Differential Legal Status or Sectorial Policies

This status is based on the principle that the country's majority has full language rights while minorities have fewer rights that are nonetheless officially and legally recognized by the state. In other words, though always enshrined in legislation or in a constitution, such language rights are generally extensive for the majority and restricted for minorities. This protection is equivalent to the special status or to the sectorial policies adopted under the country's broader language-policy framework.

Canada uses the approach extensively, as do many other countries. For instance, English is Ontario's official language, but the province has given French fairly extensive rights in the areas of education, justice, legislation and provincial administration. QuebecManitoba and Prince Edward Island also rely on this formula. However, when it comes to schooling for minorities, ALL of Canada's provinces use it, because schooling rights are provided under the constitution and in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (article 23).

Elsewhere in the world, differential legal status is common in Germany, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia and Sweden, among others. These countries typically grant certain rights to minority-language groups in key areas like government services, justice, schools and the media. The objective is to protect minorities according to the principle of restricted individual rights while recognizing the right to be different. The formula allows countries to apply the principle of a single official language while granting funademental rights to minorities.

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