Chapter 5
Respecting Diversity


The social fabric of Canada has changed greatly over the last century, and yet our social and political structures failed to accommodate many of these changing circumstances. In this chapter we shall look not only at the needs of this society in transition, but we shall also try to identify and sustain those qualities in Canadian life which have survived all the waves of change. It is a matter of addressing the balance between permanence and change.

A portrait of Canada in the mid-1860's would have shown our fundamental duality. It would have shown a landscape dotted by farms, small towns, and a few large cities, and a labour force engaged mainly in agriculture, trapping, fishing, mining and forestry. The portrait would also reveal at least one church in each of our settlements, but little physical evidence of the state. And, lastly, it might convey if only in outline some of the grandiose ideas and projects which were soon to come and which would have the effect of cementing together in a federal political system the people of Canada for more than a century.

Compare the Canada of today; the areas of change and those of permanence are clear. Our fundamental duality is present, although it takes a different form now. Language is still an element of duality, but ethnicity is less so. Quebec remains French in character and outlook, but through the physical extension of Canada's borders and the arrival of newcomers the country has become a homeland of people of many origins.

In Canada today, one person in three lives in a city whose population is a half million or larger. The land is still being farmed, of course, but by fewer hands. Manufacturing, the service sector, and the rise in white-collar work provide many times more jobs than the primary industries.

The intimacy of small-town or rural life is now unknown to most Canadians, and the sustaining power of the church is less of a force in our lives. The institutions of government have developed a momentum for growth which could not have been anticipated a century ago. And the original projects of the Confederation period, while still an important part of our common lives, have been overshadowed by the modernization of Canada and its development into an industrial society whose transportation and communications networks and trading links span the globe.

For the most part, the modernization of Canada has proceeded calmly and evenly by comparison with the experience of many other countries. However, the elements of the new social balance produced by the impersonal forces of modernization are not yet well enough understood and accommodated in our common institutions.


Language, for example, has always been a contentious issue in Canada. The story of the specific conflicts which this linguistic pluralism has caused is well-known, above all to

French-speaking Canadians. The Manitoba schools question and Regulation 17 in Ontario in the first half century of Confederation, and Bill 22, Bill 101, "Les Gens de l'Air", the policy of bilingualism and the Forest case in Manitoba, more recently, are all, if for different reasons, elements of a history whose harder lessons form part of the crisis of Canadian unity.

An approach to the fundamental issue of language in Canada must take account of the dynamics of social change and assess the extent to which the respective language policies of our central and provincial governments reflect the changing social environment.

People speak a language to communicate with those with whom they must deal in everyday life. In an earlier, more rural Canada the language most Canadians learned at home, be it French or English, was well enough suited to their adult lives. But today, the modernization of the country has created a network of social and economic relationships to which Canadians must adapt. It has meant "transferring" to a majority language; and in most parts of Canada, long dominated by Canadians of British origin, this has meant the English language.

In the case of francophone communities outside the so-called "bilingual belt", which extends from northeast New Brunswick, through Quebec, into adjacent parts of Ontario, and even for many within it, this trend has been very marked. Modernization has brought strong pressure for linguistic assimilation to English. Previously, French Canadians could work-the land, market their produce, engage in other occupations in the primary sector, and maintain their language. Many still do. But, outside Quebec, the same francophones cannot today sell insurance in French only, or program computers in French only, or engage in a thousand other occupations which emerge only from the diffusion of high technology to industrial settings and the vast expansion of the service sector, or white-collar employment more generally. As the effects of these forces made themselves felt, francophone minorities became less able to maintain their distinct communities. Their churches, newspapers, schools, French-language professional services and family firms were subject to the same pressures as the individuals which sustained them.

The operation of the private sector has accentuated these trends. Commerce in the provinces of English-speaking Canada is a process conducted almost exclusively in the English language. As far as governments are concerned, the provision of essential services in English only by our federal and English-speaking provincial governments for most of this century has had the undeniable effect of discouraging the retention of minority languages, whether we have in mind French throughout nine provinces (with the recent exception of New Brunswick) or any third language. This unwillingness of public authority has provided a clear message to French-speaking Canadians and, more particularly, to the francophone Québécois.

Language In Quebec

We have already pointed to the growing tendency toward the geographical concentration of Canada's French and English-speaking populations. Canada's French-speaking population is increasingly to be found in Quebec-in 1951, 82 per cent of Canada's French mother tongue population lived in that province; by 1976, this proportion had risen to 85 per cent and demographers have estimated that by the census of 2001, approximately 95 per cent of Canada's francophones will be located in Quebec. Within the province itself, formerly English-speaking communities outside of the Montreal area are becoming French-speaking due to the migration or assimilation of anglophones. There is evidence that the use of English in Quebec as a whole may be declining: the proportion of adult males in the province who speak English only has declined from 16 per cent in 1931 to 9 per cent in 1971, whereas the proportion who speak French only has risen from 34 per cent in 1931 to 45 per cent in 1971.

