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Chronology for French Canadians in Canada

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Chronology for French Canadians in Canada, 2004, available at: [accessed 17 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Date(s) Item
Jan 29, 1990 The city council of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario passes a resolution declaring English as the city's official language. This sparks a "political uproar" over the issue of bilingualism. Quebec nationalists cite this as further proof that the residents of Ontario are racist, that it is impossible for French-speakers to live outside of Quebec and that "the dream of a bilingual society can never be achieved."
Feb 7, 1990 Canada's ruling Progressive Conservative Party (PCP) introduces a resolution in the House of Commons stating "that this House reaffirms its commitment to support, protect and promote linguistic duality in Canada."
Feb 12, 1990 It is reported that only 27 of Ontario's 839 municipalities have adopted English-only policies while 31 have declared themselves officially bilingual.
Feb 15, 1990 Parliament introduces a resolution to reconfirm its commitment to bilingualism.
Mar 1990 The Supreme Court rules that francophone and anglophone minorities have the right to some control over their children's education, when numbers warrant.
Apr 22, 1990 John Nunziata, a Liberal member of Parliament from Toronto, declares that Quebec separatists are "traitors" and compares them to racists.
Jun 23, 1990 The Meech Lake Accord, a package of amendments to the Canadian Constitution collapses after failing to achieve the necessary ratification by all 10 provincial legislatures. The Accord would have provided for increased powers for the provinces, reform of the federal senate, and (most controversially) an attempt to induce Quebec to sign the 1982 Constitution in return for the recognition that the French-speaking province is a "distinct society." Opposition to the Accord is based mostly upon the grounds that the agreement does not offer sufficient protection to Quebec's English-speaking minority. Despite this, the opposition agrees to pass the Accord and the Accord is actually blocked over issues concerning native Canadians.
Jul 1, 1990 Britain's Queen Elizabeth II makes a plea for Canadian unity in Ottawa at a Parliament Hill ceremony marking Canada Day. A few hours later, in a protest organized by Parti Québécois, 200 Quebec nationalists turn their backs to the Queen and declare "our real country in Quebec."
Aug 2, 1990 Ontario's PCP leader Mike Harris says that the federal government should consider surrendering its power over languages to the provinces. He continues that this will clear the way to declare Ontario English-speaking. Under his scheme, Ontario would still provide French-language services when there is a demonstrated need. The language issue is important in upcoming Ontario provincial elections.
Aug 8, 1990 Sault Ste. Marie politician Karl Morin-Storm decides not to seek re-election due to voter resentment over his opposition to making the town English-only. The town has become notorious for its anti-French language sentiments.
Aug 11, 1990 The Toronto Star reports that by this point in time, 50 municipalities have declared themselves English-only.
Aug 30, 1990 According to a poll, 57% of voters in Ontario oppose bilingualism in the province. Association Cannadienne-Francais de l'Ontario (ACFO), Ontario's largest Francophone organization, complains that the leaders of Ontario's 3 major political parties are too cautious on French-language issues.
Sep 6, 1990 In provincial elections, Ontario's voters elect a New Democratic Party (NDP) government to be headed by Premier-Elect Bob Rae. Rae is considered pro-bilingualism but not to the extent that outgoing Premier David Peterson has been.
Oct 22, 1990 Liberal leader Chretien, who is running for office in a by-election, says that he is running in order to stand up for francophones outside of Quebec. Chretien makes public statements along these lines and in support of bilingualism throughout the period covered by this chronology.
Nov 14, 1990 Ontario's education minister Marion Boyd announces that the government is setting up an advisory group on French-language education and promises legislation allowing for the creation of more French-language school boards. Between 5 and 10 Ontario communities are interested in setting up their own French-language school boards. Ontario currently has 2 French-language school boards, one in Ottawa and another in Toronto. The majority of francophone students attend French-language schools operated by English-language school boards. There are 359 French-language schools in Ontario but the existing arrangements give francophones little control over how the province's estimated 95,000 francophone students are educated.
Nov 19, 1990 French activists in Penetaguishene, Ontario want to ban English in the halls and schoolyard of a francophone high school. They claim that the school is being used to assimilate their children. Provincial officials say that they will not interfere because this is a local issue.
