British Columbia, British Columbia’s Constitutional Proposals, Paper No. 7, “Language Rights and the Constitution of Canada” (1978)
By: British Columbia
Citation: British Columbia, British Columbia’s Constitutional Proposals, Paper No. 7 (Victoria: Queen’s Printer, 1978).
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Paper No. 7
LANGUAGE RIGHTS AND
THE CONSTITUTION OF CANADA
“Broad constitutional language guaran-
tees are not appropriate to all of Canada
and could lead a further aggravation of
language differences. Instead, the answer
must lie in step by step positive develop-
ments on matters of language in each of
the provinces of Canada as changing needs
“This approach to the language ques-
tion, while less dramatic than grand con-
stitutional guarantees … could … lead
to the development of a new spirit of toler-
ance and mutual understanding between
the two major language communities within
This paper represents the Province of British Columbia’s position on
the question of whether additional language rights and guarantees should
be included in a revised Constitution of Canada and, if so, to what ex-
tent. The question has resulted in a number of specific proposals being
put forward over the last few years.
In 1967 the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism
recommended that the Constitution be amended to include minority
language (i.e., English in Quebec and French in the rest of Canada),
education guarantees and a series of other language guarantees relating
to the legislative, judicial and administrative spheres at both the federal
and provincial levels of jurisdiction. Similar proposals can be traced
through various conferences and committees to the constitutional lan-
guage guarantees presently proposed by the federal government in Bill
C-60, The Constitutional Amendment Bill.
The federal government’s language policies have been most recently
stated in the federal white paper on language policy entitled A National
Understanding: The Oficial Languages of Canada tabled in Parliament
by Prime Minister Trudeau on June 21, 1977. The constitutional aspects
of these language policies are continued in sections 13 to 22 of Bill C 60.
An Historical Perspective
Before turning to a review of the present constitutional proposals of
the federal government, it may be worthwhile to briefly review the early
patterns of immigration and settlement in British Columbia. These
patterns of settlement have, of course, been the primary determinant of
the present-day ethnic and linguistic profiles of the province. Even from
such a brief review of British Columbia’s history, it can be seen that the
patterns of settlement have been quite different from those of the rest of
The first settlers were, of course, the native Indians who lived along
the Coast and throughout the valleys of the Interior. The white man
arrived in the late eighteenth century as explorers—Spanish, English
and Russian—who claimed the land and stayed to defend their claim
and to develop the fur trade potential of the area.
The first explorer to penetrate the province from the East was
Alexander Mackenzie who made his epic journey to the Pacific Ocean
in 1793. It is interesting to note that on this voyage, Mackenzie was
accompanied by his assistant, Alexander Mackay, two Indian guides and
six hearty French-Canadian Voyageurs. These six Voyageurs were the
forerunners of other French-Canadians who later came to work and
settle in our province during the first half of the nineteenth century and
were amongst our first permanent settlers.
As the fur trade was further developed in the province, the French-
Canadian Voyageurs came to be the backbone of this enterprise. During
the early 1800’s the French-Canadians were the most numerous of
the Various ethnic groups that had settled in the province and consti-
tuted an overall majority of the non-native population. These Voyageurs
included such intrepid men as Jules Maurice Quesnel, who accompanied
Simon Fraser on his historic trip down the Fraser River in 1808, and
who has had both a river and a city named in his honour.
But the Voyageur society was not a permanent one. Its future, as
elsewhere in much of Canada, was tied to that of the fur trade.
“The Voyageur society had no political organization,
for the Hudson’s Bay Company rules the territory; it had
no economic life outside that of the Company; its social
interchanges were tightly confined to the settlement domi-
nated by the trading post.” 1
The gold rush of 1858 totally altered these early patterns of com-
merce and settlement. Most of the gold-seekers were English-speaking
and as they flooded into the new territory the relatively few French-
Canadian settlers were quickly absorbed into their midst. During the
next few decades, the trading posts and early settlements were enlarged
to small permanent communities. On July 20, 1871 the united Colony
of British Columbia became part of Canada and the process of “Canadi-
anization”, in the terms of one historian,2 began. A significant factor in
this process was the building of the Canadian Pacific Railroad and the
arrival of the first transcontinental passenger train from Montreal in
Port Moody on July 4, 1886.
By the Census of 1881, the Province of British Columbia had reached
a population of 49,459. The “origins of the people” were surveyed in
that year and the following table shows the ethnic backgrounds of the
residents of the province.
Population of the Province by Ethnic Group, 1881
*See PDF for table.
Source: Census of Canada, 1880-1881, Ottawa, McLean, Roger and Co., 1882, Vol. I, pp.
298-9, Table III.
It is interesting to note, as one reflection of the railroad construction
era, that after those with an Indian or English background, the next
largest ethnic group in the province was the Chinese. The number with
a French background was the sixth largest ethnic group listed following
those with Indian, English, Chinese, Scotch and Irish origins.
As with most of the other immigrant groups over the succeeding
years, the French-Canadian immigrants gradually lost much of their
ethnic identity through day-to-day Contact within the English-dominated
society and by the lack of subsequent numbers of French-speaking
immigrants to the province. Noticeably, the working language of
most of the Roman Catholic clergy had changed to English by the
1890’s. One small but significant reversal of this trend, however, was
the active recruitment of French-Canadian lumbermen by the Fraser
River Lumber Company in 1909. The Company recruited 110 workers
in September, 1909, and two more contingents in the spring of 1910. A
settlement was established a little to the north of Fraser Mills and, as
agreed in the terms of settlement, a church and school were provided by
the Company. The first permanent priest, a French Oblate Father,
Father Maillard, was appointed to the new parish and in 1912 the new
settlement was named in his honour—Maillardville. This community is
now part of the present-day municipality of Coquitlam and still retains
many social and cultural evidences of its French-Canadian heritage.
This brief review of the early settlement of our province demonstrates
the contributions made by the various ethnic groups who settled here—
English, Chinese, Scots, French and many others. Although the result-
ing society was composed of many varied backgrounds, the English
were clearly the dominant social group and all of the government and
legal institutions and most of the businesses were English in practice
A Demographic Perspective
The history of the settlement of our province leads naturally to our
present day demographic profiles. As could be expected from the
history related above, the main characteristics of the Francophone
population of British Columbia is its relatively small percentage of the
overall provincial population and its fairly even distribution throughout
the entire province. In 1976, in terms of the Francophone population
(i.e., mother tongue) as a percentage of the total provincial population
(see Table 2 below), British Columbia ranked ninth out of the ten
provinces with 1.6 per cent of total population. In terms of numbers
British Columbia ranked sixth with 38,430 Francophones in the
Minority Language Population by Province, 1976
*See PDF for table.
Source: Statistics Canada.
1 English in Quebec, French in all other provinces.
In terms of a comparison of ethnic backgrounds within British
Columbia, in 1971 a total of 96,550 or 4.4 per cent of the provincial
population were listed as having a French ethnic background (see
Table 3). The French group was the fourth largest ethnic background
behind those who were listed as having British Isles (57.9%), German
(9.1%) and Scandinavian (5.1%) backgrounds.
Population of Province by Ethnic Group, 1971
Ethnic Group Population Percentage
*See PDF for table
Source: Statistics Canada.
1 Includes Danish, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Swedish.
In a similar analysis of the “mother tongue” (i.e., the language first
spoken in childhood and still understood) background of British Colum-
bians, it can be seen that in 1976 those listed as having French as their
mother tongue were the fourth largest in the province behind those
who listed English (82.6%), German (3.3%) and Chinese/Japanese
(2.1% ) as their mother tongue (see Table 4).
Population of Province by Mother Tongue, 1976
*See PDF for table
Table 5 shows that of the 38,430 Francophones in the province in
1976 only 16,330 resided in Greater Vancouver. The remainder were
fairly evenly spread throughout the rest of the province. This means
that British Columbia’s language policy cannot be a regional one, for in
percentage terms there are as many Francophones in the Peace River
area, or the Okanagan, or the Cariboo, as there are in Greater Vancou-
ver. Noticeable concentrations of Francophones can be seen in the
Census Division of: Alberni-Clayoquot (945 or 2.9%); Powell River
(575 or 2.9%); Kitimat (970 or 2.5%); Victoria (2,810 or 1.2%);
Fraser-Fort George (2,045 or 2.6%); Thompson-Nicola (1,460 or
1.6%); Central Okanagan (1,225 or 1.7%); and, Comox-Strathcona
(1,030 or 1.8%).
Table 5 also shows another main characteristic of the language profile
of British Columbia. Of the 38,430 mother tongue Francophones in
the province only 11,510, or .5% of the population of the province, use
that language most often at home. This means that there is an “assimi-
lation rate” of approximately 70 percent for Francophones in the prov-
ince. The assimilation rates of all provinces show that British Columbia
has the highest such rate of assimilation in Canada (Table 6).3
3 La Fédération des francophones hors Quebec, “Deux poids, deux mesures,” Ottawa
1978, p. 24.
TABLE 5 2 TABLE 6
Population by French “Mother Tongue,” Provincial Rates of Language Assimilation to English in Quebec
Where French “Most Often Spoken at Home,” and and
Who Speak Both French and English for Census Divisions
*See PDF for table
Provincial Rates of Language Assimilation to English in Quebec
and to French Outside Quebec, 1971
*See PDF for table
The high assimilation rates in this province mean that there is a
constant language drain to the Anglophone community. Whether this
assimilation rate can be significantly affected by government policies or
whether it is a result of individual choice and social and economic cir-
cumstances, is an open question.
Existing and Proposed Constitutional Language Guarantees
The present language guarantees in the Constitution are limited to
a number of judicial and legislative concerns at the federal level and in
the Province of Quebec. Section 133 is the sole provision in the present
B.N.A. Act which relates directly to language guarantees. This section
is as follows:
“Either the English or the French Language may be
used by any Person in the Debates of the Houses of the
Parliament of Canada and of the Houses of the Legis-
lature of Quebec; and both those Languages shall be used
in the respective Records and Journals of those Houses;
and either of those Languages may be used by any Person
or in any Pleading or Process in or issuing from any Court
of Canada established under this Act, and in or from all
or any of the Courts of Quebec.
The Acts of the Parliament of Canada and of the
Legislature of Quebec shall be printed and published in
both those Languages.”
By way of explanation, the words “any Court of Canada established
under this Act” includes only the Supreme Court of Canada and the
Federal Court of Canada.
The question facing all governments in Canada is whether these
constitutional guarantees should be enlarged to include other provinces
and other aspects of federal and provincial government services. The
case for so doing has been widely articulated in Canada in recent years,
and, of course, was developed in the document, A Canadian Charter of
Human Rights, published over Mr. Trudeau’s name as Minister of Justice
a decade ago. The essence of the case for such a move is the reassurance
which such a guarantee gives that such rights already or subsequently
recognized will not subsequently be withdrawn. Put in another way,
such a guarantee incorporates a commitment by governments that they
will not take legislative action that would deny citizens the exercise of
such rights. In its document, The Constitution and the People of Canada
presented to the Second Meeting of the Constitutional Conference in
February 1969, the federal government reasoned that enshrining a basic
right in a constitution is “to give that right of the individual a higher order
of value than the right of the government to infringe it”. And another,
endorsed by the federal government a decade ago, is that as both levels
of government in Canada can legislate with respect to basic rights, a
constitutional incorporation of these rights is necessary if they are to be
available to Canadians uniformly across the Country.
The constitutional language guarantees presently proposed by the
federal government are covered by sections 13 to 22 of the proposed
Constitutional Amendment Bill. These sections are summarized below
and can be seen to provide for the following language guarantees:
Section 13—Purposes for which English and French declared as
Section 14—Proceedings in Parliament and legislatures in either
Section 15—Statutes, records and journals of Parliament and legis-
latures of Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick to be in both
languages and in other provinces to the extent determined by
the legislatures of those other provinces.
Section 16—Proceedings in Supreme and Federal Courts and in
courts of Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick to be in both
languages and proceedings in any court in Canada in criminal
matters or for offences where loss of liberty is at issue, the ac-
cused would have the right to be heard in either official lan-
Section 17—Application of rules for regulating procedure in matters
covered by section 16.
Section 18—Existing rights not abrogated.
Section 19—Communication of public with federal governmental
and other federal institutions in both languages and in prov-
inces as prescribed by legislatures.
Section 20—Language rights not limited by Charter. Canada and
provinces may provide for more extensive use of French or
Section 21—Where number of children warrants language of in-
struction in minority language to be provided by the provinces.
Section 22-—No new federal or provincial laws to apply so as to
adversely affect the preservation of English or French as the
language spoken or enjoyed by an “identifiable minority
Viewed in the constitutional context, these represent a significant and
sweeping extension of existing constitutional rights on the subject of
In analyzing these federal proposals a number of theoretical
and practical difficulties can be seen. One of the most fundamental con-
cerns related to the “constitutionalization” of language guarantees is the
attendant shift in authority from the legislatures to the judiciary in this
complex and delicate area of social policy. (For a more detailed
analysis of the implications of constitutional entrenchment see Paper No.
6 “A Bill of Rights and the Constitution of Canada”.) In the long
run, will the courts be more careful or zealous in the protection of
language rights than the legislatures? British Columbia is not convinced
that the policy-makers of tomorrow are likely to be less benevolent or
less wise than the constitution-makers of today. In addition, the costli-
ness and the sporadic and phlegmatic nature of the process of judicial
review means that there will probably be many uncertainties as to the
implications of the decisions of the courts. Moreover, the further the
judiciary is forced to venture into broad policy pronouncements on such
issues, the more likely it will be that the courts will become enmeshed in
possible areas of social and political controversy.
Of course, the more generalized the statements or guarantees
that are to be included in the Constitution, the more diflicult will be the
interpretive burden thrust upon the courts. For example, section 21 of
Bill C 60 provides for minority language education guarantees where
“the numbers of children in any area of a province . . . warrants the
provision of the facilities required”. Section 21 (3) notes that the legisla-
tures are to make this determination, but that these determinations must
be “reasonable”. On what basis are the courts to judge the “reasonable-
ness” of a province’s actions? Will the decisions of the courts made
with respect to the schools in Sherbrooke, Quebec, for example, be
applicable to the schools in Chilliwack, B.C., or in other cities in other
provinces? Will provincial or regional differences be accepted by the
courts or will the inevitable cases relating to these sections inevitably
lead to national standards for the implementation of these guarantees?
These questions relate to the fundamental objectives behind the “consti-
tutionalization” of these guarantees; the propore scope for the legislative
and judicial spheres of activity and the practical implications of the court
decisions that can be expected from this process of judicial review.
The entrenchment of these language guarantees in the Constitution
would make such guarantees henceforth binding on both the federal
government and the provincial governments. In practical terms, at the
federal level these guarantees would not directly lead to many changes.
The federal Official Languages Act provides similar language rights
with regard to government institutions and services at the federal level.
Entrenchment would, of course, make it a matter requiring constitutional
amendment in order to diminish these services at any future time—a
difficult task given a rigid amending formula to the Constitution.
In the context of the Province of British Columbia serious practical
considerations arise. The modest numbers of our Francophone popula-
tion and the extent to which this population is dispersed throughout the
province put obvious limits on the extent to which British Columbia
could or should be expected to meet constitutional language guarantees.
As all government services are supported by public funds the issue of
practicalitymust be taken into consideration. This issue will be dis-
cussed in greater detail following.
Constitutional Means vs. Legislative Means
A perusal of the constitutional documents of Canada both before and
after Confederation show that it was not until the B.N.A. Act, 1867, that
specific reference was made to the use of the French language and then
only to the limited extent provided in section 133 to which reference has
already been made. The Treaty of Utrecht of 1713, the Treaty of Paris
of 1763, and the Quebec Act of 1774, gave full freedom of worship to
Roman Catholics but made no reference to the use of the French lan-
guage; nor did the Constitutional Act of 1791. The Act of Union of
1840 required all statutes to be in English only although this provision
was subsequently repealedso as to leave the question of language use to
the discretion of the legislature.
No general declaration that Canada was to be a bilingual country
are to be found in the proceedings of the Quebec and London Con-
ferences leading up to 1867. Discussions on languageand culture
were comparatively brief and resulted in precise and circumscribed
resolutions on those subjects. The bilingual rights contained in section
133, limited as they are, by specific terms, to certain Quebec and federal
government institutions, did not extend to the other original partners of
Confederation nor to those provinces which were added thereafter
(although the Manitoba Act of 1870 provided certain bilingual rights
in that province).
In essence, what took place at Confederation, as a perusal of the
pre-Confederation debates and the B.N.A. Act itself shows, was a federal
union of the original provinces with provision for the remainder of the
British North American provinces and territories to join—not an equal
partnership of races or language groups.
Regardless of the limited extent to which our present Constitution
ensures bilingual rights, is it appropriate for the Constitution to be
amended to extend these rights to the full extent now proposed in Bill
C 60? British Columbia thinks not.
If the Francophone community was more or less evenly distributed
throughout the country so as to give British Columbia, for example, a
27% Francophone population instead of 1.6% then a good case for
broad language guarantees in the Constitution could be made. But it is
inappropriate to provide guarantees of any kind in a constitution which
because of practical considerations have little hope of being fully obtain-
able in many parts of the country. A country’s constitution, almost by
definition, should address those matters on which there may be some
reasonable expectation of uniform application throughout the country.
Universal bilingualism in its full sense is not obtainable in Canada at the
present time, nor may it ever be, and the Constitution should not suggest
that it is.
Moreover, it is not good constitution—making to make significant
provisions, such as section 15 and 19 of Bill C 60, only applicable to
large parts of the country if provincial legislatures in those areas choose
to opt-in. The Constitution should not be used as an ongoing Vehicle of
British Columbia does see, as a logical extension of section 133, con-
stitutional provision for further federal government services and Quebec
government services in both languages.
Because British Columbia is opposed to the inclusion of broad lan-
guage guarantees in any revision to the Constitution is not to say that it
is indifferent to the needs and aspirations of six million Canadians of
Francophone origin. But it is to suggest that their needs and aspirations
can best be made through appropriate governments responding to these
needs by ordinary legislative action when and where they arise.
Because of the linguistic and cultural differences in the country, the
division of powers in the Constitution must be flexible enough to allow
provinces to legislate on matters of language and culture within their
province. Provinces could pass such legislation where it is perceived
that there is a genuine need. Linguistic and cultural rights could then
be developed in each province according to local social conditions.
The flexibility which legislative action provides would enable the prov-
inces to meet changing circumstances and varying situations, province by
An illustration of the benefits of such a flexible, localized approach
can be seen in British Columbia’s encouragement of French language
education in the provincial school system discussed following.
Language Policy and Provincial Government Services
in British Columbia
(a) Language Rights and the Public Education System
Turning to an analysis of French-language programs in the
British Columbia educational system a three phase process of pro-
gram development ean be seen.
(i) The Teaching of French
The teaching of French as a second language has been
part of the British Columbia school system for many years.
In 1956-57 pilot classes were established to help develop an
elementary school French program. In 1961 a program
appropriate for elementary schools had been developed and
the then Department of Education advised all schools that,
subject to school board approval, a program of conversa-
tional French could be included in the school curriculum.
In 1963, following the Royal Commission on Education, a
major secondary school re-organization was approved which
included the requirement that, subject to exemption at the
discretion of the principal, all grade 8 students would be
taught French. A total of 63,987 elementary school stu-
dents or 20.1 percent of the total student population studied
French as a second language in 1976-77. This was up from
a total of only 5.7 per cent in 1970-71. At the secondary
level, in the 1976-77 school year, a total of 89,002 students
studied French as a second language. The increased num-
bers of students learning French in British Columbia is quite
encouraging as, apart from grade 8 requirements, this pro-
gram is completely voluntary.
(ii) French Language Immersion
In order to give a more thorough introduction to the
French language several school boards have provided for
French immersion programs. These programs were primar-
ily designed for the teaching of French as a second language
although, until very recently, these programs were the only
instruction in French available to Francophone students in
the British Columbia public school system. These programs
were initially started on a pilot project basis in the early
1970’s in three school districts: Coquitlam, Vancouver and
Victoria. The programs were started at the kindergarten
level and were year-by-year progressively extended through
the grade levels so that they now are in place in Coquitlam
from kindergarten to grade 8, in Vancouver from kinder-
garten to grade 6 and in Victoria from kindergarten to
grade 5. In the 1976-77 school year the three school
boards mentioned above had immersion programs with a
total of 839 students enrolled (.2% of total school enroll-
ment in the province). In the 1977 school year four
additional school boards agreed to offer immersion pro-
grams (Burnaby, Nanaimo, Richmond, and Surrey) and
in the 1978-79 school year two more school districts will
offer this program (Cowichan and North Vancouver). On
July 19, 1977 the Minister of Education issued an invitation
to any of the larger school districts in the province, who
wish to do so, to establish French immersion programs for
secondary school students wishing to become fluently
(iii) French Language Instruction
On August 9, 1977 the Minister of Education an-
nounced, as part of the changes in the core curriculum in
the province, that “the policy of the provincial government
is to make it possible for parents to have a choice of either
oflicial language as the language of instruction for their
children, regardless of their language background”. This
policy was further clarified by the Minister of Education
and the Premier in subsequent statements and constitutes
the beginning of a minority language program in the public
school system. This program is a fundamental change in
the public education system in the province and probably
goes considerably beyond the education guarantees pro-
posed by the federal government in section 21 of the Consti-
tutional Amendment Bill. A French core curriculum for
the elementary grades was prescribed on August 31, 1978
by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council.
These minority language services demonstrate the progress that
can be made by provinces responding by legislative and administra-
tive means to needs as they occur. They are still in an active phase
of development in British Columbia. It is difficult to know the full
extent of thedemand for these services and the full range of costs
and other administrative problems associated with such a program.
Further, these services are being developed in the context of the
Public Schools Act of British Columbia which makes school atten-
dence of school-age children and support of public schools com-
pulsory. Under these circumstances it is only obvious to note the
difficulties which might emerge if through constitutional guarantees
the Government of British Columbia was obliged to furnish such
educational services before the full implications of providing them
has been recognized and adequately assessed by the educational
(b) Language Rights and the Justice System
Various guarantees with regard to the right to use either the
French or English languages before the courts have been proposed
for inclusion in a revised constitution under the federal government’s
ConstitutionalAmendment Bill (sections 16 and 17).
The provisions would give an accused committed for trial the
right to elect trial in either French or English before a judge or
judge and jury who speaks the chosen language. The provinces
are. involved because of their responsibility for the “administration
of justice . Obviously, the practical and administrative provisions
necessary to ensure these rights are the responsibility of the
The Province of British Columbia is presently studying the
administrative changes that would be required to bring these
guarantees into effect in this province. There are a number of very
serious practical limitations which would affect whether these
changes can be implemented in the province at all and, if so, in what
One practical consideration concerns the adequacy of the
potential jury list in any jurisdiction in which a jury trial is to be
held. The principles of impartiality and fairness in jury selection
necessitate a minimum size French-speaking population before jury
trials would be permitted in a given jurisdiction. It is doubtful if
such a population exists in many, if any, areas of the province.
Moreover, the availability of sufficient numbers of legal counsel,
court clerks, and even judges sufficiently fluent in the French
language to conduct a criminal trial is highly unlikely.
In addition, the present wording of section 16 of the proposed
Constitutional Amendment Bill also makes reference to matters,
“. . . relating to an offence for which an individual
charged with that offence is subject to be imprisoned
if he or she is convicted thereof, the court is exer-
cising any jurisdiction conferred on it by or pur-
suant to an Act of the legislature of any province.”
The full implications of this reference are far reaching indeed
for many provincial statutes provide for imprisonment as one form
As is indicated above, the Province of British Columbia does
not agree that these proposals should be the subject of constitutional
(c) Language Rights and Government Institutions
An important subject of concern with regard to language relates
to the general area of the public’s communication and interaction
with the provincial government. The federal Official Languages
Act guarantees the rights of citizens to communicate in either
official language with the federal government and provides for
language rights at the federal level with regard to government ser-
vices and documents. These federal guarantees, of course, apply
equally to the Anglophone minority in Quebec as they do the
Francophone minorities in the other provinces of Canada.
In looking at such rights and guarantees in the context of the
Province of British Columbia, the modest numbers of our Franco-
phone population and the extent to which this population is dis-
persed throughout the province, to which reference has already
been made, can be seen to put obvious limits on the extent to
which British Columbia can be expected to follow the federal
approach to bilingual government services. In this regard, in an
administrative sense it is, therefore, not contemplated that French
will ever become an “official” language of the provincial govern-
ment or that French will ever become the normal working language
of the public service of the province.
A similar question of individual language rights has been
raised with regard to the use of French in the debates of the legis-
lative assembly. This right is included in section 14 (2) of Bill
C 60. There is at present no reference in British Columbia’s
Constitution Act to the use of language in the legislature. This
means that any M.L.A. at present is free to use either the French
or English language (or any other, for that matter) in the legislative
Until such time as the demand for these services is demonstrated
in practice, the Province of British Columbia does not wish the
use of French in the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia to
be guaranteed in the Constitution. The administrative problem
and the financial costs associated with simultaneous translation
and publishing provincial statutes in French, at the present time
outweighs the very limited benefits that would flow from the
implementation of these services.
In conclusion, it is the belief of the Province of British Columbia
that we need a Constitution that is flexible enough on the subject of lan-
guage to meet the legitimate aspirations of all parts of Canada. These
aspirations will vary from region to region and within regions over time.
The historical and demographic differences throughout the country call
for Varied responses by government. This approach would lead to a
more regionally sensitive type of policy-making in Canada and to a
more localized approach in dealing with matters such as the development
of minority language services.
The Province of British Columbia is of the view that, subject to
extending the present language guarantees contained in section 133 of
the B.N.A. Act to further federal government services and Quebec
government services, no further language guarantees should be added
to the Constitution at this time.
Broad constitutional language guarantees are not appropriate to all of
Canada and could lead to a further aggravation of language differences.
Instead, the answer must lie in step-by-step. positive developments in
each of the provinces of Canada as changing needs dictate. British
Columbia’s recent initiatives in giving parents a choice of either official
language as the language of instruction in the education system is a good
example of this approach. This approach to the language question,
while less dramatic than grand constitutional guarantees, can be a crea-
tive, positive and practical response to the needs of the citizens of Canada
and could lead to the development of a new spirit of tolerance and
mutual understanding between the two major language communities
within our country.
1 John Norris, Strangers Entertained: A History of the Ethnic Group: of British Columbia,
B.C. Centennial ’71 Committee Vancouver. Evergreen Press Ltd. 1971. p. 87.
2 Walter Sage, “British Columbia Becomes Canadian”, Queen’s Quarterly, Vol. LII, 1945,