The picture in Montreal is quite different. For decades Canada's liveliest major city, Montreal, has been the site of the head offices of many of our largest corporations. The vast majority of these companies have until recently operated in English only, and this has had a considerable impact on language use in the area. The English-speaking minority in Montreal continues to assimilate more speakers of other languages than does the French-speaking majority.

Immigration and migration from other provinces have reinforced the advantaged position of this minority in Quebec society. Approximately 100,000 postwar immigrants from the British Isles have settled in the greater Montreal area in the last thirty years. In addition, more immigrants to Quebec arrive with a knowledge of English than of French and, of those who arrive with a knowledge of neither French nor English, we estimate that 70 per cent assimilate to the Anglophone and 30 per cent to the francophone community.

This is a cause of resentment to most francophone Québécois. Of course, the language issue in Quebec must be understood also against the backdrop of the attempts of Quebecers to assure themselves of a properly active role In the private sector of the Quebec economy.

Language policy Issues

There has been considerable change in language laws and policies in Canada over the past decade as both federal and provincial governments have sought to adjust their language arrangements to these changing circumstances. The federal government has, since 1966, endeavoured to provide the services available from the federal administration to all Canadians in the official language of their choice; it has also tried to give Canadians, of either language group an equal opportunity of finding employment and pursuing careers in the federal administration while using their preferred official language in their work.

The federal government has also sought, through the use of financial incentives and other means, to persuade provincial governments to adopt statutory provisions which would have the effect of placing the English and French languages on an equal footing with regard to provincial government services.

Although the governments of many English-speaking provinces recently have become more responsive to the needs of their French-speaking minorities, they have been reluctant to provide a statutory framework for these changes.

These differences in orientation between the federal government and most of the English-speaking provinces have now extended to the province of Quebec. Under three successive governments, Quebec has adopted language legislation which has been increasingly assertive of the role of French in the life of that province. The most recent legislation of this kind, Bill 101, declares French to be the official language of the province and delimits those situations in which institutions and individuals must use, deliver services or receive services in the language of the provincial majority.

Canada, seen from the federal government's perspective, is a linguistically dual federal state composed of two societies-one French-speaking and one English-speaking-which extend geographically beyond the borders of any one province. Thus the federal government believes that it is necessary that this linguistic duality be more fully reflected in Canada's central political institutions and in federal policies and programs.

To the provincial governments, the picture is different. With one exception, each of them serves a provincial population whose vast majority shares one language. The exception, New Brunswick, has a substantial minority of speakers of French as a mother tongue which, in addition to constituting 34 per cent of that province's population, is concentrated in the north-eastern part of the province contiguous to Quebec. In Quebec, Canada's only province to have French as its sole official language, the minority of speakers of English as a mother tongue constitutes 13 per cent of the provincial population.

In every other Canadian province, the French mother tongue minority comprises less than 7 per cent of their respective populations. It is not surprising therefore that all Canadian provinces, with the single exception of New Brunswick, now have language policies in the form of statutes and practices which ensure the predominance of the language of the provincial majority in the provision of provincial government services.

These differences in perspective and in language policies between the federal and provincial levels of government, or among provincial governments themselves, need not be a major obstacle to Canadian unity.

It is the very essence of federalism that each order of government is sovereign within its own sphere of jurisdiction. For good and compelling social and political reasons, each of the eleven governments must be free to respond to its unique situation.

Just such an approach has been followed with considerable success by another federation, Switzerland. At the federal level, Swiss citizens have the right to be served in any of the three official languages of the country. Their provinces, called cantons, are free however to establish both the language or languages in which their services will be provided and the language and languages of work in the canton itself.

Whatever language arrangements are adopted in Canada must be compatible with the underlying social forces at work in our country while, at the same time, reflecting those principles on which our form of government is based. Language policy in a country like Canada is always, then, something of a compromise.

Language policy: the federal government

The main lines of the federal government's language policy were set out in 1966-in the federal administration, employees were to be able to initiate oral or written communication intended for internal use in their preferred official language. Following recommendations to this effect by the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, this policy was given a statutory basis with the passage by Parliament of the Official Languages Act in 1969. This Act declares English and French to be equal in status, rights, and privileges in all federal institutions.

From the evolution of the federal government's language policies and practices over the past thirteen years it is apparent that the remaining problems and tensions pertain more to the language of work within the federal government, and not so much to the language of service to members of the public. With regard to the language of work within federal institutions, the 1972 federal policy introduced special efforts to ensure that civil servants should be able to work in the official language of their choice in the National Capital Area, Montreal and other parts of Quebec, northeastern Ontario and northeastern New Brunswick.

In mid-1975, this was in turn replaced by the policy that public servants could work in English or French in the National Capital Region; outside the National Capital Region, the language of work of the federal administration would normally be French in Quebec, English and French in the north eastern regions of New Brunswick and some parts of Ontario, and English in the remaining parts of New Brunswick and Ontario and in the other seven provinces. Special consideration was to be given to the concerns of minority official language groups. In 1977, the federal government further refined its policy towards the language of work by indicating that greater emphasis would be placed on the use of unilingual positions in the provision of services to the public.

