Double Vision

A former language commissioner on the future of bilingualism

Almost exactly ten years ago, I left the Toronto Star to become the commissioner of official languages—a move from being a reporter to being an agent of Parliament, from almost four decades of managing little more than a keyboard to heading an organization of 170 people. At one level, it was a huge and improbable transition, and a fish-out-of-water story: Everything I Didn’t Know about the Federal Government and Forgot to Ask, or The Front Page Meets Yes Minister.

On another level, though, it was smooth and logical: six months earlier, I had published a book on language policy in Canada, Sorry, I Don’t Speak French: Confronting the Canadian Crisis That Won’t Go Away. In some ways, the last decade has been a ten-year book tour.

Now, as the 150th anniversary of Confederation begins, and two years before the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Official Languages Act in 1969, it is...