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Forum Objectives

The Vancouver forum’s main objectives were to gain a better understanding of the perceptions of linguistic duality held by Canadians from diverse backgrounds and to explore the links between linguistic duality and cultural diversity. Ethnocultural groups experience linguistic duality differently; OCOL wanted to understand how they do so, and to foster relationships with participants in British Columbia so they can continue the dialogue in the future. This forum provided important information OCOL can use to encourage the government to take steps to better integrate cultural diversity and linguistic duality into its policies and programs.


The overall design of the forum program (Appendix 1), and the themes and sub-questions developed for the two workshops and the plenary sessions, were based on a participant-centred approach. For the workshops, participants were divided into five working groups. A moderator facilitated each workshop, assisted by a note-taker.

The forum revolved around two themes:

  • the evolving Canadian identity; and
  • the intersection between linguistic duality and cultural diversity in everyday life: What are the issues and what needs to be done?

Participant Profile

A diverse group of 37 people attended the forum and represented a wide range of cultural and multicultural groups reflecting the diverse composition of British Columbia Lower Mainland residents.

The participants, from senior management to youth to new immigrants to retired long-term Canadians, worked in education institutions, immigrant service delivery societies, business and the media. Including the two guest speakers and five observers, there were 20 men and 17 women who, between them, spoke nearly 30 different languages. Five observers from different levels of government were also present at the forum. OCOL was represented by not only the Commissioner, but also nine OCOL staff members who assisted the two facilitators by moderating group discussions, taking notes and coordinating logistics.

The participants were interested in and generally committed to the core Canadian principles of bilingualism and multiculturalism. Individual introductions at the beginning of the day revealed a high level of commitment to learning about how to improve the integration of these core Canadian principles into government policies (Appendix 2).

Presentation of the Report

The report is presented in three parts.

  • Part 1, “Discussion framework,” summarizes the forum’s opening address by Alden Habacon, Manager of Diversity Initiatives for the English television network of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. His vision of linguistic duality and cultural diversity in Canada was followed by an historical overview of linguistic duality and cultural diversity presented by Graham Fraser, Commissioner of Official Languages. Part 1 finishes with a summary of the information gathered from the pre-forum questionnaire presented by Carsten Quell, Director of Policy and Research at OCOL.

  • Part 2 reports on the results of the workshops that focused on the two themes of:
    • the evolving Canadian identity; and
    • the intersection between linguistic duality and cultural diversity in everyday life: What are the issues and what needs to be done?

  • Part 3 presents the participants’ evaluation of the forum results and their suggestions on how to improve the format of the next forum.

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