The federal government's support for bilingualism, even as it has evolved over the last thirteen years, has resulted in much greater access by the Canadian public in their preferred official language to the services provided by federal institutions. In this respect, much was accomplished in a relatively short period of time. Of equal importance is that the proportion of francophones working in the federal administration is now approximately equal to their proportion in the population for the first time in this century, for by 1977, 27.6 per cent of federal civil servants had French as their mother tongue.

On the negative side of the ledger must go the costly, and relatively ineffective, attempt to provide adequate second language skills to anglophone civil servants. Some civil servants did not receive the kind of language training suitable to their positions or did not attain the level of bilingualism required for the effective performance of their work in their second language. Many were not able to use the French they had learned when they returned from

language training, and have presumably failed to maintain the skills they acquired at so much cost. In addition, French-speaking civil servants are still considerably under-represented in executive positions, and in key scientific and technical categories, and over-represented in administrative support positions within the public service. Moreover, recent trends indicate that representation of French-speaking Québécois civil servants in key positions is low and declining further.

It is vital that the language policy of the central government command broad popular support. This support will be achieved in proportion to the efforts of the central government to ensure that the real issues of concern to people are being addressed. It is not only a matter of equal opportunity to secure employment in the federal administration, for example, but the ability, once hired, for both English and French-speaking Canadians to work in their own language. Too many francophones still do not enjoy this opportunity; though more than a quarter of federal public servants are francophones, a 1975 study revealed that only 12 per cent of civil servants reported that they worked in French and in 1977, only 12 per cent of positions in the federal administration were classified as "French essential".

Popular support for federal language policy will increase to the extent that future administrative measures to enhance it are, and are seen to be, fair and reasonable, yielding results appropriate to their costs. The federal government's efforts on behalf of our two official languages over the last few years place us now in a position to consolidate the resulting gains.

Since 1867, the BNA Act has guaranteed the equality of both languages in the Parliament of Canada and in the federal courts, but now the time has come to extend the constitutional recognition of language rights. Members of the public should have a constitutional right to obtain services in French or English from the head offices of every department, agency or Crown corporation of the Government of Canada and from all branches of the federal administration in the National Capital Region. Elsewhere in Canada, services should be provided in French and English in those circumstances where the demand is sufficient and it is feasible to do so.

The constitution should also guarantee the equality of both official languages as languages of work in the federal administration in the National Capital Region, in all federal courts, and in the head off ices of every department, agency or Crown corporation of the Government of Canada. Elsewhere, the usual language or languages of work in federal institutions should be the language or languages of work normally used in the province in which the federal institution is operating. This, however, should not be allowed to impinge upon the right of an individual to receive services in English or French.

The right of every person to give evidence in the official language of his or her choice in any criminal matter should also be specified in the constitution. Entrenchment should extend as well to the right of every person to have access to radio and television services in both the French and English languages and the availability in both official languages of all printed material intended for general public use.

Language policy: the provincial governments

It is at the provincial level that some of the most acute conflicts have occurred over language laws and regulations, conflicts which have polarized both Canada's major language communities and which have soured French-English relations for years at a time. The resentments aroused among French Canadians over the harsh restrictions on access to French language education in Ontario, Manitoba and other provinces in the late nineteenth and earlier twentieth centuries have had repercussions of much wider than provincial significance. In more recent years, Quebec's Bill 22 and Bill 101 have given rise to considerable apprehension not only among anglophones in Quebec but among anglophones throughout the country.

Much concern has been voiced about the policy implications of the demographic situation facing English-speaking Quebecers and francophones elsewhere. Our examination of demographic data confirm that this concern is well-grounded.

The rate of linguistic assimilation of French-speaking minorities is quite high, and appears to be accelerating in all English-speaking provinces other than New Brunswick. The French-speaking minorities, even more than Canadians generally, are becoming older and their school-age populations are in relatively sharp decline. Between 1961 and 1971, thel number of children of French mother tongue four years of age and under dropped from 29,000 to 19,000 in New Brunswick, from 48,000 to 35,000 in Ontario and from 19,000 to 13,000 in the other English-speaking provinces. Due, among other things, to increasing Urbanization (which brings with it greater contact with linguistic majorities), there is a relatively high rate of marriage to non-francophones. Among all the French-language minorities, except the Acadians of New Brunswick, this rate ranges between 30 per cent and 60 per cent and is accompanied by a shift to English as the language spoken at home in approximately 90 per cent of cases.

The awareness of these realities has not encouraged the governments of the English-speaking provinces with French-speaking minorities, except New Brunswick, to invest heavily in far-reaching programs of linguistic reform. On the other hand, these same realities have reinforced the determination of the French-speaking population of Quebec and of its provincial government to make even greater efforts to ensure the predominance of French in their province.

