French: much more than just a language

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Every year, on March 20, French-speakers all over the world celebrate their language and their culture, but in Canada being francophone is honoured for a week, from March 20 to 27.

Of the estimated 274 million French-speakers worldwide, about 10.5 million live in Canada—more than 600,000 in Ontario.

Through French-speaking lawyers, French-language information and legal clinics that serve the francophone community, LAO and partners provide Franco‑Ontarians vital legal services en français.

In honour of the occasion, we’ve put together a timeline highlighting key dates in the evolution of French-language services in the province’s justice system.

Joyeuse Semaine de la Francophonie!

  • 1978: Bilingual civil trials and selection of bilingual jurors available in some areas of Ontario
  • 1979: Law changes to give people the right to a criminal trial in French
  • 1984: French and English declared official languages of Ontario courts. Bilingual trials made available province‑wide
  • 1986: The French Language Services Act gives Ontarians the right to communicate and receive services in French from government agencies in designated areas of the province. There are currently 26 designated areas.
  • 1990: Law changes again to guarantee the right to civil trials in French, and to file documents in French in specific parts of Ontario
  • 1991: All public Acts of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario enacted in French and English
  • 1998: LAO is created. As a government agency, LAO is subject to the French Language Services Act. LAO is committed to providing high quality services in French in all designated areas of the province.
  • 2002: Dedicated French-language community legal clinics open in Toronto and Ottawa.
  • 2003: The Ministry of the Attorney General signs the first French-language services strategic plan with Francophone stakeholders. The strategy continues to this day and provides continuous consultation and discussion between government services and stakeholders.
  • 2007: Office of French Language Services Commissioner is created
  • 2011: Third parties delivering services on behalf of government must provide service in French in designated areas of the province
  • 2012: The Attorney General’s Access to Justice in French report concludes that French-speaking communities in Ontario continue to experience barriers to accessing justice in French. The report puts forward 17 recommendations to address these barriers
  • 2015: Commemoration of 400 years of French presence in Ontario
  • 2016: 30th anniversary of the French Language Services Act
  • 2017: Pilot at Ottawa Courthouse to make it easier for French-speakers to access justice services in French is made permanent. The pilot project—launched in response to recommendations of Ontario’s French Language Services Commissioner and the 2012 Access to Justice in French report—identified best practices that will help to increase access to justice services in French throughout the provinceOffice of Francophone Affairs becomes full-fledged Ministry of Francophone Affairs