March 15, 2014
This article investigates the connections and tensions between Canada’s policy of multiculturalism, its official status as a bilingual country, and the multilingual nature of its society. Taking the dramatically growing ‘third group’ (Canadians of immigrant background who are neither Anglophone nor Francophone) as an example, the article seeks to show that in theory, the guarantee of linguistic rights for individuals and groups is based on both non-instrumental and instrumental language rights. In addition to the language rights approach, other viewpoints such as the politics of recognition and constitutional patriotism are addressed. In practice, while at the federal level official bilingualism is pragmatically justifiable (for the government to function successfully, the number of working languages needs to be limited), at the regional level, measures which more adequately reflect the diversity of Canada’s multicultural society could and should be taken. These measures may include multilingual services for the largest minority groups, options to enhance language retention, specific provisions protecting the individuals’ right to retain and use their language, as well as various other commitments to supporting and encouraging a multilingual environment.