ARCHIVED - Chapter 3: Promoting the Learning of our two Official Languages: Seeking a true Language Continuum

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1.0 Bilingualism: From the 1960s to the present

In the first book of their report, the members of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism stated that “[a] bilingual country is not one where all the inhabitants necessarily have to speak two languages; rather it is a country where the principal public and private institutions must provide services in two languages to citizens, the vast majority of whom may very well be unilingual.”1

The members of the Commission were very conscious of the advantages associated with Canadians knowing English and French. Having pointed out that being able to master a second language “gives access to a different culture” and can help when one is seeking employment, they underlined the importance of some individuals being bilingual for the country to run smoothly. “[A] bilingual institution, province, or country,” they wrote, “can function efficiently only if there are a sufficient number of bilingual people to maintain contact between the two language groups.”2

Canada had a substantial number of bilingual citizens when the members of the Commission wrote their report. In 1961, more than 2.2 million Canadians, or 12% of the population, stated that they could speak both official languages. Today, that figure is 5.4 million, or 17% of the population.

However, at the time, the English and French mother-tongue communities were far from being equally bilingual. In 1961, Quebec’s Francophone majority and the Francophone communities outside Quebec accounted for 70% of the country’s bilingual population, even though they represented only 28% of the total population.3

In light of these statistics, it is easy to conclude that, before the Official Languages Act came into force, the responsibility for bilingualism lay mainly with Francophones. Even in Quebec, the Francophone population often had to master English to be able to earn a living, communicate with storekeepers or deal with the federal government.

This situation has improved, and, over the years, linguistic duality has become a Canadian value.

However, it is important that the federal government and its various partners intensify their efforts to increase the proportion of bilingual Canadians, particularly the proportion of Anglophones able to speak French. Among these partners are all those involved in English or French second-language learning and, most importantly, the provincial and territorial governments, employers, universities and associations dedicated to promoting bilingualism, such as the Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers, Canadian Parents for French, the Canadian Association of Immersion Teachers, the Society for Educational Visits and Exchanges in Canada (SEVEC), French for the Future and the Society for the Promotion of the Teaching of English as a Second Language in Quebec.

Indeed, an increased knowledge of English and French will help Canadians meet many challenges, including those they are facing in the current economic climate.

2.0 Bilingualism gives an edge

We are only now realizing the extent to which the language regime established in Canada 40 years ago has helped the country tackle the challenges of the 21st century.

In the 1960s, globalization was already well under way, and this phenomenon has continued to grow over recent decades due to factors such as the reduction of trade barriers, the population’s increased mobility and the emergence of new communicationtools, for example, the Internet.

Moreover, the proportion of the labour force that works in customer service, disseminates scientific information, produces analysis reports or has any other duties requiring proficient written or spoken language skills, has considerably increased since the adoption of the Official Languages Act.

In light of these phenomena, it has never been so important or so rewarding for Canadians to master their first official language and to improve their knowledge of their second language.

In a world where travelling is now so easy, English-speaking Albertans who also speak French can not only easily explore Quebec or France, but also discover the vitality of their second language in countries like Germany or Spain, where it is considered, along with English, one of the two foreign languages to learn in order to succeed professionally.4

In the same way, a bilingual hotelier from Ottawa or Toronto can effectively target a Francophone clientele, particularly that of Quebec.5 According to a recent study, Francophone tourists “feel that they are poorly understood culturally and linguistically by Ontarians”6 and list the availability of French services as “a deciding factor in choosing a travel destination.”7

As for bilingual Newfoundlanders, they can read The Telegram or Robertson Davies novels, and can also obtain an alternate view of current affairs and the world from an on-line version of the Courrier International or the original works of Jacques Poulin.

Finally, Francophone management consultants who also speak English are not only able to advise companies in their region, but can also consult the most up-to-date works by the most famous management experts in the world, and take advantage of the numerous job and contract opportunities available in North America and even internationally.

As these examples show, knowing both of Canada’s official languages pays off personally as well as professionally.

This explains why Canadian employers are increasingly looking for applicants who have attained a given level of proficiency in both official languages. A study published in 2008 by Canadian Parents for French showed that, outside of Quebec and the federal public service, 81% of supervisors of bilingual employees considered them “a valuable asset”8 to the organization.

