Every year in September, Canada celebrates Linguistic Duality Day – a day to commemorate our many years of being an officially bilingual country.
Read on for an article I wrote for an internal newsletter/intranet site to mark the day…
Linguistic Duality Day
Celebrating 41 years as a bilingual country
Many Canadians likely remember 1969 as the year of Apollo 11 and the first man on the moon. But they may not always remember another milestone from that year, which was a pivotal turning point in Canada’s history that helped change the future of our young country.
Shortly after the first man walked on the moon, the Canadian federal government passed the Official Languages Act. On September 7 of the same year, the Act, which officially recognized the equality of status of both English and French in all federal institutions, officially went into effect. Its primary goal was to ensure that the Canadian population had access to federal services in the official language of their choice.
“We believe in two official languages and in a pluralist society not merely as a political necessity but as an enrichment,” said then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau during his statement on the introduction of the Bill on October 17, 1968. “We want to live in a country in which French Canadians can choose to live among English Canadians and English Canadians can choose to live among French Canadians without abandoning their cultural heritage.”
Since the Official Languages Act passed in 1969, the Canadian federal government has made many investments to support linguistic duality, including the establishment of English schools in Québec and French schools in the rest of Canada. On the footsteps of the federal Act, several provinces including Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia have also passed French Language Services legislation, with the goal of ensuring provincial governments keep in mind the needs of their Francophone communities and aim to provide services in both English and French.
While today, New Brunswick is the only officially bilingual province, Francophones and Anglophones in all of Canada’s provinces continue to use their language of choice when using federal services from offices or facilities designated bilingual.
For more information, visit the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages.