MACMILLAN, C. MICHAEL. The Practice of Language Rights in Canada.
Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998. Pp. 263.
In his introduction, Macmillan reminds that in Canada, language rights remain
"an essentially contested concept" (4). The "hodgepodge of competing princiÂ
ples regarding language policy at the federal and provincial levels" was probÂ
ably inevitable in the absence of a shared vision of "linguistic justice" (3).
Macmillan hopes to contribute to the belated development of such a consensus.
Macmillan notes that since 1969 the concept of "linguistic duality" has
dominated federal language policy. Unlike many English-speaking Canadians,
Macmillan does not conceive of language rights from a strictly liberal perspecÂ
tive. He never explicitly distinguishes between the Bilingualism and
Biculturalism Commission's vision of Canada and the "Trudeau vision" which
came to predominate in federal language policy as it developed in the 1970s.
Nevertheless, his understanding of "dualism" is grounded in an understanding
of the emptiness of formal language rights in the absence of a well-developed
Since language rights are "hybrid" (i.e., both individual and group) rights,
two conclusions follow. First, "the various link (sic) between language rights and
the individual ... render suspect any wholesale overriding of individual lanÂ
guage rights on behalf of group language rights" (32-33). Second, "(I)nsofar as a
language is a vital component of a functioning language community, that comÂ
munity has a legitimate claim upon the larger community to recognize and susÂ
tain that language" (33).
Citing survey data from the B and B Commission to the present, Macmillan
finds majority support in all regions of Canada for federal services, hospital care,
and education in both official languages, but only where "these services do not
constitute an imposition on the majority community" (46). The "practice of rights
is therefore largely immune to expansion ..." (59). Accordingly, "(t)here is then
an ongoing tension between what a theory of language rights as human rights
would propose and what the prevailing practice of rights will tolerate" (59).
Interestingly, the data lead Macmillan to conclude that while in English
Canada support for language rights "extends no further than a right to sustain
one's language," in QuÃ©bec there is widespread support for the "right to live
one's life in a language," "for both English and French minorities" (59). In genÂ
eral, Macmillan notes that "QuÃ©bÃ©cois are notably more generous toward
minority language rights than QuÃ©bec legislation itself would suggest" (6).
In his chapters on the current status of language rights in the federal govÂ
ernment and the governments of QuÃ©bec and New Brunswick, Macmillan
attempts to apply insights from his theory of language rights. (Of course, in
focusing on QuÃ©bec and New Brunswick he avoids an explicit consideration of
the disjuncture between formal, pan-Canadian language rights and the absence
of viable linguistic minorities in other parts of Canada.)
Concerning QuÃ©bec, Macmillan notes that Bill 101's "requirements assert a
strong promotion approach to language rights for QuÃ©bÃ©cois, in that Bill 101 was