A great conference in Toronto you don’t want to miss: Protecting Linguistic Minorities, Building Stronger Societies

A rather exceptional conference will be held in Toronto on June 26 and 27, and I want to draw it to your attention because it is really worth attending. It will be the VIth Annual International Conference of the International Association of Language Commissioners (IALC).

A conference like no other

Why am I calling this an exceptional event? First because the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2019 the “International Year of Indigenous Languages.” Consequently, Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Canada, will be the keynote speaker, and the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories, the Honourable Jackson Lafferty, will deliver a speech to kick off the Evening Reception sponsored in partnership with the Northwest Territories Language Commissioner.

Second because it will bring together experts from around the world to discuss topics of current interest such as the preservation of indigenous languages world-wide and the protection of minority languages. The plenary sessions and group workshops will explore the effective representation of linguistic minorities through independent institutions and respect for linguistic diversity in multilingual societies.

We have the great pleasure of announcing that the closing address of this exceptional event will be given by the Right Honourable Richard Wagner, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.

High-calibre panellists, an exciting book

During the two days of this conference, with the assistance of extraordinary panellists such as Dr. Mpho Monareng, CEO of the Pan South African Language Board, Anne Chaplin, Senior General Counsel, Department of Justice Canada, Dr. Tove Hansen Malloy, Director of the European Centre for Minority Issues, and Professor Rawinia Higgins, Vice-Chancellor Māori and Chairperson of the Māori Language Commission, New Zealand, the best way of setting standards for minority language protection will be discussed; successes, challenges and best practices will be examined; and the future of language rights around the world will be explored.

Other topics will include technology and transmission; legislative frameworks; investigations; integration, consultation and mediation tools; and of course, the role of ombudsmen, language commissioners and commissions.

In addition, during the conference, the members of the IALC will present a collaborative book on the pivotal role of ombudsmen and language commissioners and the challenges they face in carrying out their mandates.

Preparing and organizing the conference: Something the Commissioner’s Office can be proud of

Reaffirming once again its commitment to minority language protection, and as a founding member of the International Association of Language Commissioners (IALC), the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner was set to host the 2019 international conference in Toronto in June. The Office started working on the conference about a year ago, and since early 2019, it has been all hands on deck (or almost all) preparing the conference down to the last detail and making sure that all participants would be properly received.

However, in view of the recent legislative changes and the consequent elimination of the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner, the conference’s official host will be the Ombudsman of Ontario, who has since become a member of the IALC. I am sincerely grateful to Ombudsman of Ontario Paul Dubé for graciously agreeing to have his Office host the conference.

It is worth noting that this is the first time the Franco-Ontarian community has had the opportunity to host national and international experts to discuss where minorities stand.  This conference is not only for researchers and academics but also for the entire Francophone and Francophile community. It’s a great opportunity to show that we exist as a strong community.

To emphasize that Canadian linguistic duality, the programming team included a panel discussion to assess the prospects and challenges of protecting linguistic minorities in Canada. The panellists include Senator René Cormier of the Senate of Canada, William Floch of the Secrétariat aux relations avec les Québécois d’expression anglaise, Roger Lepage and Stéphanie Chouinard of Queen’s University.

So don’t delay. Register here to take part in two days of intense, productive discussions:


* Founded in 2014, the IALC is an independent body made up of language commissioners and ombudsmen from around the world. Members include Ireland, Catalonia, the Basque Country, Kosovo, Flanders, Wales and Canada, including Ontario, New Brunswick, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. The IALC’s mission is to support language commissioners and advance the rights of linguistic minorities, equality and diversity by sharing experiences, knowledge and best practices, and cooperating with like-minded organizations that embrace the promotion and protection of human and language rights.

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