Fundamental Freedoms - The Charter of Rights and Freedoms
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Official Languages of Canada
Access to French and English education

What it Says

Section 16.

  1. English and French are the official languages of Canada and have equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all institutions of the Parliament and government of Canada.
  2. English and French are the official languages of New Brunswick and have equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all institutions of the legislature and government of New Brunswick.
  3. Nothing in this Charter limits the authority of Parliament or a legislature to advance the equality of status or use of English and French.

Section 16.1.

  1. The English linguistic community and the French linguistic community in New Brunswick have equality of status and equal rights and privileges, including the right to distinct educational institutions and such distinct cultural institutions as are necessary for the preservation and promotion of those communities.
  2. The role of the legislature and government of New Brunswick to preserve and promote the status, rights and privileges referred to in subsection (1) is affirmed.

Section 17.

  1. Everyone has the right to use English or French in any debates and other proceedings of Parliament.
  2. Everyone has the right to use English or French in any debates and other proceedings of the legislature of New Brunswick.

Section 18.

  1. The statutes, records and journals of Parliament shall be printed and published in English and French and both language versions are equally authoritative.
  2. The statutes, records and journals of the legislature of New Brunswick shall be printed and published in English and French and both language versions are equally authoritative.

Section 19.

  1. Either English or French may be used by any person in, or in any pleading in or process issuing from, any court established by Parliament.
  2. Either English or French may be used by any person in, or in any pleading in or process issuing from, any court of New Brunswick.

Section 20.

  1. Any member of the public in Canada has the right to communicate with, and to receive available services from, any head or central office of an institution of the Parliament or government of Canada in English or French, and has the same right with respect to any other office of any such institution where
    • a) there is a significant demand for communications with and services from that office in such language; or
    • b) due to the nature of the office, it is reasonable that communications with and services from that office be available in both English and French.
  2. Any member of the public in New Brunswick has the right to communicate with, and to receive available services from, any office of an institution of the legislature or government of New Brunswick in English or French.

Section 21.
Nothing in sections 16 to 20 abrogates or derogates from any right, privilege or obligation with respect to the English and French languages, or either of them, that exists or is continued by virtue of any other provision of the Constitution of Canada.

Section 22.
Nothing in sections 16 to 20 abrogates or derogates from any legal or customary right or privilege acquired or enjoyed either before or after the coming into force of this Charter with respect to any language that is not English or French.

Lester B. Pearson, 1967. It is one of my secret hopes for Prime Ministers of the future that Canada will some day - perhaps in time for the bicentennial of Confederation, and through the desire of the people and the governments of the provinces - become a truly bilingual country from coast to coast - not by the compulsion of decree, but by the compulsion of desire.
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