Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages (Canada)
About the Member
Raymond Théberge took office as Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada on January 29, 2018.
Commissioner Théberge has a PhD in linguistics from McGill University in Quebec, a master’s degree in applied linguistics from the University of Ottawa in Ontario and a bachelor’s degree in history from the Collège universitaire de Saint‑Boniface in Manitoba. He held a number of leadership positions before coming to the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, including president and vice chancellor of the Université de Moncton in New Brunswick and various senior-level public servant positions in Ontario and Manitoba. He has significant experience with official language minority communities and extensive experience in academia, which have given him the opportunity to work across Canada.
The Commissioner is a well-known published author on the subject of official language minority communities.
Commissioner Théberge has served on boards of directors of a number of organizations, including the Association des collèges et universités de la francophonie canadienne and the Agence universitaire de la Francophonie. He was director general of the Société franco manitobaine and president of the Centre d’études franco canadiennes de l’Ouest.
About the Member's Office
The mandate of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages is to promote the Official Languages Act, oversee its full implementation, protect the language rights of Canadians and promote linguistic duality and bilingualism in Canada. Since 1969, the Office has had a mandate to take all measures within its power to ensure that the three main objectives of the Official Languages Actare met, which are: the equality of English and French in federal institutions, the preservation and development of official language communities and the equality of English and French in Canadian society. Further, the Commissioner carries out the following six roles: an ombudsman role (investigating complaints), an auditing role (auditing federal institutions to ensure compliance with the Act), a liaison role (to better understand the needs and concerns of federal institutions and official language communities), a monitoring role (primarily of laws, regulations and policies in development to ensure they respect the spirit and intent of the Act), a promotion and education role (to raise awareness of official languages in Canada) and a court intervention role (to advance language rights before the courts, when necessary).
Key Information on the Language Situation in this Country/Region
Canada has two official languages, English and French. Their status is entrenched in the country’s history, conferring rights and institutional support for Anglophones and Francophones. In the 2016 Census, 6.2 million people nationwide reported being able to conduct a conversation in both English and French, which corresponds to a bilingualism rate of 17.9%. In 1961, the percentage was 12.2%, when 2.2 million Canadians reported being able to speak both official languages. This increase in the number of bilingual people over the past 55 years (4 million people) corresponds to a growth rate of close to 180%. During this period, Canada’s population increased by 91%, from 18.2 million to 34.8 million. While the number of people in Canada whose mother tongue is neither English nor French has increased substantially since the mid-1980s, immigrants to Canada tend to adopt one of the two official languages with increasing length of stay in Canada.
The 2017-2018 annual report marks the transition between the end of Interim Commissioner of Official Languages Ghislaine Saikaley’s tenure and the arrival of Raymond Théberge, in late January 2018. It looks back at the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of Confederation, explores new opportunities for official languages and encourages federal institutions to demonstrate leadership in the public service to help improve their official languages performance. The statement to the media for the release of the 2017-2018 annual report, is available on the Office’s Web site, along with a series of other important speeches given by the Commissioner.