In this context, it is understandable that, among the businesses consulted by Ipsos Reid for Canadian Parents for French, 49% of respondents involved in staffing appointments considered the applicant’s bilingualism an important evaluation criterion. “One in five (21%) expect that their need for bilingual employees will increase, while just five percent expect their need for bilingual employees to decrease.”9

Bilingualism is also highly sought-after by Quebec businesses. The results of a survey conducted for Québec multilingue, a committee of the Québec City Chamber of Commerce, showed that 40% of Québec City’s businesses employ people who need to master a second language for work—English, in the vast majority of cases.10

The importance of bilingualism in the professional sphere shows why, in Canada, workers who can speak both English and French often have an advantage when looking for a job (for instance, 53% of graduates from Saskatchewan’s immersion programs report that their knowledge of French has helped them find work11). Moreover, their income is often higher than that of their unilingual colleagues.12

That said, bilingualism is more than just a means of personal or economic development: it is a building block of Canadian identity and one of the factors contributing to Canada’s prestige abroad. It is also key to ensuring that the country runs smoothly, which is an essential condition of the pursuit of meaningful dialogue between Anglophones and Francophones.

Thus, the Canadian government will only be able to perform its role if its Anglophone and Francophone employees are able to collaborate effectively. For this reason, a good proportion of the thousands of graduates who will join the federal public service each year as part of public service renewal will have to be bilingual.

Furthermore, UNESCO has stated that “intensive and transdisciplinary learning of at least a third modern language […] should represent the normal range of practical linguistic skills in the twenty-first century.”13

Also, the European Union established that, in the long term, each of its citizens should speak his or her mother tongue and two other languages.14

By reinforcing linguistic duality and encouraging multilingualism among Canadians, Canada will, in turn, be able to help its citizens stand out at home and around the world, where linguistic diversity is becoming more and more important.

3.0 The vision of bilingualism in Canada

In light of what has been said, the Canadian vision of bilingualism should include the following target:

All Canadians have access, in their community, to the necessary resources in order to effectively learn English or French as a second language.

This means that:

  • Parents and their children are aware of the importance of mastering a second language.

  • During preschool and throughout their schooling, all young Canadians have access to quality programs to learn a second language.

  • All students are able to continue learning their second language in a post-secondary institution in their province, and should even be encouraged to do so.

  • These young Canadians’ teachers are able to draw on the energy of the country’s official language communities and the potential of existing resources, such as information technology, to help their students practise their new language and explore the cultures associated with it.

  • Throughout their studies, these young Canadians have the opportunity to practise and master their second language within the other linguistic community.

  • At the end of their studies, all Canadians are able to acquire or enhance the English or French second-language skills required for their social and professional integration.

4.0 Obstacles to bilingualism

There are still many obstacles that suggest this vision of bilingualism is far from being fully achieved. The federal government has been investing considerable sums of money over the past several years to improve Canadians’ ability to speak English and French.

These efforts have delivered convincing results. In fact, as described in the text box entitled “The bilingualism of Canadians,” more non-Francophones in Canada—especially Anglophones in Quebec—are bilingual now than ever before.

However, many obstacles must be overcome in order to significantly reduce the gap between the number of Anglophones and the number of Francophones who can use both official languages and to ensure that such an achievement has lasting effects.


The bilingualism of canadians15

In the last census, more than 17% of the Canadian population—that is, 5.4 million people—claimed that they could hold a conversation in English and in French; this is 5% more than in 1961. More specifically, 42.4% of people whose first language is French stated that they speak English and French, compared with just 7.4% of Canadians whose first language is English.

Quebec has the highest proportion of bilingual people in Canada: more than one-third of Francophones (36%) and two-thirds of Anglophones (69%) in the province stated that they speak English and French. Among Anglophones aged 18 to 34, this percentage has increased to nearly 80%. In fact, in the past 40 years, no other Canadian community has increased its ability to speak a second official language as much as the Anglophone communities in Quebec.

