OTTAWA — The federal government is announcing a review of Canada’s official languages rules that could retain bilingualism in 250 offices set to transition to unilingual service.
The Official Languages Act was adopted in 1991, and hasn’t been reviewed since. The regulations that go with the law established the circumstances when an office must provide bilingual service. That includes criteria, based on the most recent census, to determine whether there is a significant demand for service in both French and English.
There are 11,500 federal offices that now offer services in French and in English. If current rules stay in place, up to 250 of these offices across 25 federal departments and Crown corporations could go from bilingual to unilingual. The bulk of these are in New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec.
The government has placed a moratorium on these institutions going unilingual until the review is complete.
The review will take into account demographic and census changes and could also lead to more offices and institutions offering services in both official languages if they have significant bilingual populations – though the government hasn’t set out yet what “significant” means. That will be addressed in the new rules, officials said Thursday.
The review process is underway, with the government planning to meet key stakeholders in early 2017, with a bill before Parliament in the fall of 2018. The government aims to have the new rules adopted in 2019, and implemented in 2020-2021.
With files from Omar Sachedina