Celebrating 50 years of the Official Languages Act

September 9, 2019
2 minute read

On September 7, 2019, Canada celebrated a historic moment in its evolution when the Official Languages Act turned 50.

Canada Post marked the occasion with wrapped vehicles and a special cancellation on Lettermail printed on September 11 and 12. The anniversary was heralded through social media posts and an employee event.

The Corporation serves Canadians in every community and communicates with employees and customers in the official language of their choice. Our products, trademarks and signage are bilingual; we offer anglophones and francophones equal employment opportunities and recruit with diversity in mind; and more than 700 post offices offer bilingual services.

The Official Languages Act helped make Canada Post the bilingual organization it is today.

The legislation came into force in 1969 and was supported by all parties. For the first time in Canada’s history, it had a law that recognized the equal status of English and French. It gave all English- and French-speaking Canadians the right to communicate with the federal government, and to receive government services, in the language of their choice.

The prime minister of the day, Lester B. Pearson, planted the seeds for the legislation in 1963, by forming the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism. Six years later, parliamentarians endorsed its recommendations, making them law. Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Pearson’s successor, predicted the legislation would make Canada “more interesting, more stimulating and, in many ways, richer than it has ever been.”

In 2016, the country’s bilingualism rate stood at 17.9 per cent, an all-time high, up from 13 per cent in 1996.

The Act remains a work in progress. In 1988, the original legislation was replaced with a new Official Languages Act, mainly to promote the official rights of linguistic minorities.

Principles in the Act were enshrined in the 1982 Constitution through the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Today, the Act is again under review, to ensure it remains relevant in a digital age and continues to meet the expectations of Canadians.

Canada Post embraces the principles of inclusion and diversity that this anniversary of official languages legislation reaffirms.

As we mark this 50-year milestone, we remain committed to respecting Canada’s official languages – as an employer, as a provider of vital services to all Canadians and as an important national institution.