We support the efforts of the Quebec provincial government and of the people of Quebec to ensure the predominance of the French language and culture in that province. We believe that the people of Quebec must feel as confident and secure in the present and future potential of their language and culture as do the people of Ontario and the other English-speaking provinces. There can be nothing more damaging, in our view, to the cause of Canadian unity than the rejection of these aspirations of francophone Qu6bbcols by English-speaking Canadians. We believe that present constitutional arrangements which allow the provinces to adopt those laws and regulations which they deem suitable are appropriate to the present and emerging Canadian social context.

Under the terms of the BNA Act and the Manitoba Act of 1870, constitutionally entrenched linguistic rights bind only two provincial governments, Quebec and Manitoba. The specific provisions are chiefly of an institutional character, dealing with legislative and judicial language matters.

But things have changed considerably since 1867. New Brunswick adopted a law establishing English and French as official languages in 1969. Section 23 of the Manitoba Act of 1870 established a form of institutional bilingualism in that province, but it has not been in effect since 1890, when the province passed legislation to render it inoperative. But the 1890 legislation was recently held by a Manitoba court to be invalid, a decision which has since been appealed. Quebec, since 1867, has recognized linguistic rights for its anglophone community in many areas, and not only in those referred to in Section 133. Recently, however, some sections of Bill 101 were held invalid, because they violated the rights protected by Section 133. The question is still before the courts. At the provincial level, therefore, the situation leads to frustration and antagonism.

In our opinion, the protection of linguistic rights at the provincial level can be treated, at this time, in either one of two ways: extending the constitutional guarantees of Section 133 to every or to some provinces, or removing these guarantees, inviting the provinces to legislate safeguards for their minorities, taking into account the diversity of local situations, with the hope that a consensus between the provinces might form on a common denominator which eventually could be included within the constitution of the country.

After due consideration, we now think that the second option would be wiser and more likely to be successful in the long run, involve less confrontation, and be more in agreement with the spirit of the federal system.

This view might well stir up protest since it would deprive the English-speaking minority of Quebec and the French-speaking minority of Manitoba of the constitutional expression of certain rights. Let us observe first that in Manitoba, these constitutional safeguards have been ignored for more than three quarters of a century.

With regards to the English-speaking minority of Quebec, our purpose is certainly not to suggest that an injustice be committed. But we witness the fact that there has been an irreversible movement, especially over the last ten years, towards the development of an increasingly French Quebec. We believe that Quebec should not be prevented from developing its Frenchness by constitutional barriers which do not exist for other provinces and that consequently Section 133 of the BNA Act should be abrogated to the extend that it might be seen as conflicting with that aspiration.

We are confident, however, indeed we are convinced, that the removal of the constitutional obligations created by Section 133 will not undermine the will of French-speaking Quebecers and the government of Quebec to maintain the rights of the English-speaking community freely, openly and with generosity, by ordinary legislation of the province.

We also expect that the rights of the English-speaking minority in the areas of education and social services would continue to be respected. These rights, and this should be

stressed, are not now guaranteed by the Canadian constitution. Yet they are recognized under Bill 101, the charter of the French language, a law passed by a Parti Québécois government. Thus, we already have proof that the rights of the English-speaking community in Quebec can be protected, without any constitutional obligation, and that the governments of Quebec are quite capable of reconciling the interest of the majority with the concerns of the minority.

We also observe that progress has been made towards improving the situation of the minority in English-speaking Canada particularly in New Brunswick and in Ontario. The agreement on educational matters which the provincial premiers concluded in Montreal in 1978 provides us with a further example of progress. In that instance all provincial premiers committed themselves to do their best to provide education in both English and French in their primary or secondary schools. The right to use French in criminal courts in some regions of Ontario-is another step forward. And one could go on describing advances being made on the road to reconciliation.

The facts appear to us to indicate that the French-speaking minorities will make more headway as a result of social consensus and provincial legislation than they would from constitutional guarantees at this time. It is this -consensus which our recommendations seek to stimulate. They are aimed at all the provinces, the French-speaking one, the English-speaking ones and the bilingual one. They appeal to the intelligence and the fairness of their population. They do not brandish the club of the constitution.

As regards the provision of educational services to immigrants to Quebec, these should be provided in the French language even to those immigrants to Quebec who are English-speaking. Immigrants of all language backgrounds assimilate overwhelmingly to the majority language group in all English-speaking provinces, where very few immigrants seek access to French-language educational institutions. It would not serve the cause of Canadian unity if Quebec were to remain the only province in which the majority of school-age immigrants or children of immigrants continues to be absorbed into the educational institutions of the linguistic minority.

