Looking back

Remembering… everyone has an opinion

Needless to say, not everyone was in agreement with the Official Languages Act when it passed into law. Journalists, politicians and ordinary citizens all took the opportunity to give their opinions. Employment, education and the vitality of official language communities were all discussed, with pieces running in The Winnipeg Free PressWorld Wide Web site and The Brandon SunWorld Wide Web site.

The Winnipeg Free Press, Saturday, January 4, 1969: “Languages in the Schools,” by Hans Peter Langes

The Winnipeg Free Press, Tuesday, February 11, 1969: “Which Course?

The Brandon Sun, Tuesday, May 20, 1969: “Official Languages Bill: Division, misunderstanding, and now, compromise,” by Anthony Westell

Le DroitWorld Wide Web site (in French only) ran two pieces in the days leading up to the passing of the Act, one discussing the results of the Bilingualism and Biculturalism Commission, the other concerning Liberal MP Gordon Blair, who explained the potential dangers of an official languages law. Blair felt that the Act should be applied carefully so as not to harm current public servants who did not know a second language. Once the Act had passed, journalist Jean-Guy Bruneau called it a historic moment for Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau in his July 8, 1969 article.

Le Droit, Saturday, July 5, 1969: “L’étude de la Commission BB reflète-t-elle le climat de 1969?” (in French only) by Jean-Guy Bruneau

Le Droit, Saturday, July 5, 1969: “La politique de bilinguisme devra être appliquée avec beaucoup de doigté – Blair” (in French only)

Le Droit, Tuesday, July 8, 1969: “Le bill sur les langues officielles adopté en troisième lecture,” (in French only) by Jean-Guy Bruneau

Perhaps the most important contribution to media coverage at the time was that of Prime Minister Trudeau himself. In a CBC Archives clip, he explains that unilingual Canadians should be kept in mind in the application of the law so as not to create a new injustice. Appearing along with Trudeau in this brief clip are Réal Couette, David Lewis and Robert Stanfield.

CBC Archives, October 17, 1968: “One Canada, Deux LanguesWorld Wide Web site

On July 17, 1969, Prime Minister Trudeau wrote an article for the Canadian Press explaining the Official Languages Act because he felt that a failure of the press was one of the main reasons why people did not understand the legislation. He managed to clear up several misconceptions surrounding official languages.

The Winnipeg Free Press, Thursday, July 17, 1969: “PM Explains Official Languages Bill,” by Prime Minister Trudeau (The Canadian Press)


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