Ask students to research the public figure and fill in the following chart:

Information Chart

Name of public figure:

Career highlights:

Contribution to the promotion of language rights:

c) Ask students to write some questions and answers for an interview using the information they found during their research.




d) Ask students to prepare their interview and use visual aids (e.g., costumes).


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