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The promise of Canada's declaration of official languages

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The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees, at section 16, that French and English are the official languages of Canada and have equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all institutions of the Parliament and government of Canada. The Supreme Court of Canada would appear to see little potential in the affirmation of Canada’s official languages. Several commentators agree, dismissing the guarantee as no more than symbolic. A different reading of section 16 is proposed here, embracing the promise of official bilingualism in Canada and outlining some of the consequences that follow from Canada’s constitutional commitment to this declaration. Among the different proposals outlined in the paper, it is suggested that the affirmation of French and English as the official languages of Canada is a prescriptive constitutional guarantee and not merely a declaratory one; that it mandates an expansive reading of some of the more topical language rights that follow it; that it fills in the lacunae necessary for a comprehensive official languages policy; and imposes on the legislature rather than the court the responsibility for articulating such a comprehensive policy In short, this paper explores how an aggressive interpretation of section 16 of the Canadian Charter can assist in promoting the promise of Canada’s commitment to official bilingualism.

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en

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http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/26227/

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