Language Policy, Biculturalism and Bilingualism

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2008

18 Pages, Grade: 2,3


Table of Contents

1.) Introduction

2.) Basic Facts about Canada
2.1.) Why language policy is necessary

3.) Definitions of crucial terms

4.) Language policy
4.1.) History of federal language policy in Canada
4.2.) History of provincial language policy in Canada

5.) Education and bilingualism

6.) Societal outcomes of Canadian language policy

7.) Conclusion
Works Cited

1.) Introduction

This paper will examine the chances and limitations of successful language policy, exemplified by a close look at the language situation in Canada, to answer the question of to what extend language policy can be a helpful means to support biculturalism and bilingualism in a heterogeneous society.

In order to do so, this paper will present an outline of the history of as well as the social situation in Canada, and give definitions of crucial terms.

Then it will dwell on federal and provincial language policies as well as on education issues. The afterwards worked out possible parallels between both will eventually lead to a conclusion about the chances of successful realization of an advanced multicultural society through language policy.

As Canadian language policy is designed to almost exclusively effect the status of English and French, this paper will focus on the language conflict between these two languages and only shortly touch the topic of non-official and native languages.

2.) Basic Facts about Canada

Canada is the second largest country in the world with over 33 million inhabitants, a relatively small number considering its size, and a GDP of $1.2 trillion (figures from 2006)[1]. It is located in the northern part of the North American continent, with over 90% of its population living in a 160 kilometers wide area along the US-Canadian border[2]. Canada is a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, which is why Queen Elizabeth II is the official chief of state. Canada is furthermore a federal parliamentary democracy, i.e. it consists of ten provinces (Alberta, British Columbia, Labrador, Manitoba, New Brunswick Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Saskatchewan), and three territories (Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories, namely Nunavut and Denendeh), which share the political sovereignty with the central government in Ottawa. This is important, as more than one level of governmental institutions has a partial but direct influence on certain subjects, e.g. educational matters are due to the provinces' laws and jurisdictions, whereas Aboriginal affairs are a federal matter[3]. The question of whose competence it is to lay out rules for Aboriginal minority education is obvious.

Canadas independence dates back to 1867, when the British North America Act was passed by British Parliament, but it was not until 1931, when it recognized Canada's complete independence from the Crown. The Canadian Constitution Act, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, was passed in 1982 and and gave full political control into the hands of the Canadian government.[4] Also, a legal basis was created, on the grounds of which amendments to the constitution could be composed. Since the Official Languages Act was put into force in 1969 (and reformed in 1988), Canada has two official languages by means of constitution, those languages being English and French[5]. Only two, one may argue, as there are also many other languages that play important roles in Canadian everyday life, like Chinese, Italian, and German. Nevertheless, native languages and non-official languages, i.e. “imported“ national languages other than English and French, are made allowance for by the very same act.

The diversity of languages in Canada originates from its official policy to reach a fixed number of immigrants per year, resulting in figures showing that over one out of five Canadians was not born there. This phenomenon is even more obvious in cities like Toronto, where about 44% of the population are originally Non-canadian.[6]

For quite some time now, one of the provinces, namely Quebec, strives for independence from anglophone Canada, claiming its predominantly francophone polulation's right to govern themselves.[7] The popular demand is that vital interests of francophones have to be protected, before any right can be granted to another language group.

Today, this ongoing social and political struggle is one of the main aspects in Canadian domestic policy[8], with a clear cut line between the camps, the dividing (although maybe plastering) factor being language.

But this conflict can also be examined from a different angle: According to Willemyns, Canada, in its entity, promotes the personal principle of bilingualism, saying that the state must “appear“ in the language the individual chooses to use.[9] Quebec's policy on the other hand is organized following the territorial principle of bilingualism, in which the individual has to fit its language use to the language that is, by legislation, the official language in a certain and confined area[10].


[1] cf.

[2] cf. ibid.

[3] cf. Herriman, Burnaby, p. 161

[4] cf. Herriman, Burnaby, p. 161f

[5] cf. Canadian Constitution, Sections 16ff. of the Charta of Rights and Freedoms

[6] cf.

[7] cf. Herriman, Burnaby, p. 162

[8] cf. ibid., p. 173

[9] cf. Willemyns, Roland p.5

[10] cf. ibid.

Excerpt out of 18 pages


Language Policy, Biculturalism and Bilingualism
Technical University of Braunschweig  (Englisches Seminar)
Language Contact and Language Conflict
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ISBN (Book)
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Language, Policy, Biculturalism, Bilingualism
Quote paper
Julian Schürholz (Author), 2008, Language Policy, Biculturalism and Bilingualism, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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