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50 Years of the Official Languages Act

The Official Languages Act came into effect on this date in 1969.

The Act gives French and English equal status in the government of Canada.

Among other things the Act provides,

  • that Canadians have the right to receive services from federal departments and from Crown corporations in both official languages;

  • that Canadians will be able to be heard before federal courts in the official language of their choice;

  • that Parliament will adopt laws and to publish regulations in both official languages, and that both versions will be of equal legal weight;

  • that English and French will have equal status of languages of work within the federal public service within geographically defined parts of the country that are designated, as well as in certain overseas government offices and in parts of the country where there is sufficient demand for services in both official languages. In remaining geographical areas, the language of work for federal public servants is French (in Quebec) and English (elsewhere);

  • The Federal government has set in place regulations establishing linguistic categories (anglophone, francophone, bilingual) for some job functions within the public service. Departments and agencies of the federal government are required to fill these positions with individuals who are capable of serving the public in English, in French, or in both languages. Unilingual public servants are given incentives to learn the other official language, and the government provides language training and offers a "bilingualism bonus".

The law also created the Commissioner of Official Languages, an officer of Parliament charged with receiving complaints from the public, undertaking inquiries, and making recommendations regarding the status of the two official languages.

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