Today, June 27, marks Canadian Multiculturalism Day and a day of celebration for the nation’s multilingual diversity.
On November 13 2002, the Canadian government designated June 27 of each year as Canadian Multiculturalism Day by Royal Proclamation.
It celebrates the North American country’s diversity and commitment to democracy, equality and mutual respect, and also appreciates the contributions of the various multicultural groups and communities to Canadian society.
Canada is, of course, officially bilingual at federal level. The official languages are English and French, which ‘have equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all institutions of the Parliament and Government of Canada’ according to Canada’s constitution.
n 1971, Canada was the first country in the world to adopt multiculturalism as an official policy. This led to Canada affirming the value and dignity of all Canadian citizens regardless of their racial or ethnic origins, their language, or their religious affiliation. The 1971 Multiculturalism Policy of Canada also confirmed the rights of Aboriginal peoples and the status of Canada’s two official languages.
Official bilingualism ensures the legal equality of English and French in the Parliament and courts of Canada, whilst also protecting the linguistic rights of English and French-speaking minorities in different provinces, and ensuring a high level of government services in both languages across Canada.
Since the first French settlers arrived in the part of Canada we now call Quebec in 1608, French has been a language of government here with limited interruptions. It has subsequently been entrenched in the Constitution of Canada since 1867. English, meanwhile, has been a language of government in each of the country’s 10 provinces since their inception as British colonies.
Institutional bilingualism in various forms therefore predates the Canadian Confederation in 1867. However, for many years English occupied a de facto privileged position, and French was not completely equal as it is today. The two languages have gradually achieved a greater level of equality in most of the provinces, and as previously mentioned, full equality at the federal level. Yet in Quebec, the trend has been away from equality. In the 1970s English lost its status of full legal equality with French in Quebec, and today French is, both in law and in practice, the province’s sole official language.
With two languages sharing official status, the need for translation from English to French / French to English is common, and bilingual proceedings, documents and publications etc. commonly need to be provided in both languages.
This provides a great deal of work for professional linguists and translation agencies, and here at Lingua Translations we are responsible for providing French and English translations for a number of Canadian clients.