Haven’t heard of Bill C-13, An Act to Amend the Official Languages Act? Don’t beat yourself up — it’s hardly been front page news. While MPs howled about such weighty matters as passport redesign and prime ministerial travel, Bill C-13 quietly became law, in a rare moment of near-unanimity. Only one MP, Liberal Anthony Housefather, voted against it. The minister who championed it, Ginette Petitpas Taylor, gushed that “This is really a historic day. It’s a really important day for this legislation and an important day for our country.”
So what does this law you haven’t heard of do? A lot. It could affect your job opportunities, access to federal services, language rights and immigration patterns across the country. All in the name of political gain.
The impetus for Bill C-13 is the decline of Francophone populations outside Quebec. In 2021, Statistics Canada reported that the percentage of Canadians who speak predominantly French at home fell to 19.2 per cent from 20 per cent in 2016, in all provinces except Yukon. This trend was already evident years before, so in 2019, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada announced a plan to boost francophone immigration to areas in Canada outside of Quebec, increasing the share of francophone immigrants to 4.4 per cent by 2023, from 3.6 per cent in 2021.