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Sixth Annual International Conference (Toronto, Canada)

The Ontario Ombudsman was proud to host the sixth annual Conference of the International Association of Language Commissioners in Toronto, Canada on June 26 and 27.

Protecting Linguistic Minorities, Building Stronger Societies

This event brought together high-level representatives from six continents, including international organizations and state governments as well as language commissioners, ombudsmen, experts and members of community organizations, to discuss the challenges and successes of minority language protection around the world.

Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé, whose office assumed the role of the province’s French language services commissioner under new legislation as of May 1, hosted the conference. “It is an honour and an enormous privilege to welcome my new IALC colleagues to Toronto at a moment of strong public interest in linguistic rights in Ontario,” Mr. Dubé said.

The two-day conference explored the pivotal role of language ombudsmen in the protection of minority-language communities and as indispensable tools for societal integration, peace building and conflict prevention in multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic societies.

The conference highlighted the realities of Indigenous Language Preservation, and discussed best practices in ensuring minority language rights as well as common barriers facing ombudsmen and language commissioners in their everyday work.

Roger D. Jones, legal consultant for the National Chief’s Office, Assembly of First Nations of Canada, delivered the opening speech. Other distinguished speakers included Raymond Théberge, Official Languages Commissioner of Canada; Dr. Mali Nomfundo, acting Chief Executive Officer of the Pan South African Language Board; Michael Conor Cook, National Inuit Language Coordinator, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami; and Kirsi Pimiä, Non-Discrimination Ombudsman of Finland.

The conference's closing keynote speaker, Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Richard Wagner, noted that "language barriers undermine all aspects of civic life - health care, employment, political participation and access to justice."

Justice Wagner recognized the IALC's important work in protecting minority language groups, stating that when we remove barriers for linguistic minorities, "we do more than help them, we build a society that is more inclusive and just for all."

During the conference, IALC members, in association with a number of academics, released the book Constitutional Pioneers, which discusses the role, function and methods of language commissioners worldwide. This two-part volume combines theory with practice in its analysis of these new actors designed to protect the rights of linguistic minorities around the world.  Follow this link to learn more or purchase your own copy.

“This conference was a significant one for the IALC as the organization continues to strive to make its voice heard worldwide,”said Rónán Ó Domhnaill, former IALC Chair and Irish Language Commissioner.

After the conference, the IALC board held its annual general meeting and nominated a new Chair, Canada’s Federal Language Commissioner Raymond Théberge, and Vice-Chair, Welsh Language Commissioner Aled Roberts.

The organizing committee would like to thank those who participated in this event and those who assisted in making this conference possible.

Conference Photos

Conference Program

Articles and Media Links