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We recommend that the Parliament of Ontario followed by that of Canada adopt a Joint Ontario Declaration of Linguistic Rights to take effect within seventy years after its adoption by both Parliaments. While such a Declaration could take many forms, we propose one possible form here:


Joint Ontario Declaration of Linguistic Rights


Preamble

  • Whereas one study placed English orthography at around three times more difficult to learn than those of German, Greek, and Finnish;[1

  • Whereas one study revealed a success rate of less than 1% in core French and less than 10% in French immersion for English-speaking students;[2]

  • Whereas Ontario public schools struggle to recruit enough competent teachers of French as a second language;[3]

  • Whereas Quebec public schools struggle to recruit enough competent teachers of English as a second language;[4]

  • Whereas the failure in second-language instruction has contributed to miscommunication between Federal-Government workers, local-police and CBSA officers (even in supposed human-trafficking investigations), Minister’s counsels, judges, and legal interpreters (potentially leading to miscarriages of justice exacerbated by the adversarial system), Senate translators, Members of Parliament including members of the Federal Cabinet; and even pilots and air-traffic controllers resulting in inefficiencies in the public service;[5] and even deaths from air crashes;[6]

  • Whereas Canadian-content requirements can undermine the ability of sign-language, indigenous-language, and other unofficial-language media to exploit economies of scale within Canada to the same degree that Anglo-French media can;

  • Whereas language policy largely determines a person’s access to the state’s economic and other resources;

  • Whereas a deaf person can learn to read and a dyslexic one to write in a phonetic spelling more easily than he can a non-phonetic one;

  • Whereas Article 2 of the Universal declaration of Human Rights states:

‘Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status;’[7]

  • Whereas Article 26 (3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

‘Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children;’

  • Whereas the Report of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism makes no mention of either the Deaf or dyslexics, explicitly excludes indigenous peoples from consideration, and limits its inquiry mostly to the development of ‘the Canadian Confederation on the basis of an equal partnership between the two founding races;’[8]

  • Whereas ethnic nationalism has often manifested itself through the proxy of language policy even in Canada;[9]

  • Whereas one study revealed that a French-speaking student can reach the same level of mastery of Esperanto after 150 hours of instruction as he could English after 1,500;[10]

  • Whereas UNESCO’s Resolution of 1985 states:

‘The General Conference invites the Member States to mark the centenary of Esperanto by suitable arrangements, declarations, issuing of special postal stamps, etc., and to promote the introduction of a study programme on the language problem and Esperanto in their schools and higher educational institutions;’


Now, therefore the Parliaments of Ontario and of Canada proclaim this Ontario Declaration of Linguistic Rights as a common standard of achievement in linguistic rights for all peoples and all municipalities within the Province of Ontario, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, whether local, provincial, or national, to secure their effective recognition and observance throughout the Province of Ontario.


Article 1.

To ensure economic efficiency, any level of Government may adopt a policy of official unilingualism whereby it would adopt one single official language of internal government administration within the Province of Ontario. It shall also reserve the right to impose the official language of the Province or municipality on any natural monopoly that operates within Ontario’s borders.

Article 2.

The council of any municipality of the Province of Ontario that borders another province may vote to transfer its jurisdiction to the province that it borders. In such an event, the Province of Ontario would reserve the right to make any such transfer conditional on the other province converting the transferred jurisdiction into a Special Administrative Region (SAR) and adopting a Basic Law for that SAR that would guarantee the rights inscribed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, with the Province of Ontario reserving the right to reclaim the SAR in the event of breach of Treaty.


Article 3.

In time of public emergency which threatens the life of the province or municipality and the existence of which is officially proclaimed, the Parliament of Canada or Ontario or a municipal council may take measures derogating from its obligations under the present Declaration to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation, provided that such measures are not inconsistent with their other obligations under provincial, national, or international law and do not involve discrimination solely on the ground of race, colour, sex, language, religion or social origin.


Article 4.

  1. Any person charged with a criminal offence or accused of an immigration violation in the Province of Ontario must be offered and may request, prior to the start of any trial, an inquisitorial trial without the aid of an interpreter in the official language of the Province of Ontario, International Sign, or Esperanto. A judge may grant the right, at his own discretion, to allow a retrial without the aid of an interpreter in International Sign or Esperanto after a trial has already started should he deem it appropriate.

  2. Each applicable level of Government shall make reasonable efforts to provide access to a trial without the aid of an interpreter in the local indigenous sign language or oral and written language on request, such as by requiring any judge who does not know International Sign or Esperanto to know the local indigenous sign language or oral and written language instead.


Article 5.