4.1 Misperceptions limit the demand for second-language school programs

Misperceptions explain why the demand for secondlanguage school programs is lower than it could be. For example, a high proportion of non-Francophone parents who enrol their children in the regular English program believe that French immersion is an experimental project, while it is in fact a method that has proved itself time and again.16 Other parents believe that second-language courses hinder their children’s abilities in their first language.17

Misperceptions also exist among young people themselves. In English Canada, young Anglophones sometimes think twice about learning French because they perceive French classes as being difficult, or because they “do not really see the point of learning a second language.”18 In Quebec, the participants in a 2008 round table organized by Industry Canada indicated that the majority of Québec City’s CEGEP students lacked the motivation to learn English because they viewed the language as being of little use.19

By intensifying communication and promotion activities, the federal government and its partners will be able to counter inaccurate perceptions. They will also be able to reinforce the desire of young people to learn the other official language and the desire of parents to enrol their children in advanced language programs.

“In Canada, I think that bilingualism is really important, particularly for the country’s unity. Bilingualism could be what helps bring us together so that we better understand our cultural differences. [translation]”20

– A Francophone student giving his opinion in a video by the Society for Educational Visits and Exchanges in Canada

4.2 Too many students lack the opportunity to effectively learn the other official language

“[Young people] felt that learning a second language is not always supported in their schools, communities or families […]. The effort required to learn a second language is significant and they see a large number of their friends give up […].”21

– One of the main conclusions of the Society for Educational Visits and Exchanges in Canada following their Living and Learning in a Bilingual Canada forums.

All students in Quebec, both in the English-language and French-language school systems, now have access to second-language courses at school. This learning begins in the first grade of elementary school22 and continues throughout secondary school. Although certain difficulties must be overcome to ensure the quality of second-language teaching in Quebec schools, courses are at least available everywhere in the province.

In contrast, only 47% of young Anglophone Cana dians currently learn French in pre-school, elementary school or secondary school, as part of a French immersion, intensive French or core French program. Indeed, as Canadian Parents for French points out, all evidence in Canada suggests that “[certain] prac tices […] limit enrolment and retention in elementary [and] secondary […] programs.”23

Generally, a number of provinces across the country are still doing too little to ensure that allophones have equal access to French immersion programs and are encouraged to enrol in them, despite the fact that two-thirds of Canada’s demographic growth is attributed to immigration.


When the anglophone majority takes action for bilingualism

In 2007, the New Brunswick Minister of Education, Kelly Lamrock, asked commissioners Jim Croll and Patricia Lee to review French second-language teaching methods in the province, in order to improve the academic performance of its students. The commissioners submitted their final report in February 2008.

This report contained 18 recommendations, including the elimination of early immersion programs. Th is proposal provoked an outcry. With the support of the provincial branch of Canadian Parents for French, New Brunswick’s Anglophone community rose up to defend the existing programs, through newspapers, the Internet and the courts.

To comply with a decision from the Court of Queen’s Bench of New Brunswick, Minister Lamrock held new consultations, starting in summer 2008. As a result, he decided to offer those students who were interested the option of enrolling in French immersion in Grade 3. The other students would start learning French in Grade 3, and participate in an intensive program in Grade 5.

More specifi cally, many parents in British Columbia must draw lots to enrol their children in a French immersion program because, in certain school districts in this province, the availability of French immersion classes limits rather than meets the demand. Such a lottery would be unthinkable in the case of parents wishing to enrol their children in advanced mathematics courses, for example.

In Ontario, more than half of elementary students enrolled in French immersion programs use school transportation to get to school. Unfortunately, some school boards do not offer this service to immersion students at the secondary level, leading many parents in the province’s rural and northern regions, particularly those parents who are less fortunate, to resign themselves to enrolling their children in a regular school program.24

The recruitment of teachers constitutes another obstacle to providing quality English or French second-language classes. For example, some French-language school boards in Quebec are having trouble recruiting the certified teachers they need to deliver the new English second-language program that the Quebec Ministère de l’Éducation has set up for elementary students in grades 1, 2 and 3.25 Th e lack of “qualified, committed and interesting”26 teachers is seen as a “serious problem”27 by young people, who, according to the conclusions of the regional forums on bilingualism held by SEVEC, “would like to have Francophone French teachers (and Anglophone English teachers).”28

Some schools in Canada have tried to overcome this problem, as well as the problem of a lack of key pedagogical resources, by turning to information technology. “Some French courses, in Newfoundland for example, are only available online,” points out SEVEC. “Instant messaging can facilitate learning by connecting youth to one another and allowing them to practise their writing skills through emails or chat services. The Internet is an essential tool for school libraries with a limited number of [resources] in other languages.”29


Getting young people interested in learning a second language

Some schools are not hesitating to adopt new practices to entice young people to learn a second language and sustain their interest. For instance, in Manitoba, the École St. Avila has heavily integrated the arts into its French immersion program. Francophone artists, musicians, actors and storytellers are invited into the classroom to work with students and help them develop their artistic potential. In Alberta, the William Aberhart High School has, for its part, come up with various tools, such as the Web site and the Passeport francophile, which encourage immersion students to continue exploring Francophone culture after class.

