Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism
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|Also known as|
|Inquiry period||19 July 1963– 1970|
|Final Reports: Book I Book II Book III Book IV Book V & VI|
The Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism (French: Commission royale d’enquête sur le bilinguisme et le biculturalisme, also known as the Bi and Bi Commission and the Laurendeau-Dunton Commission) was a Canadian royal commission established on 19 July 1963, by the government of Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson to "inquire into and report upon the existing state of bilingualism and biculturalism in Canada and to recommend what steps should be taken to develop the Canadian Confederation on the basis of an equal partnership between the two founding races, taking into account the contribution made by the other ethnic groups to the cultural enrichment of Canada and the measures that should be taken to safeguard that contribution".
The Commission was jointly chaired by André Laurendeau, publisher of Le Devoir, and Davidson Dunton, president of Carleton University. As a result, it was sometimes known as the Laurendeau-Dunton commission.
Ten commissioners representing each of the provinces were also included in the commission as areas such as education were provincial responsibilities.
Throughout the Quiet Revolution, Canada saw the rise of modern Quebec nationalism as the federation-wide French Canadian nationalism became less and less supported by the younger Francophone generations of this province. The failure of Canada to establish the equality of the English and French languages within governmental institutions is one of main reasons for the rise of the Quebec secessionist movement.
The Commission recommended sweeping changes when its final report was published, in five parts, 1967-1970, after a report of preliminary findings, February 1965. Among other things, it reported that Francophones were underrepresented in the nation's political and business communities. 1961 statistics of the salaries of Quebec men based on ethnic origin revealed that French Canadian incomes lagged behind all other ethnic groups, with the exception of Italian Canadians and aboriginal Canadians.
- The recommendations included the following:
- That bilingual districts be created in regions of Canada where members of the minority community, either French or English, made up 10% or more of the local population.
- That parents be able to have their children attend schools in the language of their choice in regions where there is sufficient demand.
- That Ottawa become a bilingual city.
- That English and French be declared official languages of Canada.
While in some circles the Commission's legacy is controversial, others view it as a success. The under representation of French-Canadians in positions of power is less of a problem and French-Canadians have access to government services in their own language.
Incoming Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau included the Commission's recommendations among his priorities. Prime Minister Pearson's policy statement on bilingualism was strengthened by the Official Languages Act, 1969, making Canada an officially bilingual nation. The provinces were also recommended to make reforms, and many did. Canada's education system was overhauled and school children across the country were made to learn both languages; however Quebec later legislated to make French its official language, and limited English schooling to qualified families. French education in western provinces remained limited by provincial regulation as well.
The Commission and its recommendations were supported by both the Progressive Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party, but the Tories did have concerns with the costly implementation of the reforms. Regional parties like the Social Credit Party, the Confederation of Regions Party and later on, the Reform Party would object strongly to these changes.
In 1971, the federal government led by Trudeau departed from the Commission's findings. While Canada would remain a bilingual nation, it would pursue a policy of multiculturalism rather than biculturalism.
In the Constitution Act, 1982, Trudeau ensured that many of the Commission's recommendations were permanently included in the Constitution of Canada, as sections 16 through section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms included several language rights.
- Bilingualism in Canada
- Gendron Commission
- Jaroslav Rudnyckyj, commissioner who argued for change from biculturalism to multiculturalism
- Gertrude M. Laing, member of the commission.
-  Page 155
- Levasseur-Ouimet, France and McMahon, François: Encyclopedia, consulted on 30 May 2018 at the following url: http://www.ameriquefrancaise.org/en/article-603/French-language_Education_in_Alberta.html
- Conrick, Maeve; Regan, Vera (2007). French in Canada: Language Issues. Peter Lang. p. 36. ISBN 9783039101429.
- Thomas M. Prymak, "The Royal Commission and Rudnyckyj’s Mission: The Forging of Official Multiculturalism in Canada, 1963-1971," The University of Toronto Quarterly, LXXXVIII, 1 (2019), 43-63. Scholarly investigation of Jaroslav Rudnyckyj’s participation in the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, which gave rise to the federal policy of "Multiculturalism in a Bilingual Framework." Also treats the question of possible links between the national question in Canada and the foreign policies of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
- The Commission's final report in PDF form
- Other Federal Royal Commissions
- History of Canadian Language Politics from Confederation to a Royal Commission
- An article on the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism in The Canadian Encyclopedia
- Radio interview of Davidson Dunton by Simon Durivage on Radio-Canada (12 November 1978) (in French)