What if moving online was the pandemic’s silver lining? Professor François Larocque and students enrolled in his CML 4519 Les droits linguistiques au Canada [Language Rights in Canada] course examined this idea when they tested the planctus application across Canada. For a few years now, Professor Larocque and an association of Francophone common law students, known as the Regroupement étudiant de common law en français (RÉCLEF), have been running “D-Marche linguistique” as part of this course. In 2020 and 2021, they expanded it across Canada.
But what is “D-Marche linguistique”?
In 2010, former law professor Mark Power created “Marche linguistique”, an activity during which students enrolled in the Les droits linguistiques au Canada course scoured the campus in search of violations of the University’s bilingualism policy and ended the day by filling out the relevant complaint forms and submitting them to the authorities in charge of handling these infractions. In 2019, Professor Larocque took over teaching the course and wanted to expand the “Marche linguistique” through the use of his planctus application.
So what is the planctus app?
Planctus is a mobile app that helps users write up language rights complaints and transmit them to the appropriate Canadian authority, such as the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages or the French Language Services Branch of the City of Ottawa, to name a few. Planctus is also an educational tool that describes Canada’s language rights in an accessible, plain language format.
Defending Language Rights Coast to Coast
The students enrolled in the course in 2020 and 2021 tested the application. Some 20 of Professor Larocque's Francophone students, all living in minority language settings, visited federal government offices in their respective cities. Their mission: to see whether bilingualism laws and regulations were being followed, document any infractions on their smart phones, and send this information to the appropriate authorities using planctus. The feedback from these testers was revealing:
“Using planctus was awesome! Not only was the app easy to use, but also it unscrambles the whole process of lodging the complaint. You just need to click “I want to lodge a complaint” and the app guides you to the office or commissioner responsible for handling the complaint.
“D-Marche linguistique was very different this year, given that it was held online. In 2019, when I was a first-year student, I had participated in the event on campus at uOttawa, but the online version really gave us a chance to expand the scope of the activity. That’s the best thing about online: there are no limits. It meant that many of my fellow students were able to lodge complaints about language rights violations taking place at the other end of the country, from the comfort of their living rooms.”
― Danielle M.S. Bélanger-Corbin, a Francophone resident of Ottawa, Ontario
“An app that automatically lodges a legal complaint in one of several regions is powerful […] These kinds of tools can improve access to justice for those in need of it.”
― Nick Kasting, a Francophone native of Revelstoke, British Columbia
The next step
In partnership with the Fédération de la jeunesse canadienne-française (FJCF), a federation representing Canadian Francophone youth, the Research Chair in Canadian Francophonie on Language Rights and Issues is planning to deploy the planctus app in a cross-Canada version of the D-Marche linguistique in 2022. For one month, Francophone high school students from across the country will report violations of Canadian language rights and participate in various educational activities and fun contests to celebrate the Francophonie.
The planctus app has already earned Professor Larocque the University of Ottawa’s Award of Excellence in Knowledge Mobilization in 2021.
Did you know?
In Latin, the word planctus means a beating sound, or the sound of something beating. During medieval times, planctus was also a mournful musical and literary style through which to express grief or complaints. It stems from the Latin verb plangere, which is also the origin of the word (com)plaint.