Of course, public stakeholders should work toge ther in implementing these kinds of technological solutions in select Anglophone and Francophone communities. However, the federal government, the provinces and the territories, as well as their partners, must strive to eliminate the various obstacles currently limiting the availability of second-language learning programs across the country.

4.3 Too few courses are offered to students at the post-secondary level in their second language

In 2008, the Commissioner asked Ipsos Reid to list the measures adopted by post-secondary institutions across Canada to promote French second-language learning, and to identify those implemented by Quebec universities for the purpose of supporting profi ciency in English as a second language. Among the 96 institutions invited to complete the survey, 84 agreed to participate.

“Like many Canadians, I began learning French in elementary school. I don’t really remember when it began, but the songs and stories in French are a part of my childhood. Through grades 10 to 12, as part of my International Baccalaureate diploma, I took a higher-level French program that aimed to make me bilingual in two years. […] Unfortunately, after high school, I didn’t continue learning French and I haven’t needed it until now, 17 years later. It has become one of my biggest regrets. I’ve become a little obsessed with learning French, to the point where I think I’m speaking French in my dreams.”30

– Alden E. Habacon, Manager, Diversity Initiatives, CBC Television Network

The survey results show that most Canadian postsecondary institutions currently enable their students to learn English or French as a second language or to hone their language skills.

It should be noted that the number of language courses associated with a given specialty (e.g. “French for Law” at the University of Western Ontario) is much more limited. In addition, only 22% of English-language institutions and 50% of French-language institutions surveyed provide students with the opportunity to take some courses in their field of study (e.g. biology, political science or journalism) in their second language. Moreover, it has been noted that the availability of courses taught in English or French as a second language is generally quite limited.

It is encouraging to find that the students who have learned English or French as a second language at the primary or secondary level can usually take courses at the post-secondary level to upgrade their skills. However, it would be important for the federal government and its partners to encourage post-secondary institutions to follow the example of universities or faculties that give students the opportunity to receive part of their education in their second language. The following are examples of post-secondary institutions that have taken such action:

  • In Quebec, HEC Montréal and McGill University introduced in 2007 a joint MBA program for experienced executives where courses are taught in a bilingual manner. “[...] candidates must understand both languages, but may contribute to discussions and write exams and papers in either language.”31

  • Since 2006, the University of Ottawa has been offering English-speaking and allophone students enrolled in criminology, history, nursing sciences or approximately 50 other undergraduate disciplines the opportunity to participate in its new French immersion program. To successfully graduate, students must take several courses in their program of study in French, and can rely on the customized support of language teachers and students who act as mentors. The University of Ottawa hopes that approximately 1,100 students will enrol in the French immersion program by 2010–2011,32 and is well on its way to meeting its target.

  • In British Columbia, Simon Fraser University offers a program in public administration and community services where the language of instruction is mostly French. This program includes a major in political science and an extended minor in French. Students must take some courses in French and study for one full term in a Francophone university. Designed and managed by the institution’s Bureau des affaires francophones et francophiles, “this program allows students from French immersion and Francophone programs in British Columbia to pursue their university studies in French and in their own province.”33
4.4 Too few post-secondary institutions actively promote the importance of bilingualism to their students

According to a study the Office of the Commissioner intends to publish in 2009, only a handful of postsecondary institutions currently require their students to know the other official language when they enrol in a program of study or when they graduate.

In 2009, partial proficiency in English or French as a second language is a requirement for most Canadian students, regardless of the selected discipline. By adopting language policies, post-secondary institutions would be sending a strong message in favour of bilingualism at the primary and secondary levels.

It would be beneficial if the implementation of such language policies were based on common terms of reference for languages, such as those that the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada started reviewing in 2006, and that the Canadian Associa tion of Second Language Teachers has started to promote. By using this standardized tool based on a European model, Canadian educational and post-secondary institutions would assess the second-language skills of their applicants and graduates in a consistent fashion—that is, by using accurate and objective indicators.

Of course, employers’ behaviour could have a significant impact on the measures taken by primary and secondary schools and post-secondary institutions to support the development of their students’ language skills. For example, by strongly reaffirming that the public sector seeks recruits who are also proficient in their second official language, the Government of Canada would convey a message whose impact would be felt at all levels in every provincial and territorial education system.

4.5 There are too few links between students and official language communities

Concerns have been raised that teachers in French second-language programs are not doing enough to draw on the presence of thriving official language communities across Canada. As revealed in the SEVEC report Living and Learning in a Bilingual Canada, students in such programs “were astonished to learn, through networking at the forum, that there often exist Franco phone organizations and centres in their community.34

With respect to teaching at the post-secondary level, the Office of the Commissioner’s work demonstrates that a minority of English-language institutions in the country see to it that their students strengthen their French second-language skills by taking part in the activities hosted by official language communities. For example, in Saskatchewan, the University of Regina maintains close, regular ties with the Franco-Saskatchewanian community. However, only seven institutions out of 84 help their students connect with French-speaking people in Canada or overseas through teleconferencing or videoconferencing.

Canada’s Francophone communities are thriving and have a lot to offer those wishing to learn French. At the same time, as highlighted by the editorial writer André Pratte, French-speaking Quebecers would benefit from learning more about the contributions of Quebec’s English-speaking communities to the development of Quebec society.35 Consequently, the federal government and its partners should continue to support the relationship between each majority language community in the country and the official language communities.

4.6 Students lack language exchange opportunities in Canada

Exchanges can have a noticeable impact on the development of participants’ language skills. For example, 93% of 12- to 17-year-old Canadians who have taken part in this type of exchange as part of the programs managed by SEVEC believe that this experience has enhanced their confidence in their ability to use their second official language.36


Official language communities: underexploited potential

Members of Francophone communities outside Quebec are among the most bilingual Canadians in the country (84% speak English and French37). However, employers who seek employees able to speak both official languages often fail to maximize the potential of this labour force in order to meet their language needs.

This situation has led the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages to recommend that Air Canada continue to encourage young Canadians to pursue second-language learning, that it establish “partnerships with community groups and educational institutions in minority communities” and that it launch recruitment campaigns in areas outside major urban centres, such as in Eastern and Northern Ontario or New Brunswick’s Acadian Peninsula.38

Similarly, in the report entitled Raising our Game for Vancouver 2010: Towards a Canadian Model of Linguistic Duality in International Sport, the Commissioner recommended that the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter games “promptly establish a targeted strategy for seeking applications from bilingual volunteers, by reaching out to groups, including the entire network of French-speaking communities and associations that promote French as a second language learning.”39

Moreover, a vast majority of young participants in the language exchanges hosted by SEVEC believe that their experience has strengthened their sense of belonging to Canada.40

Unfortunately, among the millions of Canadian students at the primary and secon dary levels, only a few thousand have had an opportunity in 2007–2008 to take part in a bilingual exchange hosted by SEVEC or in such other programs as Explore, managed by the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, and Summer Work Student Exchange, managed by the YMCA.41

At the same time, a majority of post-secondary institutions offer their students the opportunity to take part in exchanges meant to help them improve their skills in English or French as a second language. However, English-language institutions usually enter into agreements with foreign institutions rather than Canadian ones. Moreover, few Canadian institutions have signed partnership agree ments that are designed specifically for language purposes.


The Molson Foundation’s immersion scholarships

In 2008, the Commissioner took part in an annual awards ceremony to honour the recipients of the Molson Foundation immersion scholarships. The Foundation gives $5,000 to five mother-tongue English-speaking Cana dians from outside Quebec each year, so that they can pursue their undergraduate studies in French at Université Laval.

