Official language rights

The Charter establishes that English and French are the official languages of the country and have equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all institutions of the Parliament and government of Canada. It also establishes principle of advancement or progression of the equality of status and use of the official languages by Parliament or by the provincial legislatures. Parliament acted on this principle of advancement in 1988 by passing the Official Languages Act and by providing, in the Criminal Code, for the right to a trial in the official language of the accused. Many provincial and territorial governments have also passed language legislation.

The Charter establishes that everyone has the right to use English or French in any debates and other proceedings of Parliament. The statutes, records and journals of Parliament must be printed and published in both languages, and both language versions are equally authoritative.

Everyone has the right to use English or French in, or in any pleading in or process issuing from, any court established by Parliament.

Any member of the public also has the right to communicate with and receive services in English or French from any head office of an institution of Parliament or government of Canada. They have this same right from any office of an institution where there is a significant demand for communications with and services from that office in such language; or where 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.

Similar rights apply in New Brunswick, the only officially bilingual province in Canada. In fact, members of the public in New Brunswick have the right to communicate and obtain services in either English or French from any office of an institution of the legislature or government of New Brunswick. The English and French linguistic communities in New Brunswick also have equality of status and equal rights and privileges. This includes the right to distinct educational institutions and cultural institutions that preserve and promote those communities.

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