Modernizing the Official Languages Act

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By Mary Clements

This past February, The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, presented the Government of Canada’s intentions to update, modernize and strengthen the Official Languages Act  through the document: “English and French: towards a substantive equality of official languages in Canada”.  As families with children participating in various ways of French learning in Canada, this documents has impacts that are worth us being interested in.

In this document, we see recognition that English-speaking families have beenincreasingly looking for French language learning opportunities for their children and to offer their children the great advantage of being bilingual. Over the years, we’ve seen a big problem in the equitable access to second-language learning and this gets specific mention:

“In fact, demand for access to French immersion programs has clearly exceeded supply in recent years, as regularly highlighted in the press. Whether in Ontario or British Columbia, parents show, year after year, their enthusiasm for enrolling their children in French immersion schools, despite the lack of spaces in the school system. This state of affairs is detrimental to fostering bilingualism in Canada. This situation is unacceptable and efforts are needed to remedy it. There can no longer be waiting lists.” 

We have heard stories from our community in various cities across Canada regarding these wait lines simply to enrol in FI, lottery systems to even be eligible, and even having difficulties in their home schools securing consistent qualified French teachers. We’ve also heard time and time again of children who require extra assistance and the best solution the schools had available was to move the child to the English stream since these supports weren’t available in French. I experienced this personally when I was young as the solution offered to my mother for many years when I was struggling was to move me to the English stream…and now I run a French language business that creates meaningful jobs for current and aspiring French teachers and positive French learning opportunities for thousands of students since 2009.
Overall, we were hopeful to see this document address concerns we have heard and experienced over the years but we know there is still a long way to go. Until then, we have services here at Les Petites Pommes to help fill in some of these gaps through our tutoring program and online and in-person summer camps. As long as our services are needed, we’re happy to provide more opportunities and support systems for Canadians on the road to bilingualism and French mastery!