The Molson Foundation’s French immer sion scholarships were created in 2005, thanks to a $500,000 donation from this organization. According to Andrew T. Molson, who is Vice- President of the Molson Foundation and a graduate of Université Laval, the scholarships will be used to promote the discovery of the French language and of Quebec culture for “generations to come.”42

In addition, financial barriers prevent some institutions from sending their students overseas. Thus, as noted by the director of a Francophone CEGEP, “exchanges with the Canadian provinces are a promising avenue for enhancing students’ bilingualism, but time and money are needed for an institution to organize them.”43

The federal government and its partners should support the efforts made by SEVEC and other similar organizations that host language exchanges for students at the primary and secondary levels. They should also help post-secondary institutions to provide their students with more opportunities to participate in exchanges within their own province or elsewhere in Canada.

4.7 Too few canadians have an opportunity to acquire second-language skills outside the school system

For different reasons, few Canadians have been able to learn both of Canada’s official languages while they were students. Consequently, it would be important to make sure that all Canadians have many opportunities to learn English or French as a second language—or to improve their proficiency— outside of the school system.

This is not always the case. In fact, although many organizations feel it is important for their employees to be proficient in both official languages, few organizations provide employees with opportunities to hone their language skills. Thus, 46% of super visors outside Quebec state that they have difficulty finding bilingual employees,44 but only 14% of businesses give their staff time to take language courses, and only 5% of them offer in-house French courses.45

To ensure that Canadians can learn English or French as a second language once they complete their studies, it would be in the best interests of the federal government and its partners to continue to strongly support language industry organizations (represented by the Association des industries de langue/Language Industry Association [AILIA]) that specialize in developing language training tools and services that are more and more effective.

The Canadian government and its partners should also continue to support the development of standardized tools that, as in the case of the common terms of reference for languages for Canada, will enable businesses and public organizations to accurately assess the English or French secondlanguage skills of their staff. Finally, they should raise awareness among Canadian organizations about the importance of language training, and aim to support businesses and organizations that want to provide better language training to their staff.

5.0 The federal government: an essential player

Over the next few years, it will be important for Canadian society to take steps to significantly increase the number of people who can speak both official languages.

Federal support in this regard will be crucial, as recognized by Canadians themselves: 70% of the country’s population in fact believes that the federal government has an important role to play in promoting the use of French in Canada.46

In the fall of 2008, the appointment of James Moore, a graduate of the French immersion program in British Columbia, as Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages is a testament to the fact that linguistic duality is not an issue that only affects official language communities, and that second-language learning by Anglophones is an important value. “I want all students to enjoy the same oppor tunities as my two sisters and I did in studying French,”47 the Minister recently said.

However, the message sent by the Canadian govern ment when it adopted the Roadmap for Canada’s Linguistic Duality 2008–2013, its plan for official languages, seems, at least at first glance, less visionary with respect to second-language learning by Canadians.

The good news is that the Roadmap 2008–2013 predicts an increase in the budget for second-language teaching and assistance to the language industry (which encompasses the area of language training).48 However, it is unfortunate that the federal government did not incorporate any specific targets for increasing bilingualism, while the Action Plan for Official Languages set out the federal government’s intention to increase the ratio of young bilingual Canadians aged 15 to 19 from 24% in 2001 to 50% in 2013.

Does the lack of reference to this ambitious target in the Roadmap 2008–2013 mean that bilingualism targets have been abandoned? One hopes that this is not the case, since, in an era of results-oriented management and accountability, this could lead to the disengagement of federal departments from the provinces and territories where this matter is concerned.

The Canadian government will be implementing the Roadmap 2008–2013 in the next few months. It is hoped that the measures taken by federal institutions in consultation with their various partners will be of help in solving the problems that currently prevent an increase in the number of Canadians who can speak both official languages.

6.0 Conclusion: Language issues are economic issues

In 40 years, Canada has made significant progress in terms of individual bilingualism. At the present time, more than five million Canadians (approximately 17%),49 and nearly 500,00050 young Canadians aged 15 to 19 (approximately 23%) state that they can hold a conversation in English and in French.

This said, there are still various obstacles facing some Canadians who would benefit from learning English or French as a second language, or who would like to do so. This situation must be rectified.

In fact, at a time when Canada is facing a major world-wide economic and financial crisis, it is important to stress that economic and language issues, contrary to what some might say, are related.