On the other hand, we firmly believe that children of all Canadian citizens who move to another province should continue to have access to educational services in the language, be it French or English, in which they would have obtained them in their former province of residence. It seems to us to be only just and fair that every French and English-speaking person have access to essential health and social services in his or her principal language, wherever numbers warrant; the same applies to the right of an accused person in criminal trials. To our mind, these are the basic rights which each province should accord its English or French-speaking minority. We recommend that these rights should be expressed in provincial statutes. When all provinces agree to a common set of linguistic guarantees, these rights should then be entrenched in the constitution and made part of our basic law.

Second-language training

Governmental responsiveness and sensitivity to our two languages requires a group of fluently bilingual people to staff our major public institutions. Much the same can be said for the private sector generally, and the large corporations whose size and scope involve them each day in both English-speaking and French-speaking Canada. Experience in other bilingual or multilingual federations confirms the importance of this. Canada thus has an enduring need for men and women who are fluently bilingual in French and English. To them will fall the opportunity to assume key positions in those institutions, in both the public and private sector, whose concerns are genuinely national in scope.

If the citizens of every province are to have equal opportunity to participate in these common institutions, each province must assure that the teaching of the second official language in their school systems is oriented toward the practical and functional requisites of communication with the other official language community.

Despite considerable improvements in the ways in which the second official language is taught in Canadian schools, most students who receive instruction in French or English as second languages all through their school years still do not attain functional fluency in the other official language. We suggest that the provinces review existing methods and procedures for the teaching and learning of French and English and make greater efforts to improve the quality and availability of instruction in these languages at all levels of education.

There is little doubt that federal financial incentives to support educational services to the English and French-speaking minorities and for the teaching of the second official language have stimulated a number of provinces to provide more extensive and better quality educational services. A lessening in federal support following upon the recent and positive Statement by the provincial premiers may cloud the horizon in those provinces which are just beginning to introduce, expand or upgrade services to their francophone minorities, and may result in a more cautious pursuit of such objectives. In this light, it is clearly time for the provinces to make good their commitment on minority language education, alone, if necessary. Support for the cultural activities of the English and French-speaking minorities which are of a local or provincial nature should be provided by the provinces and by the minority communities themselves, rather than by the federal government.

It would seem more consonant with the spirit of Canadian federalism if federal aid to the cultural activities of the official language minorities were concentrated on those activities with an interregional, national or international focus. Over the past decade, for instance, the CBC and other federal cultural agencies such as the Canada Council and the National Film Board have made successful efforts to improve their services to the official language minorities. While acknowledging the progress made by the CBC in meeting the needs of the French-speaking minorities, representatives of francophone groups have pointed to the need for greater regionalization of these and many other French-language services. Much remains to be done in terms of the development of appropriate cultural services for the English and French-speaking minorities by institutions operating at the Canada-wide and interregional level, and it is at this level that responsibility lies clearly with the federal authority.

Canadian ethnic pluralism

In the century since Confederation, the ethnic character of Canadian society has grown steadily more diverse. At the time of our first census in 1871, less than 10 per cent of Canadians came from backgrounds other than British or French. Today those of non-British or non-French origin represent more than a quarter of our population.

This change reflects the profound effect of immigration on Canadian society in the intervening years. The degree to which Canada’s growing diversity has enriched and enlivened its cultural life has gained widening recognition, but discussion of Canadian pluralism has also suffered at times from a failure to relate it with sufficient care to other features of Canadian life. Occasionally it has seemed from the character of the discussion as if there might be a conflict between the historic duality of the country and its growing diversity. Yet there is in fact no necessary conflict between these two, since the growing reality of pluralism takes its place solidly within the framework of Canada's basic duality.

Confusion in this area is increased by a similar failure to clarify the relationship between pluralism and regionalism. The fact is that the impact of immigration on Canadian society has been an uneven one, in at least two senses: historically and geographically. Historically, the character of immigration has shifted over time in response to the changing needs of Canadian society and to evolving social conditions in the home countries from which immigrants have been sought. Thus, the immigration from central and eastern Europe which was characteristic of the period of western settlement in the early years of this century has now given way to immigration from South Asia, southern Europe and Latin America.

The impact of immigration has also been uneven in geographic terms. Some regions, cities and towns have felt the influence of immigration much more than others. The western provinces, for example, exhibit much greater ethnic diversity than Quebec or the Atlantic region, and Ontario is closer in this respect to the west than to the east. In fact, the original ethnic duality of the Atlantic provinces and Quebec still accounts for about 90 per cent of their populations. The major exception to this pattern east of the Ottawa River is the greater Montreal region, where Canadians of non-British and non-French origin now form about 20 per cent of the community.

Unfortunately the uneven distribution of diversity is frequently neglected in discussion of the cultural character of Canada as a whole. Cultural policy is often conceived as if Canada displayed a pattern and tradition of diversity which is common to the whole country. Yet the fact is that the members of the various ethnic groups have played a much more prominent role in the development of certain provinces and communities, than of others, and in some their contribution has been a fundamental one. The regional or provincial framework is the one in which the various ethnic communities have been able to organize and express, themselves most effectively and in which pluralism has become a living social reality.

