The Impact of Official Bilingualism
(Source: Office of the Commission of Official Languages, Annual Report, 1974 – 1997, found in Language Legislation and Official Bilingualism: The Uneasy Coexistence of Canada’s Language Communities)
By contrast, the policy shift threatened career prospects for many anglophone civil servants. Initially, the federal government offered free language instruction and other bonuses to encourage unilingual (primarily English-speaking) civil servants to become bilingual. However, the cost was prohibitive. Increasingly in later years, bilingual candidates applying to work in the public service had an edge over unilingual candidates.
In 1970, the federal government launched the Official Languages in Education Program. The program provides provinces and territories with funding for second language instruction and minority language instruction in both official languages. The program had the most impact outside of Quebec, as the percentage of French-speaking Quebeckers who considered themselves bilingual already exceeded the national average. With respect to minority language education, until 1984 provisions in Quebec’s language law (Bill 101) restricted Anglophones and Allophones (immigrants whose primary language is not English or French) from attending English-language schools.
However, the situation outside Quebec was very different. Education for the French-speaking minority made large strides, and English-speaking parents endured long line-ups to enroll their children in French immersion programs.
In English Canada, official bilingualism's most visible impact was the explosion of interest in French immersion. French immersion is a separate program from the second language course requirements mandated by all provinces (which may offer courses in second languages other than French). The main features of French immersion include the following:
The following table illustrates French immersion's increase as a proportion of total English language enrollment:
|Percentage of Students in French Immersion||0.5||2.1||5.0||6.8|
The results of French immersion were evident by the early 1990s. Among Anglophones aged 15 – 24 living outside Quebec, the percentage that considered themselves to be bilingual doubled between 1971 and 2001, rising from seven percent to 14 percent. However, these figures are still much lower than Quebec. Between 1971 and 2001, the number of bilingual 15 – 24 year old Francophones living inside Quebec rose from 31 percent to 42 percent. (Source: Census Canada, 1971 to 2001, found in Action Plan for Official Languages)
Furthermore, it is not clear how much of an impact French immersion programs have on the community at large. A 1985 poll indicated English-speaking parents thought bilingualism was important because it would help their children get ahead, particularly in the public service.
Minority language education rights are entrenched in section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter established the rights of English minority and French minority language groups to receive education in their primary language when certain conditions are met and when there is a sufficient number of children to warrant providing these services with public funds. In addition, Section 23 gives these minorities the right to control and manage their own educational institutions (where numbers warrant), a right that has been reaffirmed in several court cases.
Prior to 1982, there were no French schools in half of the Canadian provinces outside Quebec. Today, Francophone groups manage schools for French-speaking students in every province. Furthermore, more students who qualify for minority French-language instruction under the Charter are enrolling in francophone schools:
|Number of Eligible Children||271,914||219,860|
|Number Enrolled in Francophone Schools||152,225||149,042|
|Percentage of Total||56||68|
(Source: Census Canada, found in Action Plan for Official Languages)
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