The Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages has the mandate to study all matters relating to official languages generally. It examines questions pertaining to the Official Languages Act (OLA) and pays particular attention to the federal government’s role and its commitment to advancing English and French in Canadian society and to enhancing the vitality of the official language minority communities.
During this parliamentary session, the committee published one report and began a new study.
In the fall of 2016, as part of their study of the challenges surrounding access to francophone schools and French immersion programs in British Columbia, committee members conducted a fact-finding mission and held public hearings in Vancouver and Victoria. They met with teachers, parents and students, as well as numerous associations and organizations. In addition, they visited francophone and French immersion schools.
After hearing additional witnesses in Ottawa, the committee tabled its report, Horizon 2018: Toward Stronger Support of French-Language Learning in British Columbia, in May 2017.
In this report, the committee made 17 recommendations to the federal government to enable it to live up to its official languages commitments under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Official Languages Act.
With this report, the committee resoundingly reaffirmed its commitment to promoting Canada’s two official languages, which are at the heart of the Canadian identity.
Last fall, the federal government announced that it would be conducting a review of the Official Languages (Communications with and Services to the Public) Regulations. However, the government chose to focus solely on the provision of services in both official languages, and will not be reviewing other important parts of the Act.
Considering that 2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the Official Languages Act, it is an opportune time for the Official Languages Committee to engage Canadians on ways to bring this legislation into the 21st century.
Accordingly, in the spring of 2017 the Senate Committee on Official Languages began an in-depth study on the modernization of the Official Languages Act. The Committee is conducting a five-part study and expects to present a series of interim reports on its progress. Senators intend to hear testimony from the following groups:
- official language minority communities;
- individuals who have seen firsthand the evolution of the Official Languages Act;
- individuals who work in the justice sector; and
- individuals who work in federal institutions.
Committee members have begun engaging with the target group for the first part of the study: individuals aged 14 to 25, more specifically, high school students, post-secondary students and young people heading into the workforce. The committee would like to learn more about how the Act can help better promote and advance opportunities in both official languages.