It is for this reason that we believe Canadian pluralism should be closely linked, in thought and action, to Canadian regionalism. Cultural pluralism has achieved its greatest importance at the provincial level and it is there that it should be most fully reflected and nurtured. We recommend therefore that the provincial governments should assume primary responsibility for the support of multiculturalism in Canada, including the funding of ethno-cultural organizations. We also recommend that the major ethno-cultural organizations in Canada attempt to work more closely with provincial governments to develop ways in which multiculturalism can find most effective expression through provincial initiatives.

However, it would be wrong to think that consideration of Canadian pluralism can or should be limited to its cultural dimension. There are many other important social issues which deserve attention from Canadians at large, public authorities, and all those responsible for the welfare of the ethnic communities. Fundamental issues such as equality of opportunity, the sharing of Canada's material benefits, access to public services, and the degree of racial and ethnic discrimination to be found in our country are of at least equal importance to the cultural issues so often discussed. If we are to maintain or strengthen the unity of a country like ours, whose people are drawn from so many backgrounds, we must not allow preoccupation with the cultural side of diversity to distract our attention from these basic social issues. In line with our objective of treating diversity as a source of strength, and responding to the concerns proposed by many ethno-cultural groups we met, we have proposed that both the public and private sectors make efforts to reflect in their institutions more adequately the cultural diversity of Canada. The future we hope to share together must include all Canadians, and provide equality of opportunity for all.

First Canadians

We are well aware of the complexity of the issues in native policy. We must first recall that native people as a people have enjoyed a special legal status from the time of Confederation, and, indeed, since well before Confederation. Section 91 (24) of the BNA Act gives to the Parliament of Canada exclusive responsibility to legislate on the subject of "Indians and lands reserved for Indians". This has been held to include lnuit or Eskimo peoples. The exclusive federal authority over all matters that touch "Indianness", as the present chief justice of Canada has put it, is unique in giving to the Parliament of Canada legislative jurisdiction in relation to a specified group of people. For administrative and policy purposes, just who is and who is not an "Indian" is set out in the Indian Act.

We believe that the pressing issues facing native people in Canada raise broad philosophical questions which every country with an indigenous minority must sooner or later address. Is the historic and valued attachment to the land which most native people share to be made the cornerstone of a new relationship between native people and other members of Canadian society? Are the disheartening conditions under which native people live in many rural areas, and, increasingly, in our towns and cities, to be made the focus of a new national commitment to their welfare? Can Canada find the strength to turn the dilemma of existence for many native people into new and special opportunities for all of them? Should the native people themselves be given the opportunity to shape and define collectively their preferred relationship with the wider society?

Questions such as these go to the heart of the matter. They will only be answered in the way the country's relationship with its first Canadians evolves in the next decade. But they must be answered soon. Here we present four broad policy options to assist reflection on the subject: phasing out special status, a modified federal role, native sovereignty, and "citizens plus".

Phasing out special status

One broad option before us is to phase out in an orderly manner both the special constitutional position of the native people, and the unique relationship native people have with the federal government. Proponents of this option see Section 91 (24) of the BNA Act as a two-edged sword. While it certainly gives native people, or most of them, a special status as a people, it has led to the perpetuation of an unhealthy dependence on the central government generally and the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs in particular. Proponents of this option believe that this dependence is best ended by phasing out special programs of assistance to native people, and the rapid settlement of all sound legal claims to land. Land claims settlement might be followed by the transfer of titles to natives as individuals who would then be on their own in Canadian society.

Ending special status is favoured by those who believe that the "separate but equal" position of native people has led to a form of neglect of their general welfare, much as it has in other societies which have employed such an approach to distinctive minorities. Phasing out special status was an important element in the central government's ill-fated white paper on Indian Policy in 1969. The status Indians and all other native people. reacted so strongly against this paper that it was soon withdrawn. In objecting to this policy, the native people themselves were rejecting an American approach to Indians which has been in existence for much of this century. In contrast, Canadian policy has traditionally accepted both the special status of native people, and their permanent attachment to the land.

A modified federal role

A second option would preserve both special constitutional status and the attachment to the land. It would also maintain and clarify the role of the central government in the broad field of native affairs. Proponents of this view call upon the central government to exercise its traditional responsibility in a new way, one which maximizes the opportunities for native people to choose freely from two alternatives: to remain on the land, or to move into the mainstream of Canadian society. For a start, this option would entail the consolidation of all programs of assistance to native people into one central government department, at whose highest levels native people themselves would be well represented. Specific federal programs would be required to promote the economic development of reserves, to stimulate the construction of new and adequate housing, to guarantee the provision of essential social welfare, education, and health services.

But these services would also be available from the same central government agency to native people living in our towns and cities, thus equalizing the attractiveness of urban life for the many native people who choose it. This option, accordingly, would maximize the freedom of action of native people as individuals to choose a life in their traditional communities based on the land, or to enter the wider society with a greater confidence provided by the support put at their disposal.

