It had 3 main areas of inquiry: the extent of bilingualism in the federal administration, the role of public and private organizations in promoting better cultural relations and the opportunities for Canadians to become bilingual in English and French. The commissioners used as their guiding principle the concept of "equal partnership" - equal opportunity for Francophones and Anglophones to participate in the institutions affecting their individual and collective lives. The commissioners were also to report on the cultural contribution of other ethnic groups and the means of preserving this contribution.
In addition to a preliminary report (1965), a final report in 6 books was published, titled The Official Languages (1967), Education (1968), The Work World (Socioeconomic Status, the Federal Administration, the Private Sector, 1969), The Cultural Contribution of the Other Ethnic Groups (1969), The Federal Capital (1970), and Voluntary Associations (1970).
Ten commissioners representing Canada's cultural-linguistic composition were chosen. All spoke English and French and commission business was conducted in both languages. Since education is a provincial responsibility, the cochairmen called on all provincial premiers to obtain their co-operation in that section of the inquiry.
A royal commission to examine Québec's dissatisfaction had first been suggested by the editor in chief of Le Devoir, André LAURENDEAU, and it was established later under Prime Minister Lester B. PEARSON. Laurendeau and A. Davidson DUNTON were appointed cochairmen of the commission. Laurendeau died in 1968 and his post was assumed by Jean-Louis Gagnon.
For many Québécois, the RCBB was a maneuver to obscure the political issues. For many Anglophones, especially in western Canada, it was an attempt to force the French language on an unwilling population. The enquiry, however, revealed that Francophones did not occupy in the economy, nor in the decision-making ranks of government, the place their numbers warranted; that educational opportunities for the francophone minorities were not commensurate with those provided for the anglophone minority within Québec; and that French-speaking Canadians could neither find employment nor be served adequately in their language in federal-government agencies.
Recommendations to correct these and other serious weaknesses were implemented with unusual alacrity. Educational authorities in all 9 anglophone provinces reformed regulations concerning French minority education and moved to improve the teaching of French as a second language with financial assistance from the federal government. New Brunswick declared itself officially bilingual; Ontario did not, but greatly extended its services in French. French-language rights in the legislature and courts of Manitoba, disallowed by statutes passed in Manitoba in 1890, were restored by decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in 1979.
A federal department of multiculturalism was established. Institutional bilingualism at the federal level became a fact with the passing of the OFFICIAL LANGUAGES ACT (1969) and the appointment of a Commissioner of Official Languages. Because of lack of time, the commission did not examine constitutional questions, as anticipated in the introduction to the final report, and the movement toward independence in Québec continued. It did, however, lay the foundation for functional bilingualism throughout the country, and for increased acceptance of cultural diversity (see also OFFICIAL LANGUAGES ACT (1988)).
Author G. LAING
Links to Other Sites
Index to Federal Royal Commissions
A bibliographic index of federal Royal Commission documents. From Library and Archives Canada.
Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages
The website for the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages.
Laurendeau and Dunton
A CBC Television video clip featuring André Laurendeau and A. Davidson Dunton discussing their Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism.