What it really means to have two official languages

English/Français

(NC) – Although recent polls suggest Canadians generally accept Canadaís official bilingualism, there is still some confusion about what it really means.

Does it mean, for example, that every Canadian must speak French and English? No. Does it mean that every school child must learn English and French? No. Does it mean that every workplace must function in English and French? No.

It means that under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which came into effect 25 years ago this past April, the right to use and to learn oneís official language is fundamental in Canada. While the Official Languages Act, which was adopted close to 40 years ago, sets out some requirements for federal institutions, it does not mean that every federal government office will offer English and French service if there is no significant demand. It does not mean you have to be bilingual to work for the federal government. And it certainly does not mean giving up your mother tongue for the sake of another.

Actually, living in a country with two official languages is more a matter of respect than requirement – respect for both official languages, for unilingual Canadians, for minority language communities, for citizens, for parliamentarians and for public servants.

We owe it to ourselves to learn more about the language of our fellow Canadians, be they Anglophone or Francophone. Take a class, listen to music, watch TV, go to a show, eat great food – anything that creates a conversation between two of our founding cultures is good for us, and itís good for our country.

Visit officiallanguages.gc.ca for more information on official languages.

- News Canada
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