Departmental Action Plan for Official Languages 2017-2022

2. Background

Linguistic duality is a fundamental characteristic of Canadian identity. Language rights are recognized in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the Charter), in section 133 of the Constitution Act, 1867, and in the Official Languages Act (OLA). More specifically, subsection 16(1) of the Charter states that English and French have equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all institutions of the Parliament and Government of Canada.

When the 1969 OLA was superseded by the 1988 OLA, the role of federal institutions in supporting official-language minority communities (OLMCs) was redefined: the government committed itself to supporting the development and vitality of these communities. Further to legislative amendments made to the OLA in 2005, section 41 of Part VII can now be the subject of court remedies, and federal institutions (including the Department of Justice) must take positive measures to implement the federal government's commitment to the communities.

The Department of Justice Canada is responsible for implementing the OLA in collaboration with Canadian Heritage (PCH) and the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) and, in this capacity, the Department played a key role in drafting the 1988 OLA and its 2005 amendment. Today, the Department continues to play a leadership role in the implementation of the OLA on both legal and policy issues faced by the government and federal institutions.

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