Will I need to speak French?

Historically, Canada has been both French and English. European ownership of the New World land was lobbed back and forth as a result of various skirmishes until the Treaty of Paris in 1763 removed French dominance in the New World forever. It didn't, however, remove French influence, sentiment, or culture.

The French in Canada maintained their identity in various populations centres and were, by declaration, allowed to have their own say in government when the Constitutional Act of 1791 divided Québec into Upper (British Loyalists) and Lower (French) Canada.

Québec 's French population grew and expanded until it became the only Canadian province in which French was spoken more than English. As time passed, Québec gained a more thoroughly French identity, despite being under the Crown of England. In 1963 the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism decided that the French-speaking population should be recognised as a legitimate and equal society within the large society of Canada.

Official languages

Rather than appoint French as the official language of Québec and English as the official language everywhere else, the commission suggested that both languages be declared official languages for the entire country. The Official Languages Act was passed in 1969 making both languages official. Other accommodations have been instituted, ensuring that French speaking citizens can have an equal chance for employment within the Federal Government without having to learn the second language of English in order to be hired in English-only jobs.


Education policies were instituted so that students would have second-language instruction. Legislation was enacted to ensure that labelling of consumer goods was in both languages. A concerted effort has been made in all quarters to make bilingualism a reality.


Political factors have been in play that led in recent times to the demand for Québec secession from Canada to become a separate French-speaking nation, sentiments that led to violence and tragedy. Separatists demand a French-only Québec, in which French is not the primary language, but the only language. Other detractors of a bilingual Canada are those in the outlying areas where there is no substantial French population. They resent the intrusion of required French into their English-only dynamics.

The Federal Government of Canada has remained strong in its support of bilingualism. The post of Commissioner of Official Languages was created in 1970 to ensure that the Official Languages Act was carried out, that the rights of all citizens were protected in areas of language issues, and to promote bilingualism in Canada.


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