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What You Need To Know About The New Bill To Make French & English More Equal In Canada

It would recognize that French is the only official language of Quebec.
Canada's Official Languages Act Is Set To Get An Overhaul

On June 15, the federal Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, Mélanie Joly, introduced Bill C-32 — an act that would overhaul Canada's existing Official Languages Act to equalize French and English in Canada.

If passed, the new bill would defend the rights of francophone minorities in other Canadian provinces, as well as those of the "English-speaking minority" in Quebec.

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Why is the Act being amended now?

The Official Languages Act, which last got a major update in 1988, comes months after Joly introduced the Liberal government's vision for language reform in Canada in February.

In a press release, the government said amending the act "is necessary to allow the law to keep pace with the social, demographic and technological realities in today's society."

In a news conference on June 15, Joly added that the goal is to "bring the official languages Act into the 21st century." 

She said that "the new law recognizes that the official language of Quebec is French."

"[It] also recognizes that Quebec and Manitoba have specific protections when it comes to the use of both official languages in the courts and provincial legislatures." 

What could the revisions look like?

The bill, if passed, will guarantee the right to be served and to work in French in businesses under Canadian jurisdiction in Quebec — as well as in other Canadian regions with a "strong francophone presence."

The amendment to the Act will also "explicitly state" that it would "not undermine the status, maintenance or enhancement of Indigenous languages while including the important concepts of reappropriation, revitalization and strengthening that are specific to Indigenous languages."

Joly said the bill would also oblige the federal immigration ministry to develop a support program to enhance francophone immigration outside of Quebec.

It would further amend the Act to oblige Supreme Court of Canada judges to be bilingual. 

The bill lays out that it would grant Canada's official languages commissioner more power to fully enforce French-language requirements in federally-regulated workplaces across Canada.

The commissioner would also have new powers to receive complaints about "language of service and language of work" from employees of private companies under federal jurisdiction in Quebec — such as banks, airports, railways, telephone companies, broadcasting and Crown corporations.