Government of Canada Unveils Plan to Modernize Official Languages Act

After holding extensive consultations with Canadians, the Government of Canada has presented its vision for modernizing and strengthening the Official Languages Act. More than ever, the time has come to examine the linguistic situation in Canada, acknowledge the evolution of official languages over half a century, and to address the challenges they face.

The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, presented the Government of Canada’s intentions to modernize and strengthen the Official Languages Act and its related instruments today. Titled English and French: Towards a Substantive Equality of Official Languages in Canada, the document proposes a range of changes and new measures to establish a new linguistic balance across the country.

The proposed reform addresses the official languages issues that most concern Canadians. The world is changing and the dramatic growth of digital technology and international trade encourages the use of English. That is why the Government of Canada must assume its responsibility to further protect the use of the French language, support the vitality of official language minority communities and improve the governance of federal institutions. The vast project stemming from this reform is divided into six main priorities:

Recognize the different linguistic dynamics in the provinces and territories and the explicit addition that the Act could not undermine the maintenance and enhancement of Indigenous languages.
Provide opportunities for learning both official languages by encouraging, among other things, the offer of French immersion classes.
Foster the development of the full potential of official language minority communities by supporting the vitality of their institutions in key sectors such as immigration, the education continuum, health, culture and justice.
Protect and promote the use of French everywhere in Canada, including Quebec, through, among other things, new rights regarding language of work and services in enterprises under federal jurisdiction in Quebec and in other regions of the country with a strong Francophone presence.
Strengthen the exemplary nature of the State and the bilingualism of the Government of Canada, from the appointment of bilingual judges to improving the support offered to federal public servants in learning their second language.
Include a periodic review of the Act and its implementation to ensure its relevance to Canada today and in the future.
The Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, President of the Treasury Board, as well as all government ministers, will help Minister Joly ensure the success of the measures targeting the justice system and federal institutions.

The Government of Canada is committed to modernizing and strengthening the act so it can better meet the hopes and expectations of Canadians who speak both official languages and expect the Government of Canada to do more to protect them. This commitment is reflected in the most recent Speech from the Throne, which explored the special situation French faces in North America, including Quebec. It also mentioned that defending the rights of francophone minorities outside Quebec and defending the rights of the anglophone minority in Quebec are a priority for the government. The official languages reform document is an important step in achieving these commitments.

Minister Joly invites all Canadians in official language minority communities and linguistic majorities, including Francophones in Quebec, to explore this document and make it their own. This reform, which will pave the way for Canada’s official languages for the next 50 years, is a priority for all Canadians.