Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages (Canada)
About the Member
Raymond Théberge took office as Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada on January 29, 2018.
Commissioner Théberge has a PhD in linguistics from McGill University in Quebec, a master’s degree in applied linguistics from the University of Ottawa in Ontario and a bachelor’s degree in history from the Collège universitaire de Saint‑Boniface in Manitoba. He held a number of leadership positions before coming to the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, including president and vice chancellor of the Université de Moncton in New Brunswick and various senior‑level public servant positions in Ontario and Manitoba. He has significant experience with official language minority communities and extensive experience in academia, which have given him the opportunity to work across Canada.
The Commissioner is a well‑known published author on the subject of official language minority communities.
Commissioner Théberge has served on boards of directors of a number of organizations, including the Association des collèges et universités de la francophonie canadienne and the Agence universitaire de la Francophonie. He was director general of the Société franco manitobaine and president of the Centre d’études franco canadiennes de l’Ouest.
About the Member's Office
The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages supports the Commissioner of Official Languages in his mission as an agent of Parliament to ensure that the main objectives of the Official Languages Act are met:
- Ensure the equality of English and French in federal institutions
- Support the preservation and development of official language minority communities in Canada (English-speaking communities in Quebec, and Francophone and Acadian communities outside of Quebec)
- Advance the equality of English and French in Canadian society, taking into account the diversity of provincial and territorial language policies
- Promote the future of French across Canada, including in Quebec
- Clarify the official languages obligations of federal institutions
The Commissioner’s mission is also to ensure that the rights and obligations set out in the Use of French in Federally Regulated Private Businesses Act, which was adopted in 2023 and will become effective on a date to be set by decree, are recognized.
To support the Commissioner in fulfilling his mission, the Office of the Commissioner has two main areas of activity that go hand in hand and complement each other: compliance and promotion.
Key Information on the Language Situation in this Country/Region
Today, Canada has two official languages—English and French—as well as over 70 Indigenous languages and more than 200 immigrant languages. It was established on the ancestral lands of Indigenous peoples (First Nations, Métis and Inuit), colonized by the British and French in the 16th and 17th centuries, and became a new home for immigrants (mainly European and American until the mid‑20th century; immigration has since become increasingly diversified).
In Canada, the progressive recognition of English and French as the country’s official languages evolved over a period of just over 150 years with the adoption of:
- the Constitution Act, 1867, at the time of Confederation, which allowed the use of either English or French in debates and required documents to be drafted in both languages in Canada’s Parliament and federal courts, as well as in the legislature and provincial courts of Quebec;
- the first Official Languages Act at the federal level in 1969, which recognized the equal status, rights and privileges of the official languages within Parliament and the Government of Canada, particularly with regard to federal communications and services, and created the position of Commissioner of Official Languages;
- a revised Official Languages Act in 1988, which broadened the scope of language of work and participation of English-speaking Canadians and French-speaking Canadians in the federal public service, and enshrined the federal government’s commitment to foster the development of official language minority communities and to promote the use of English and French in Canadian society; and
- a modernized Official Languages Act in June 2023, which aims to ensure substantive equality of English and French through the promotion and protection of French to meet 21st century challenges, which recognizes the declining demographic weight of French‑speaking minorities (outside Quebec) and which enshrines the federal government’s commitment to reversing it.
In response to the 2021 Census question on first official language spoken:
- 76.1% of respondents in Canada indicated English, and 22.0% said French;
- 84.1% of respondents in Quebec indicated French, and 14.9% said English; and
- 94.4% of respondents in Canada outside Quebec indicated English, and 3.5% said French.
The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages also reports on official languages issues in Canada in its various products, including its publications (annual reports, studies, other reports, audits, etc.), its tools and resources (infographics, language census data tables, guides, best practices and others), and its press releases, speeches, articles and op‑eds.