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Forum objectives

The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages (OCOL) held a Discussion Forum on the Perspectives of Canadians of Diverse Backgrounds on Linguistic Duality in Toronto on October 26, 2007. The event was an important step in providing the Office of the Commissioner with the information it needs to develop a strategy to help integrate cultural diversity and linguistic duality into federal policy.

The discussion forum was also an opportunity for OCOL to listen to accounts of experiences with linguistic duality in ethnocultural communities and to take note of concerns and interests. OCOL was provided with a series of observations, proposals and recommendations that should contribute to its thought process. Finally, this will also help OCOL to consolidate its network of partners working in the area of linguistic duality and cultural diversity.

Methodology

In October 2005, OCOL held discussions with a group of experts, thinkers and opinion leaders to reflect on the benefits of better integrating linguistic duality and cultural diversity into the development equation for Canadian society and the country as a whole. At the end of these discussions, a series of recommendations was made to OCOL, which included consulting ethnocultural community representatives on this issue. This forum is an attempt to respond to this recommendation and is the first step in these consultations.

OCOL sent participants a questionnaire to help them prepare for the forum and to get a better idea of their profile and perspectives on linguistic duality, with a view to planning activities on the discussion day. They were also asked to read an issue paper to help them prepare for the questions and respond to statements that would likely be made during the forum.

The Discussion Forum Program (Appendix 1) was put together based on these components. Participants were asked to share their perspectives on linguistic duality during workshops, plenary sessions and discussion periods that took place during the course of the day. Participants were also divided into four pre-set working groups to ensure consistency. The discussions covered:

  1. Linguistic duality, cultural diversity and the changing Canadian identity;

  2. The day-to-day interaction of linguistic duality and cultural diversity.

Participant profile

OCOL invited 30 people to participate in the first discussion forum, including committed leaders from the main ethnocultural groups, and representatives from multicultural associations and organizations that provide integration services to new Canadians. OCOL also invited 10 government officials working in cultural diversity and linguistic duality to come hear these representativesí thoughts and to share their own views.

The participant profile, based on an analysis of the results of a questionnaire completed prior to the forum, was presented by Catherine Scott, Acting Director General, Policy and Communications Branch, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages. The analysis revealed that as forum participants were from Ontario, they all spoke English: 54% identified themselves as English-French bilingual, and 46% spoke another language. They were of diverse backgrounds; approximately two-thirds (67%) were born outside Canada in the Caribbean, Central and South America, Asia, the Middle East or Africa.

Presentation of the report

The report is presented in three parts.

  • The first part is a summary of the forumís opening speech by the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Co-Chair of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship and former Governor General of Canada. This speech presented her vision of linguistic duality and cultural diversity in Canada; it was followed by an historical overview of linguistic duality and cultural diversity in the Canadian context, presented by Graham Fraser, Commissioner of Official Languages.

  • The second part reports the results of the workshops that focused on the following two themes:

    • Theme 1: Linguistic duality, cultural diversity and the changing Canadian identity

    • Theme 2: The day-to-day interaction of linguistic duality and cultural diversity

  • The third part of the report presents the analysis and evaluation of forum results using an evaluation form completed by participants. It offers suggestions to the Office of the Commissioner on how to improve the format and content of future consultations on the
    same topic.


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