Multiculturalism: Rooted in Bilingualism and Biculturalism

By the early 1960s, the Quiet Revolution in Quebec had begun.  Quebecois nationalism was on the rise, driven in part by a sense among young, French-speaking Quebecois that they were second-class citizens in their own country.  Notwithstanding the longstanding history of compromise between the French and English in Canada, French was not equally represented in federal government institutions.  In fact, the British North America Act, 1867, which had created the country itself, was only published in English.  

Michèle Lalonde's iconic poem, "Speak White" captures the mood of many French-speaking Quebecois: French-speakers were expected to adopt English, the language of civility and refinement.  Some Quebecois equated their position in Canada with that of African-Americans in the United States.  While this view is extreme, it demonstrates the degree of frustration and disenfranchisement experienced by the Quebecois at the time.

In response to growing nationalism in Quebec, the Pearson government initiated the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism in 1963. The terms of reference for the Commission included the following direction:

"...to inquire into and report upon the existing state of bilingualism and biculturalism in Canada and to recommend what steps should be taken to develop the Canadian Confederation on the basis of an equal partnership between the two founding races, taking into account the contribution made by the other ethnic groups to the cultural enrichment of Canada and the measures that should be taken to safeguard that contribution"

Source: Report of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, Book 1: Official Languages, Appendix I: Terms of Reference (Ottawa: Queens Printer, 1969), via: Government of Canada Publications: http://epe.lac-bac.gc.ca/100/200/301/pco-bcp/commissions-ef/dunton1967-1970-ef/dunton1967-70-eng.htm 

The resulting report -- all five books of it -- proposed sweeping changes related to the status of English and especially French in Canada and the place of cultural minorities in Canada, among many other things. The Commission's Report on the cultural contributions of minority groups to Canada is included below.

Notably, the Report focuses on the "bilingual" and "bicultural" character of Canada. The Terms of Reference, as illustrated above, speak of the "two founding nations" of Canada, i.e., the English and the French.  The culture and languages of Indigenous Peoples were not given consideration.

Canadian Law and Identity: Multiculturalism
Multiculturalism: Rooted in Bilingualism and Biculturalism