Final leg towards a bilingual constitution for Canada

Posted on Wednesday, November 4, 2015

View of the Parliament. The Canadian flag is floating close by.

Did you know that the much of the acts, orders and amendments that comprise the Constitution of Canada, including the British North America Act, 1867 (now known as the Constitution Act, 1867), are not yet officially bilingual?

This may seem surprising, considering that on July 1, 2017, Canadians from one ocean to the other will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation. This event is a timely occasion to underscore our rich history and continue the work of building the country Canadians are so proud of, in part because of its bilingual nature.

Section 55 of the Constitution Act, 1982, calls for the drafting “as expeditiously as possible” of French versions of the texts listed in the schedule to the Constitution Act, 1982. In order to accomplish this task, Canada’s Minister of Justice created in 1984 the French Constitutional Drafting Committee, which tabled its final report, which included French versions of these texts, in the Senate and the House of Commons in 1990.

However, a quarter of a century later, these French versions have still not been formally adopted.

On November 6, 2015, the University of Ottawa is holding a colloquium to examine the issue and stimulate discussion on how to meet this objective of section 55. A Bilingual Constitution for Canada in 2017 will bring together key judicial figures, members of the French Constitutional Drafting Committee and constitutional and political science scholars interested in Canada’s bilingual character and in achieving constitutional equality of the French and English languages.

Speakers will include retired justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, the Honourable Justice Michel Bastarache, as well as Ontario’s Attorney General, Madeleine Meilleur, and Canada’s Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser.

The colloquium will be of interest to all those wishing to deepen their understanding of constitutional considerations as they relate to Canada’s bilingual nature.

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