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Language Policy

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Measuring the Cost of Bilingualism

All countries have language policies, be they explicitly written in language laws or implicit, as a result of education opportunities in a given language. Such policies will evolve over time with historical, demographic and economic factors. Canada has explicit and implicit, unilingual and bilingual, language policies.

French-English bilingualism in particular has always been a contentious issue in Canada. While there was de facto bilingualism in the legislative assemblies before Confederation, English was the only language to be officially recognized. This changed with the Constitution Act of 1867 which stated that French and English could both be used in the debates of Parliament. The Constitution Act of 1982 and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms went further and constitutionally designated English and French as official languages of Canada.

Regardless of the philosophical reasons behind language policies, implementing them imposes costs. The Fraser Institute's research on language policy attempts to measure the costs of federal and provincial bilingualism. Future research will explore optimal language policies for Canada.