Federal budget 2021: will it move Canada’s official languages closer to equality?

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland presented Canada’s long-awaited federal budget earlier this month. Titled “A Recovery Plan for Jobs, Growth, and Resilience”, the budget extends COVID business and health support, proposes a national child-care plan based on Quebec’s model, increases the federal minimum wage, and invests in green initiatives. 

Canada’s Action Plan for Official Languages proposes to move Canada closer to a substantive equality of official languages in three areas- strengthening communities, strengthening access to services, and promoting a bilingual Canada. 

How does Budget 2021 do in these areas? 

The budget makes more funding available for minority language education ($121.3 million), expanding Canadians’ bilingualism ($180.4 million), supporting community spaces in official language minority communities ($81.8 million), and modernizing the Official Languages Act by helping parliamentarians and the public service function better in both official languages ($8.7 million). 

These funding goals support Canada’s “white paper” (a reform document released in February) that says the federal government must ensure Canada’s education continuum, from early childhood to post-secondary education; and support the institutions that are key to the vitality of linguistic communities.

In a press release, La Fédération de la jeunesse canadienne-française (FJCF) applauded these investments, along with the government’s efforts to provide student debt relief, double Canada Student Grants, and increase funding to the Student Internship Program. 

Based on my reading, I agree. This budget could increase bilingualism and ensure that more Canadians can communicate in the official language of their choice, moving Canada’s official languages towards greater equality. 

Catherine Fisher, blogger

Image: Chrystia Freeland, official Twitter account