Indeed, for proof of this relationship and proof that language issues are increasingly a concern for industrialized countries, one need look no further than the work by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and by Statistics Canada on the link between literacy and productivity, or even in statistics showing that, due to a shortfall in language skills, European SMEs are losing €100 billion per year.51

Consequently, any reversal by the federal government on its commitments to linguistic duality, or any slowdown by the provincial or territorial governments in implementing learning support programs for English or French as a second language may have significant repercussions on the country’s economy. The mistake could in fact be so serious that it would take years to correct.52

The attitude of Canadians towards English or French second-language learning has never been so positive. A vast majority of Francophones consider it important to know English and, according to a survey by Angus Reid, 71% of Anglophones aged 18 to 34 believe that English-speaking Canadians should know at least some French.53

The federal government and its partners should build on this solid support and increase their support in a coherent manner for the implementation of a true official-language-learning continuum across Canada.


5th recommendation
The Commissioner recommends that the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages:

  • implement, as soon as possible, the commitments announced in the Roadmap for Canada’s Linguistic Duality 2008–2013: Acting for the Future to support second official language learning;

  • develop, by March 31, 2010, appropriate coordination mechanisms, bringing together all partners involved in English or French second-language learning in Canada;

  • report, by the end of fiscal year 2010–2011, on these measures and the results that they helped achieve.


1. André Laurendeau and A. Davidson Dunton (co-chairs), Report of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, “Book I: General Introduction–The Official Languages,” Ottawa, Queen’s Printer, 1967, p. xxviii.

2. Ibid., p. xxviii.

3. Ibid., pp. 38–39.

4. European Commission, Europeans and their Languages, special edition of the EurobarometerExternal site, Brussels, 2006, p. 32. On-line version consulted March 31, 2009.

5. “Besides visits from Ontario residents, the Quebec market is currently Ontario’s main Canadian market and accounts for 69.7% of the Canadian tourism clientele outside of Ontario.” —Direction Ontario, Solution Ideas for the Future of Tourism in Ontario: Community and Francophone Viewpoints, 2008, p. 11.

6. Ibid., p. 10.

7. Ibid., p. 11.

8. Canadian Parents for French, Survey of Supervisors of Bilingual EmployeesExternal site, Ottawa, 2008a, p. 17. On-line version consulted March 31, 2009.

9. Ibid., p. 2.

10. Écho Sondage, La langue seconde dans les entreprises de la MRC de Portneuf et de la ville de Québec, study carried out for the Québec multilingue committee, Québec City, 2007, p. 15.

11. Canadian Council on Learning, “Parlez-vous français? The advantages of bilingualism in Canada,” Lessons in LearningExternal site, Ottawa, October 16, 2008. On-line version consulted March 31, 2009.

12. See Ibid. as well as Éric Forgues, Maurice Beaudin and Nicolas Béland, L’évolution des disparités de revenu entre les francophones et les anglophones du Nouveau-Brunswick de 1970 à 2000External site, Moncton, Canadian Institute for Research on Minority Languages, October 2006. On-line version consulted March 31, 2009.

13. UNESCO, Implementation of a language policy for the world based on multilingualismExternal site, 2000, section 12 iii. On-line version consulted March 31, 2009.

14. Council of the European Union, “Council Conclusions on the European Indicator of Language Competence,” Official Journal of the European UnionExternal site, July 25, 2006. On-line version consulted March 31, 2009.

15. Statistics Canada, The Evolving Linguistic PortraitGovernment site, 2006 Census: Bilingualism, Ottawa, 2007. On-line version consulted March 31, 2009.

16. Canadian Council on Learning, 2007 Survey of Canadian Attitudes Toward LearningExternal site, Ottawa, 2007. On-line version consulted March 31, 2009.

17. Canadian Parents for French, The State of French-Second-Language Education in Canada 2008External site, Ottawa, 2008b, p. 15. On-line version consulted March 31, 2009.

18. Society for Educational Visits and Exchanges in Canada (SEVEC), Living and Learning in a Bilingual CanadaExternal site, summary of findings of the Regional Youth Forums, Ottawa, 2008, p. 6. On-line version consulted March 31, 2009.

19. Fosburys Experts-Conseils, Compte rendu de quatre tables rondes tenues dans la région de Québec pour discuter des questions de multilinguisme, report submitted to Industry Canada, Mont-Royal, 2008, p. 7.

