U Ottawa kicks off lecture series commemorating bilingualism and biculturalism in Canada


2B_CUPSeries of lectures to celebrate 50th anniversary of Royal Commission

Jesse Mellott
The Fulcrum (University of Ottawa)

OTTAWA (CUP) — The University of Ottawa, in conjunction with the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages and universities across the country, is helping to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism in Canada.

The commission was established in 1963 by André Laurendeau and Davidson Dunton in order to study and address the language and cultural policies between anglophones and francophones that existed in Canada at the time. Its recommendations also led to the creation of the Official Languages Act and the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages (OCOL).

According to Carsten Quell, director of policy at the OCOL, the commission itself addressed Canadians’ concerns about the nature of the country’s linguistic and cultural duality.

“What the commission did was it went across the country and essentially heard from Canadians what they felt were the issues surrounding official languages or surrounding linguistic duality, and what they proposed to ensure the Canadian confederation stays strong,” he said.

Quell added that the purpose of the anniversary commemoration is to recognize the relevance of the royal commission and the impact its recommendations have had on Canada’s institutions like the OCOL and bilingual universities like the U of O.

“If the [commissioner’s] office is a child of the commission, I guess in some ways you can say that the University of Ottawa is a child of the commission as well, or very much sees itself in the tradition of the commission,” he said.

The commemoration will feature a series of lectures across the country, in Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Montreal and Moncton.

The first lecture took place Feb. 6, during which U of O president Allan Rock spoke about the effect the commission has had on the university and Canada as a whole.

Rock noted that the U of O freed up some of its professors in 1963 to help the commission and put effort into its written submission that was completed the following year.

“In the end, the university’s message to the commission was a simple one: If we can do it, this country can do it,” said Rock. “It won’t be perfect. It will be, by definition, a work in progress.”

Rock also expressed his gratitude for the U of O’s inclusion in the lecture series.

“We are therefore especially honoured that the [OCOL] asked us to partner with it in marking this important anniversary,” he said.

The final lecture will take place at the U of O on June 17.

Photo courtesy of Wiki commons

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