Canada’s Official Languages

Canada’s Official Languages

Policy Versus Work Practice in the Federal Public Service

By Helaina Gaspard

140 Pages · 9x6 · March 5 2019

Paper ISBN: 9780776623351

PDF ISBN: 9780776623375

ePub ISBN: 9780776623368

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This book is published in English.

Canada’s official languages legislation fundamentally altered the composition and operational considerations of federal institutions. With legislative change, Canada’s public service has achieved the equitable representation of its two official languages groups, provided services to the public in both official languages, and has codified rights for public servants to work in their official language of choice. On paper, the regime is robust. In practice, there is a persistent divergence between policy and practice, as English dominates as the regular language of work in the federal public service.

Through an historical institutionalist lens based on extensive archival research and semi-structured interviews, Gaspard shows that the implementation of official languages policy in the federal public service from 1967–2013 could not challenge the predominance of English as the operating language of the federal public service.

The analysis of the roles of actors, ideas and institutions that influenced the policy implementation process show that a lack of structural change, inadequate managerial engagement, and a false sense that both official languages are equally ingrained in the public service explain the persistence of English as the dominant language of work.

Preface by Graham Fraser 

Official Languages and the Federal Public Service 
CHAPTER 1: Theoretical Foundations 
The Politics of Language 
Representative Bureaucracy 
Historical Institutionalism and Layering 

CHAPTER 2: Check Your Hat and Your Language at the Door (1867-1967)
The Early Civil Service 
Historical Context 
The Strike at Trois-Rivières 
Ernest Lapointe—Prime Minister King’s
Quebec Lieutenant 
L’Ordre Jacques Cartier 
The Jean Committee 
Early Reform Efforts 
The Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, and Prime Minister Pearson’s Promise 

CHAPTER 3: The Official Languages Act, 1969 (1968–1972)
Adopting the OLA 1969  
Charting a Course for Implementation 
French-Language Units (FLUs) 
Bilingual Districts 
Linguistic Designation of Positions 
CHAPTER 4: If At First You Don’t Succeed, Layer, Layer, and Then Layer Again (1973–1981) 
The 1973 Parliamentary Resolution on Official
Decentralizing Program Management 
The Gens de l’Air Crisis and National Unity 
Reorganizing and Restructuring the Public
Management-centric Changes to the Official
Languages Program (1981) 
CHAPTER 5: The OLA  and Part V: The Right to Choose
Your Language of Work (1982–2013) 
Maintaining the Status Quo 
Prime Minister Mulroney’s Progressive
Conservatives and the Official Languages Act 
The Official Languages Act, 1988 
Part V: Official Language of Work Rights 
Implementing Part V 
Giving Meaning to Part V 
Conclusion: Ideas, Institutions, and Actors 

Appendix: Principal Actors 
Department of the Secretary of State 
Treasury Board Secretariat 
Public Service Commission (PSC) 
Office of the Commissioner of Official
Staff Unions 


Author Bio

Helaina Gaspard, PhD, is Director, Governance and Institutions at the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy at the University of Ottawa.