About this Section
The purpose of this section is to compare the Canadian bilingual model with six other models of multilingual societies adopted around the world: Belgium, Switzerland, Finland, Ireland, India and Spain.
Indeed, Canada is not the only state in the world to be officially bilingual. In 2017, there were 55 so-called bilingual, trilingual, or even quadrilingual countries. In general, the central state is multilingual, often a regional or federated state, but never a whole country.
In Canada, the federal conception of bilingualism promotes a symmetrical view of official languages, according to which Anglophones and Francophones are considered equal. By virtue of this duality, Canada has two majorities in which linguistic minorities are found, English in Quebec and French in the other provinces. The application of this principle consists in taking measures to protect the Francophone minorities in the English provinces and the Anglophone minority in Quebec. There are therefore no Canadian minorities, but only provincial minorities.
Obviously, other countries, Belgium, Switzerland, India, Finland, Ireland and Spain, have found different formulas for multilingualism in their territories. In all these countries, the central State ensures multilingualism in the institutions under its jurisdiction, except in Spain where bilingualism is the responsibility of certain regional states (Basque in the Basque Country, Catalan in the Balearic Islands and Catalonia, Galician in Galicia, etc.). India has developed a special multilingualism in that one of the official languages, English, is a mother tongue for a small fraction of the population (2%), unlike Hindi (45%). The situation is the similar in Ireland since one of the official languages, Irish, is spoken by only 3.5% of the population compared with 84% for English. As for Belgium and Switzerland, the territorial separation of official languages prevails, which is totally different from Canada. Finally, it is in Finland, with Finnish and Swedish as official languages, that one can find the most similarities with Canada, although Finnish bilingualism is based on a territorialized application of languages according to the municipalities recognized as bilingual or unilingual.
More information can be found at the website http://www.axl.cefan.ulaval.ca/ (in French only).
About the Author
Jacques Leclerc is a linguist and sociolinguist. He holds a master's degree in linguistics from the Université de Montréal, and has been interested in questions relating to language policies since 1985. Among his numerous publications are the following: Langue et société,1986, Mondia Éditeur, 530 p., Revised in 1992, Recueil des législations linguistiques dans le monde (volumes I to VI), 1994, Presses de l'Université Laval, and Langues et constitutions, 1993, Office of the French Language (Quebec) and International Council of the French Language (France).
In addition to some twenty volumes, he has also written almost sixty articles on language development and given close to fifty lectures and interviews on the subject. He has also been a consultant on linguistic planning and has participated in several symposia on this issue (Montreal, Quebec, Ottawa, Paris, Grenoble, Rabat, etc.).
Since 1999, Jacques Leclerc has been responsible for the drafting and revision of the site Aménagement linguistique dans le monde website at Université Laval (Québec) (in French only). The site, which gets more than 15,000 visits per day, presents language situations and policies of 398 states or territories in the 195 (recognized) countries around the world.
Between 2004 and 2006, he created another site for the federal Department of Canadian Heritage, SLMC (Site for Language Management in Canada), which presented Canada's linguistic history, its languages and populations, provinces and territories. In 2017, he contributed to the Compendium of Language Management in Canadawebsite at the University of Ottawa.