Dec 14, 1990 Several francophone groups, including the ACFO, launch a campaign to win back Toronto's only French-language TV station which was cut in the last round of CBC cuts.
Mar 21, 1991 A report by Ontario's committee on the province's role in the Confederation states that Ontarians want all of Canada's constitutional woes addressed, not just the future of Quebec. Despite a call for official bilingualism by Ontario's 540,000 francophones, the report does not recommend it, preferring the current law. Under the current law, known as Bill 8, the province is required to provide services, apart from municipal services, in French to 22 designated communities.
Mar 25, 1991 In an annual report, Canada's commissioner of official languages says that Canada's policy of services in both English and French is a success despite criticism that official bilingualism is an expensive failure. He further states that "we cannot promote the unity of Canada without full recognition of all the dimensions of its linguistic duality..." and urges that a limited form of bilingualism be incorporated into Ontario's constitution as it already is in Quebec, Manitoba and New Brunswick.
Jun 12, 1991 About 35 demonstrators vow to fight "the racist, fascist" Reform Party. The Reform Party opposes special treatment for Quebec and French-speakers.
Sep 12, 1991 Ontario approves the creation of the province's 3rd French-language school board in the eastern county of Prescott-Rusell.
Sep 24, 1991 The ruling PCP presents a new constitutional reform package that includes, among other things, the recognition of Quebec as a "distinct society" empowered to control such areas as employment training, immigration, cultural programs, broadcasting and tourism but with the proviso that similar powers would be granted to other provinces. Quebec's Premier, Robert Bourassa, expresses a readiness to negotiate his province's future within the government's proposals but emphasizes that he will not bargain away the province's existing economic powers. Parti Québécois leader Jacques Parizeau opposes the package describing it as "the biggest power grab" by the government in a half century.
Jan 11, 1992 Alberta's Premier Don Getty is accused of pandering to prejudices against French-speakers when he changes his long-time stance and calls for an end to official bilingualism.
Jan 21, 1992 The first francophone school/community center in Nova Scotia opens.
Feb 3, 1992 An additional 6 health agencies in Ontario are designated under the French Language Services Act of 1986. Since the adoption of the Act, 28 agencies have received designation for some or all of their services. Agencies may request designation once they meet a number of criteria set by the provincial government.
Feb 6, 1992 It is reported that Ontario's French-language students did considerably worse on 4 international science and math tests than their English-language counterparts.
Mar 1, 1992 The PCP, along with the Liberals and New Democratic Party (NDP), endorse a package of constitutional proposals designed to avoid the breakup of the Canadian federation. The package goes beyond the Meech Lake Accords (see June 23, 1990) in its proposed redistribution of power, particularly to Quebec. The proposals include greater provincial controls over areas such as regional development, energy, manpower training, forestry, mining, housing, recreation and urban affairs. Recognizing the distinct nature of Quebec's French-speaking culture, it asserts that "the first priority is to ensure that Quebec feels itself a full and willing partner in the constitutional family once again." The package, however, falls short of Quebec's demand for sole control over 22 areas of jurisdiction and shared control in others. Quebec Premier Bourassa states that the proposals are unacceptable to Quebec in its current form and demands more concessions in the area of power sharing. He does, however, recognize the proposals as a starting point for future negotiations. Parti Québécois leader Jack Parizeau rejects the proposals as an "affront" to Quebec's legitimate demand for self-government.
Mar 8, 1992 Ontario Premier Bob Rae orders provincial appointees to provide information on their racial and ethnic backgrounds as part of a plan to appoint more women, disabled people, francophones, visible minorities and natives.
Mar 9, 1992 Niagra Falls politicians protest Ontario's plans to spend $4 million on bilingual highway signs as an inefficient use of government resources. Other local governments later back Niagra Falls on this issue.
Mar 11, 1992 Alberta's Premier agrees to comply with a 1990 Supreme Court ruling and introduces legislation giving Francophones their own school board.
Mar 26, 1992 More than 250 francophone students from across Ontario gather to demand that the province provide college-level education in French. The issue of college level education in French is raised on and off throughout the period covered by this chronology.