20. SEVEC, Vivre et apprendre dans un pays bilingue : Les jeunes discutent du bilinguisme, video of comments from participants at the regional youth forums entitled Learning and Living in a Bilingual CanadaExternal site. On-line version consulted March 31, 2009.

21. SEVEC, op. cit., 2008, p. 4.

22. Since 2006, young students in Quebec’s French-language school system have been learning English at school as of Grade 1.

23. Canadian Parents for French, op. cit., 2008b, p. 3.

24. Ibid. p. 18.

25. See especially Mélanie Adam, “Plus de 60 enseignants sans permis à la CSA – Les qualifications dans les écoles : une denrée rare?,” Le Trait d’UnionExternal site, October 16, 2008. On-line version consulted March 31, 2009, (Web site available only in French).

26. SEVEC, op. cit., 2008b, p. 11.

27. Ibid., p. 11.

28. Ibid., p. 11.

29. SEVEC reports that the Iqaluit library “can only offer Harlequin novels to students wishing to read in French.” SEVEC, op. cit., p. 11.

30. Participant at the Discussion Forum on the Perspectives of Canadians of Diverse Backgrounds Toward Linguistic Duality on November 24, 2008, at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

31. HEC Montréal, EMBA McGill – HEC MontréalExternal site, Montréal, February 5, 2009. On-line version consulted March 31, 2009.

32. University of Ottawa, Régime d’immersion en françaisExternal site, Ottawa, April 23, 2008. On-line version consulted March 31, 2009.

33. Simon Fraser University, “AdvantagesExternal site,” Program in Public Administration and Community Services. On-line version consulted March 31, 2009.

34. SEVEC, op. cit., p. 6.

35. André Pratte, “A History of the Conquest,” La Presse, February 7, 2007, p. A20.

36. Impact Consulting, A Report to the Board of Directors on Educational ExchangesExternal site, Ottawa, 2006, p. 11. On-line version consulted March 31, 2009.

37. Statistics Canada, The Evolving Linguistic PortraitGovernment site, 2006 Census: Bilingualism, Ottawa, 2007. On-line version consulted March 31, 2009.

38. Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages, Bilingual Staff at Air Canada: Embracing the Challenge and Moving ForwardGovernment site, Ottawa, 2008. On-line version consulted March 31, 2009.

39. Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, Raising our Game for Vancouver 2010: Towards a Canadian Model of Linguistic Duality in International Sport, Ottawa, 2008, p. 24. On-line version consulted March 31, 2009.

40. Impact Consulting, op. cit., p. 11.

41. YMCA, Summer Work–Student ExchangeExternal site. On-line version consulted March 31, 2009.

42. Université Laval, “Don de 500 000 $ de la Fondation Molson,” Au fil des événementsExternal site, Québec City, September 29, 2005. On-line version consulted March 31, 2009.

43. Fosburys Experts-Conseils, op. cit., p. 7.

44. Canadian Parents for French, op. cit., 2008a, p. 18.

45. Ibid., p. 21.

46. Bernard Lord, Report on the Government of Canada’s Consultations on Linguistic Duality and Official LanguagesGovernment site, Ottawa, 2008, p. 8. On-line version consulted March 31, 2009.

47. From an interview conducted in December 2008 by the Fédération des aînés et des retraités francophones de l’Ontario with Minister MooreExternal site. On-line version consulted March 31, 2009, (Web site available only in French).

48. On this issue, the Canadian government should be congratulated for granting $2.5 million to the Canada School of Public Service to help it extend access to its language learning products to Canadian universities.

49. Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, 2007–2008 Annual Report, Ottawa, 2008, p. 81.

50. Statistics Canada, 2006 Census, catalogue no. 97-555-XCB200605.

51. National Centre for Languages, Effects on the European Economy of Shortages of Foreign Language Skills in EnterpriseExternal site, London, 2006, p. 5. On-line version consulted March 31, 2009.

52. On this subject, it should be mentioned that the negative effects of the closure in the 1990s of the Royal Military College Saint-Jean continue to be felt, despite the efforts made to re-open this institution.

53. Angus Reid, English-Speaking Canadians Lack Solid French Skills, But Value BilingualismExternal site, Toronto, 2007, p. 7. On-line version consulted March 31, 2009.

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