Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism
The Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism (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".
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 perceived 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 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.
The Commission recommended sweeping changes when its final report was published in 1969, some 4 years after the publication of its preliminary report in 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.
Incoming Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau made it one of his highest priorities to implement the Commission's recommendations to solve these problems. The most important of these was making Canada an officially bilingual nation. This was introduced in 1969 in the Official Languages Act. 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.
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.
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.
- Bilingualism in Canada
- Gendron Commission
- Jaroslav Rudnyckyj, commissioner who argued for change from biculturalism to multiculturalism
-  Page 174
- The Commission's final report in PDF form
- Index to 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 (November 12, 1978) (in French)