Jun 13, 1992 After 3 months of intensive negotiations, the interprovincial talks on constitutional reform collapse without agreement. The talks had been undertaken by the English-speaking provinces with a view to agreeing to on a package which would induce Quebec to remain in the Canadian federation.
Jul 7, 1992 Protracted talks on the issue of constitutional reform among the Premiers of Canada's 9 English speaking provinces and the federal government produce a compromise known as the Pearson accord. The new accord contains elements of the Meech Lake Accord (see June 23, 1990) including the recognition of Quebec as a "distinct society." It also provides for increased power for the provincial governments, including a veto for all provinces over future constitutional change.
Aug 23, 1992 A constitutional conference involving all 10 of Canada's provincial Premiers reaches a broad agreement on all outstanding constitutional issues which becomes known as the Charlottetown Accord. This provides increased autonomy for Quebec (and any other province that seeks it) through a transfer of numerous powers and areas of responsibility from the federal to the provincial sphere of government including mining, forestry, tourism, urban affairs, housing and recreation. The federal government also commits itself to make concessions in the areas of culture, immigration, communication, labor training and regional development. Quebec also receives recognition of its "distinct society," a guarantee that its share of seats in the federal House of Commons will never fall below 25% and, along with the other provinces, a veto over future changes to federal institutions. All 3 of Canada's major political parties support the package.
Aug 29 - 30, 1992 A special 4,000 member Liberal Party convention in Quebec endorses the Charlottetown Accord. Many supporters of the Parti Québécois oppose the package.
Sep 15, 1992 According to Statistics Canada, the percentage of French-speakers in Canada fell to 24.9% in 1991 from 26% in 1986 and 29% in 1951. The decline is due to a drop in birth rates and immigration of non-French-speakers. English-speakers comprised 60.5% of Canada's population in 1991.
Sep 24, 1992 The Alliance for the Preservation of English in Canada (AOEC) announces that it has formed a committee to oppose the Charlottetown agreement.
Oct 26, 1992 In a referendum, the Canadian electorate votes 54.4% to 44.6% to reject the Charlottetown agreement. 55% of Quebec's voters reject the agreement on the grounds that the concessions to their province are insufficient. The only provinces which strongly support the agreement are Prince Edward's Island, Newfoundland and New Brunswick. Ontario, with one-third of Canada's population very narrowly supports the accord. The Northwest Territories also support the agreement. In the western provinces, where the newly established populist Reform Party had campaigned strongly against the agreement on the grounds that it made too many concessions to Quebec, the agreement was rejected by the highest margins in the country.
Feb 1, 1993 The House of Commons approves a Constitutional amendment entrenching language equality for the English and French communities in the province of New Brunswick. This makes New Brunswick the only officially bilingual province in Canada.
Feb 16, 1993 A federal court is asked to torpedo a constitutional amendment expanding francophone rights in New Brunswick. Opponents of the amendment say that it would lead to the recognition of Quebec as a "distinct society" without the approval of any other province.
Feb 24, 1993 Brian Mulroney announces his resignation as Prime Minister and head of the PCP. His failure to find a solution to the Quebec problem is one of the factors that has contributed to his record unpopularity.
Mar 4, 1993 The Supreme Court orders Manitoba to give French-speaking parents control over their children's schools.
Apr 2, 1993 The Committee for Conscience in Broadcasting accuses CHML, a Hamilton radio station, of broadcasting talk shows that promote "a climate of intolerance against visible minorities, aboriginal people, the poor and the unemployed, francophones, women and workers."
Oct 25, 1993 The Liberal Party wins 177 out of 295 seats in Canada's House of Commons defeating the PCP which wins only 2 seats. Bloc Québécois wins 54 out of 75 seats in Quebec. The Reform Party, which opposes the country's alleged domination by Ontario and Quebec as well as the special treatment offered to Quebec, wins 52 seats, most of them in the western provinces of Alberta and British Columbia where the party wins an overwhelming majority of the seats.
Oct 28, 1993 The Durham board of education refuses to bus junior kindergarten students to Scarborough's French-language schools saying that it is not required by provincial law to provide junior kindergarten.
Nov 4, 1993 Liberal Party leader Jean Chretien - from Quebec - is sworn in as Canada's 20th Prime Minister.
