Forty years ago, on September 7, 1969, the Official Languages Act officially came into force.
The legislation recognized the equal status of English and French in federal institutions and in Canadian society.
All week long, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages is marking the occasion through meetings, discussions, and exhibitions.
As Graham Fraser, the Commissioner of Official Languages, wrote in the August 31, 2009 edition of The Hill Times:
“Bilingualism ‘is at the core of what this country means’ but Canadians don’t have a sense of ownership of both official languages, says Graham Fraser, the Commissioner of Official Languages (…) ‘I think the larger challenge is creating a situation where Canadians feel that both languages belong to them,’ said Mr. Fraser, who wrote, Sorry, I don’t speak French: Confronting the Canadian Crisis That Won’t Go Away prior to being appointed the Official Languages Commissioner in 2006. ‘The presence of the other language is something that is inherent in what Canada is about. … This is what distinguishes us from other countries. This is as central an identifier for a Canadian event as the Canadian flag and the metric system’. “
Justice Canada has some additional material on 40 Years of the Official Languages Act, including a history of amendments to the legislation, links to a A Brief History of the Evolution of Language Rights Before the Supreme Court of Canada as well as an article on the bilingual and bijural drafting of bills and legislative instruments.