Canada's two official languages are English and French. On July 7, 1969, under the Official Languages Act, French was made commensurate to English throughout the federal government. This started a process that led to Canada redefining itself as a bilingual and multicultural nation:
- English and French have equal status in Parliament, in federal courts, and in all federal institutions.
- Any defendant in a criminal case has the right to a trial in either English or French.
- The public has the right, where there is sufficient demand, to receive federal government services in either English or French.
- Official language minority groups in most provinces and territories have the right to be educated in their language, in their own schools, with their own elected school boards, where they exist in sufficient numbers.
- While multiculturalism is official policy, to become a citizen one must be able to speak either English or French.
- More than 98% of Canadians speak English or French or both.
While the nation remains officially bilingual, the majority of Canadians are fluent only in English.
The official language of Quebec is French, as defined by the province's
Charter of the French Language, which was introduced by the
Parti Quebecois in
the charter also provides certain rights for speakers of English and aboriginal languages.
Quebec provides most government services in both French and English.
French is mostly spoken in Quebec with pockets in
eastern and northern Ontario,
Saskatchewan, and southern
In the 2001 census, 6,864,615 people listed French as a first language,
of whom 85% lived in Quebec. 17,694,835 people listed English as a first language.
New Brunswick is the only officially bilingual province, a status specifically guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Some provincial governments, notably Manitoba and Ontario, offer many services to their French minority populations.
Aboriginal languages are co-official in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
Sources: University World and Wikipedia