Native sovereignty

This option favours a more radical approach to these issues based on the view that as the original proprietors of Canada, they are entitled to a share of Canada sufficient to their current and future needs. That is, proponents of native sovereignty take the view that they themselves, in autonomous and sovereign institutions of their own creation, must secure native socioeconomic well-being and cultural development. To do so, many argue, requires placing a certain distance between themselves and the wider society.

Although formulations vary, native sovereignty usually entails the exercise of the principle of self-determination through the creation of autonomous institutions within the Canadian federal system. The native communities possessing these institutions would receive a land and resource base adequate to provide a decent standard of life. The citizens of these new jurisdictions would be subject to laws and regulations of their own making, and, in some versions, would not be subject to central, provincial or municipal laws and regulations on their land.

Such an approach may seem to be at variance with Canadian traditions and history. But those native people who uphold the option of sovereignty see it as a way of providing their communities with a set of conditions which approximate the circumstances they enjoyed before the arrival of the first Europeans.

"Citizens plus"

This option combines I elements of the others by stressing both the uniqueness of native people and their inevitable ties with Canadian society. Under this option, every native person would be eligible to benefit from all federal, provincial, and municipal policies, programs, and services provided for Canadians generally, with one additional category.

This additional category would be composed of all those forms of assistance directed to native people alone, thus adding the "plus" factor to the option. Proponents of this type of approach underscore the continuing debt, which all of us owe to the first Canadians, by expressing this obligation as a permanent feature of Canadian life. Thus, while specific programs of assistance to native people may change with changing circumstances, the spirit of Canada's special commitment to the native people would not. Their well-being would form a fixed priority of the highest importance to Canadians now and in the future.

In setting out these four broad options, the Task Force is aware of the complexity of the issues facing native people and our governments. Our intention is not to suggest one or another of these routes as the best one to take. Indeed, we doubt, whether there can be a single answer for all native peoples, or whether there is only one "native question".

For these reasons, the proposals we make are consciously limited by our recognition of the complexity of the issues and our realization that they are in the process of development. We have chosen some recommendations which, for the most part can be implemented fairly directly by the central government, or by the central and provincial governments acting together. Our recommendations should, however, be implemented in close cooperation with appropriate representatives of Canada's native people.

First, we believe the time has come for the federal government to act quickly and decisively to ensure full legal equality of men and women under the terms of the Indian Act. We recommend that sections 11 and 12 of the Indian Act be amended in order that Indian men and women acquire and lose Indian status in exactly the same way.

Two additional proposals speak more to the attitude underlying the policies of the central government toward native people than to the strict legalities of the Indian Act. First, we believe that the central government should make greater efforts to promote and protect native languages and cultures. Secondly, as an analogous measure, the central government should more actively facilitate communications between Canada's native people and the indigenous people of other countries. Both as the home of native people, and as a respected member of the international community, Canada can show leadership in a field of international affairs at once new and of historic significance.

Our next two proposals are addressed equally to the federal and provincial governments, and refer directly to the place of native people in the Canada of the future. First, as both orders of government are currently involved in serious consideration of constitutional reform, we believe that it is now appropriate that specific attention be paid to the issue of the constitutional position of the first Canadians. More specifically, both provincial and federal authorities should pursue direct discussions with representatives of Canada's Indians, Inuit, and Métis, with a view to arriving at mutually acceptable constitutional provisions that would secure the rightful place of native people in Canadian society.

Further, we recommend that the central and provincial governments meet to settle their respective areas of constitutional responsibility in the provision of essential services in the fields of health, social welfare, housing and education to status and non-status Indians, to Inuit, and to Métis on reserves, Crown land, rural centres and large cities.

Finally, in order to increase the sensitivity and responsiveness to native people of Canadian society in general, we suggest to the central and provincial governments, and to the private sector that increased funding be made available to native people and their organizations to enable them to undertake historical research and to publish histories of their tribes and communities. Governments generally and major private sector corporations should make greater efforts to see that native people are adequately represented on boards and commissions, task forces and study groups which are active in fields of special relevance to the first Canadians.

Cultural Policy

The definition of the respective roles of the federal and provincial governments in the field of "culture" is influenced by the meaning attributed to the word itself. In its narrowest sense, culture may refer to what many would call the "high culture," on display in the theatres, museums, concert halls and art galleries. However, in its broadest meaning, culture includes the complete fabric, values and life of a community. If this is what is meant by culture, it seems clear that the provinces have, and ought to have, a large role to play in the formation of cultural policy. They already have at their disposal many of the tools by which cultural development in the fullest sense may be achieved and they are uniquely situated to support activities that influence the culture of everyday life.

While the broader definition of culture would obviously include much that is within the fields of responsibility attributed to the federal government, many of these have less direct impact on the everyday life of Canadians. With the exception of the activities of the CBC/Radio Canada, even federal cultural policies are concerned for the most part with culture in its more restricted sense and are therefore of less immediate significance to the majority of Canadians in their daily lives.

Clearly both orders of government have important responsibilities in the cultural field but, in the view of the Task Force, their future roles should emphasize priorities appropriate to the general character and function of each order, and they should avoid undertaking new functions which could be performed better by the other one.

The central government has for many years been the prime mover in Canadian cultural and artistic life. If it has not always displayed a sense of carrying out a coherent cultural mission, the central government has nevertheless played an invaluable pioneering role in many crucial fields which might otherwise have been neglected. It is the only government in Canada which has the resources and the breadth of perspective to develop cultural programs directed at the country as a whole. At the same time, however, the central government's experience, resources and priorities may encourage it to expand in future into fields which are better left to the provinces. We would suggest that the central government should concentrate its efforts on developing programs which are of a Canada-wide dimension and should avoid extending its future operations into domains and pursuits which the provinces can and should perform for themselves.

Three examples should serve to illustrate the kind of cultural policies which would now be appropriate for the central government. It should use its cultural agencies to encourage individuals throughout Canada to develop their talents. This could be done by increasing the number of Canada-wide artistic prizes, competitions and cultural activities for the young people of the country. The splendid example provided by the National Youth Orchestra deserves to be recognized and celebrated by the extension of the model it provides.

The central government should encourage such "travel and exchange programs" as the Second Language Monitor Program and Katimavik. These programs permit the traveller to to get beyond the geography of this country, in order to experience its cultural richness and the human sources of its duality and regionalism. The public and private sectors should cooperate to increase the number of youth exchange programs and efforts should be made to extend them to adults. In addition, the central government should, in cooperation with the private sector, do its utmost to increase opportunities for lower-cost travel in Canada, in order to enable Canadians so wishing to become better acquainted with their country and their fellow citizens.

Finally, the central government through such tools as the tax system can play an important role in assisting our cultural industries which find themselves in difficult and uncertain straits. The federal and provincial governments should coordinate a strategy to promote the products of our varied cultural activities. Books, recordings, magazines, paintings and films can be more imaginatively and effectively distributed and marketed throughout Canada. The central government should take the lead in developing such a strategy.

These examples suggest the priorities which should guide the future activity of the federal government in the cultural field, both in the areas where it is already active and in any new endeavours.

However, we cannot forget that culture, in another sense, is the premise for the existence of any society. Therefore, the key element of any cultural policy for Canada must be the full recognition of the cultural distinctiveness of Quebec, and the essential role of the provincial government in protecting and nourishing it. This distinctiveness should be recognized formally in the preamble of the constitution. The text of the constitution should ensure that the government of Quebec has the powers it requires to protect and develop its French heritage. Although the Task Force is of the opinion that the importance of this cultural domain in most provinces of English-speaking Canada is not yet as vital as it is to Quebec, a constitution should make provision for the future.

If the urgency of the situation in Quebec requires immediate attention, the evolution of Canadian regionalism may very well reach the point at which the provincial governments of English Canada are looked to for leadership in the field of culture in the way the provincial government of Quebec is now. Thus in Chapter 7 we suggest that all the provinces be given additional powers to undertake new programs in the broad domain of culture.

Whether or not they wish to avail themselves of these powers immediately, the provinces should take the primary role in supporting local and regional cultural and artistic development, particularly by encouraging wide public participation in cultural activities, And by the establishment, where they do not as yet exist, of provincial arts councils to assist in this process.

We stress this matter of participation for a good reason. Canadians in recent years have become more active in cultural pursuits, and less willing to be satisfied with a passive or spectator role. We feel that the provinces should build on this trend by working closely with their individual citizens, ethno-cultural groups, municipalities and community groups to promote the ideal of direct public participation in regional and provincial cultural development.

Since most provincial programs are by their nature closely entwined with cultural development in its widest sense we urge the provincial governments to be conscious of the impact these "non-cultural" programs may have on the cultural development of their society.

They should also recognize the importance of education, not only for their provincial societies, but for the development of young citizens of the federation as a whole. Accordingly, the provinces should emphasize that education has a Canada-wide dimension by giving greater prominence to Canadian studies, and they should, through a strengthened Council of Ministers of Education, develop ways and means by which this dimension may be represented in our school systems.

Thus the provinces, and in particular Quebec, have an essential responsibility for culture in its most basic sense. The central government, while not ignoring its appropriate role, must be prepared to recognize this fact and should orient its own future activity to cultural endeavours and institutions which affect the federation as a whole.


These, then, are the thoughts we wish to share with our fellow citizens on the subject of language, culture and social policy. Duality and regionalism provide the context within which we have approached these issues; but, more generally, we have attempted to build our thinking upon an appreciation of some of the major forces of modernization and change that are transforming Canada and its people, as they are the countries and peoples of most of the rest of the world. By adjusting Canada's policies and institutions to the needs of Canadian society as it develops, the citizens of this country can preserve a social equilibrium in the midst of rapid change.

Last HTML revision: 10 May, 1996

William F. Maton