Any parent may request a school voucher for this child (with the value of the voucher being increased according to any disability that the child may suffer) with which he may register that child to any participating school of any language on the condition that the school ensure that the child can pass provincial tests in the official language of the province. Any participating school, whether religious or otherwise, shall respect the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in addition to any other applicable law.

The Government shall reserve the right to limit participating schools to those owned solely by NGOs, sole proprietorships, and worker cooperatives.

Article 6.

Any participating voucher school may teach and any pupil may take a test in the local ingigenous sign language, International Sign, the local indigenous oral and written language, or Esperanto to fulfil the second-language requirement for secondary-school graduation as long as he can pass all other tests in the official language of the Province. The Province may add additional alternative languagesfor the purpose as its discretion.


Article 7.

Any resident of Ontario over the age of fifteen may request a media voucher for himself and any dependent under the age of fifteen that he could use to subscribe to any participating media provider of his choice. Any participating media shall abstain from promoting any nonessential product or service that may cause addiction or threaten public security and shall limit itself to child-appropriate content.

The Government may limit participating media to NGO’s, sole proprietorships, and worker cooperatives and require them to provide captioning for all video content but shall free them from national-content rules so as to allow them to fully exploit economies of scale.


Article 8.

Any sole proprietorship or worker cooperative that operates within Ontario that does not constitute a natural monopoly and that does not provide or otherwise promote the consumption of any nonessential product or service that may cause addiction or threaten public security may make unilingual use of the official language of the municipality in which it operates to fulfil any language obligation of any level of Government.


Article 9.

Any sole proprietorship or worker cooperative in Ontario that limits its operation to within ten kilometres of a river bank or waterway, that does not constitute a natural monopoly, and that does not provide or otherwise promote the consumption of any nonessential product or service that may cause addiction or threaten public security may make use of the local indigenous sign language or oral or written language, alone or along with any other language of its choice, on the condition that any language appear in the same size as any other, to fulfil any municipal, provincial, or national language requirement in the Province of Ontario, including in packaging and labelling and closed captioning, to the degree that to do so does not threaten public security. Any level of Government may choose to extend the territorial limit for every business under its jurisdiction to beyond the ten-kilometre limit or even abrogate any territorial limit at its discretion without any limitation within Ontario's borders.


Article 10.

Any sole proprietorship or worker cooperative in Ontario that limits its operation to within one kilometre of a river bank, that does not constitute a natural monopoly, and that does not provide or otherwise promote any nonessential product or service that may cause addiction or threaten public security may make use of International Sign or Esperanto, alone or along with any other language of its choice, on the condition that any language appear in the same size as any other, that International Sign always appear last whenever it appears in combination with any other sign language, that Esperanto always appear last whenever it appears in combination with any other oral or written language, and that Esperanto always appear after International Sign whenever the two appear consecutively to fulfil any municipal, provincial, or national language requirement, including in packaging and labelling and closed captioning, in the Province of Ontario to the degree that to do so does not threaten public security.


Article 10.

Every level of government and every natural monopoly shall, within ten kilometres of a riverbank or waterway, hire only bilingual front-line staff to the degree possible and hire, in order of preference, knowledge of its official or working language and all other qualifications being equal, the candidate who has mastered:

  1. The local indigenous sign language,

  2. International Sign,

  3. The locally most spoken sign language (if different from the previous two languages and to be reassessed every five years),

  4. The local indigenous oral and written language,

  5. Esperanto,

  6. The locally most spoken oral and written language (if different from the previous two languages and to be reassessed every five years) and

  7. Any other language of the appropriate level of Government’s choosing.

The applicable level of Government may decide whether to allow a natural monopoly to choose an offcial language of its choice or whether to impose one on it.


[1] http://www.oecd.org/education/ceri/35562310.pdf (page 5)


[2] https://docplayer.net/41454060-Lessons-in-learning-parlez-vous-francais-the-advantages-of-bilingualism-in-canada.html (page 6)

[3] http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2014/parl/xc60-1/XC60-1-1-412-1-eng.pdf

[4] https://www.cse.gouv.qc.ca/fichiers/documents/publications/Avis/50-0485.pdf

[5] https://www.nationfrancaiseducanada.com/l-enseignement

[6] http://www.sat-amikaro.org/spip.php?article351

[7] https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/

[8] http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2014/bcp-pco/Z1-1963-1-5-1-1-eng.pdf (especially the General Introduction, Paragraph 21 and Chapter 1, Paragraph 19)

[9] For example, Quebec’s Charter of the French language prohibits a business from advertising itself in the local indigenous language on an equal footing with French (http://www.legisquebec.gouv.qc.ca/en/showdoc/cs/C-11)

[10] https://www.ladocumentationfrancaise.fr/var/storage/rapports-publics/054000678.pdf (page 81)