Mar 23, 1994 The Toronto Globe and Mail reports that the national gap in the median income of English-speakers and French-speakers increased from 4,9% in favor of the English-speakers in 1977 to 10.3% in 1992. For households the gap widened from 9.9% to 14.1%. Only French-speaking men in Quebec earned more than their English-speaking counterparts.
Mar 25, 1994 Bloc Québécois leader Bouchard says that despite significant advances, more needs to be done to strengthen the rights of Ontario's French-speaking minority. While admitting that their rights would probably suffer if Quebec separates from Canada, Bouchard promises that Quebec would honor its historical obligations to Ontario's francophones whatever happens.
Apr 9, 1994 Francophones in British Columbia say that the federal government has promised to help drag the provincial government into court to advance the rights of francophones in that province. At issue is the francophone demand for a school board.
Jun 5, 1994 Victor Goldbloom, Canada's official languages commissioner, says that Canada is short-changing the future of its francophones by restricting access to French-language schools. He says that the shortage of francophone controlled schools is fostering "illiteracy and alienation" among francophones. Of the 402 francophone schools in Ontario, only 102 are controlled by francophone boards. The rest are controlled by anglophone boards whose concerns about the quality of francophone education take a back seat to the needs of the anglophone schools. There are only 2 French-language community colleges and no universities. Goldbloom says that this inequality in education leads to higher rates of unemployment and assimilation. The Toronto Star reports that the Association of Ontario Francophones is making a complaint to the UN that Ontario discriminates against its Francophone minority by restricting access to French-language schools and services.
Jul 1, 1994 A provincial court rules that Sault Ste. Marie did not have the authority to enact its English-only resolution.
Aug 17 - 22, 1994 About 70,000 Acadians, French-speakers originally from New Brunswick, come from all over North America to meet for the first time in New Brunswick and celebrate their culture.
Aug 19, 1994 The Ontario government announces that it will establish a francophone college with a main campus and 5 branch campuses.
Feb 10, 1995 According to a poll, 48% of Ontarians think that francophones should not control and manage their own schools.
Jun 8, 1995 The Tories win Ontario's provincial elections and Tory leader Mike Harris is to become Ontario's Premier.
Nov 27, 1995 Prime Minister Jean Chretien promised to grant "veto Power" on all constitutional reforms for each of Canada's four "regions:" Quebec, Ontario, the Maritime Provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland) and the Western Provinces (British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan). The measure passed on December 13. (Agence France Presse 11/29/95 and 12/13/95)
Feb 2, 1996 The Canadian Senate approved the constitutional veto measure. The list of regions grew to five during debate, as British Columbia, Canada's third largest province, was separated from the rest of the Western Provinces. Lucien Bouchard, Premier of Quebec, rejected the measure as meaningless. (Agence France Presse 2/2/96)
Aug 16, 1996 The Federation des Communautes Francophones et Acadienne, which represented French -speaking Canadians outside Quebec complained that within a few blocks of the Parliament building in Ottawa it was impossible to find French-language signs in stores. "Ottawa is this country's capital," said the group in a communique, "and Ottawa, above all, should reflect the reality of Canada, a country with two official languages vested in its history and constitution." They threatened to boycott the offending stores. (Agence France Presse 8/16/96)
Mar 22, 1997 Eight thousand people gathered to protest the closing of Montfort Hospital in Ottawa, the only all-French hospital in Ontario. The hospital was being closed by Premier Mike Harris as part of his campaign to end deficit spending. (Agence France Presse 3/23/97)
Nov 11, 1997 French-speaking job candidates sued Air Canada, saying that the firm had conducted training classes for perspective flight crews only in English, in violation of Canadian language law. An Air Canada spokesperson countered that the French language classes had been suspended due to insufficient demand, and that they were unnecessary since Air Canada required all employees to be bilingual. (Agence France Presse 11/12/97)
Mar 31, 1998 In an annual report to parliament, Commissioner of Official Languages Victor Goldbloom criticized the federal government for not enforcing the official languages policy. He pointed out that there was no one in charge of enforcing the language program, while jobs were being transferred without regard to maintaining the official bilingual capabilities of the federal offices. (Agence France Presse 3/31/98)

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