The establishment of a language regime differs from one country to another. A regime rests on normative, institutional and administrative traditions. It is also the result of interactions between key actors such as political parties and social movements each having their own views on how language should be represented in the public sphere.

Since the 19th century, language regimes have been generally established in the context of European nation-States. In the 20th century, the establishment of new post-colonial regimes in Africa, Asia and Latin America revived the question of the role of the state in the choice of language policies in these regions. In the 21st century, discussions on globalization and linguistic diversity call for further analysis of the role of states in the field of language [1].

[1] Rainer Enrique Hamel, « L’aménagement linguistique et la globalisation des langues du monde », Télescope,  vol. 16, no 3, 2010, p. 1–21.

Canada’s Language Regime

A large part of Canada's language regime history is to understand how English and French have become the country’s two official languages. There are also other historical languages in Canada, particularly the languages of Aboriginal and Métis peoples, some of which have official status in the federal territories. There are also almost 200 immigrant languages in Canada. These languages are not all spoken on a daily basis, but they form part of Canada`s linguistic reality.

The history of the Canadian language regime is marked by turning points, but it also shows patterns of continuity such as the fact that language is constantly the object of negotiation or compromise. Language rights in Canada are guided by the idea of compromise – the heart of Canada's language policy. This compromise is the result of many factors: demographic, economic, political and social factors.


On the one hand, the Canadian language regime is characterized by the dominance of English which has been the case since the Conquest of New France by the British in the 18th century. On the other hand, the British government had to compromise with French Canadians, whose demographics were more important at the time. The situation gave rise to numerous language debates.

The first important debate on language took place in 1792 within the context of the creation of the new Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada. Francophone members assumed that they will be able to speak French in the assembly. However, English-speaking MPs did not share same opinion, but they were obliged to accommodate and join the Francophone majority. Up until this day, the National Assembly of Quebec operates solely in French.

Then, in 1840, as a result of the patriots' rebellions against British power, the merger of the assemblies of Upper and Lower Canada resulted in the banning of French within the new assembly of United Canada. The Durham Report, or the British North America Business Report, suggested that French Canadians would have to assimilate to English. The measure failed, because francophone members continued to use the French language in the new Legislative Assembly.