Bilingualism in Canada

A group of experts from Fédération de la jeunesse Canadienne-française lift the lid on English and French linguistic minorities and bilingualism in Canada

The current Canadian Liberal Party’s election platform commitments included proposals to support English and French linguistic minorities and bilingualism in Canada(1), to create 5,000 youth green jobs each year for the next three years,(2) make it easier and more financially rewarding for Canadian businesses to invest in creating clean jobs,(3) and to restore Canada as a leader in the world.(4)

Furthermore, under the Paris Accord, Canada has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.(5) The Young Canada Works program, an initiative of the Government of Canada’s Youth Employment Strategy,(6) plays a key role in realizing these goals by providing career opportunities for young Canadians to work in their second official language, subsidising upwards of 70%, and in rare occasion, even up to 100% of employee wages, and offering a wide range of green jobs to which youth can apply.

The Fédération de la jeunesse Canadienne-française manages two summer job programs: Young Canada Works in Both Official Languages and Languages at Work. In either case, students work in their second official language in a community where that language is the majority, e.g. a French-speaker works in English in an English community. Both programs are administered in part by the FJCF, on behalf of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

In the search for new, interesting, and diverse work placements where youth can gain meaningful experience in their second official language, it is above all important to strategically recruit employers who offer green work placements. One of the four pillars of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change is to support clean technologies, innovation jobs, and Canada’s vision for a “clean, innovative economy that embraces both economic growth and environmental protection.” (7)

A greener economy is driven by a reduction in ecological footprint – via sustainable development and consumption. The result is a growth in national income and increased employment, with a diminished exposure of future generations to significant environmental risks and ecological scarcities. It is today’s youth who will be living in this future, and to green world leaders in the fight against climate change, it is important that they are equipped with professional experience in a green environment.

The Government of Canada has chosen to invest $2.24 million to create green jobs over a two-year span in the YCW Program, which was created in 1997, thus ensuring the quick implementation of public policy. In doing so, the government also utilises the expertise of the program’s delivery organisations – (i.e. local associations, non-profits, and post-secondary institutions across the country) – to deliver quick results on current pressing issues.

Green jobs

The Department of Canadian Heritage defines green jobs as “jobs within organisations or companies that are specifically involved in the green economy, and those that are not part of the green sector but require an expert to produce an environmental benefit, whether for the organisation, its users, or the community as a whole.” (8) Most industries produce both green and non-green goods and services, so these jobs are spread across traditional industry definitions. In the 2017 Languages at Work Program, 195 jobs were created, of which 29 (14.87%) were “green”, (compared to 10/195 or 5.12%, in 2016). Examples include bicycle mechanic, camp counsellor, bicycle trail patroller, a tour guide in a nature park, and sales clerk in an eco-responsible boutique, among many others.

These work placements are also a preliminary step toward gaining meaningful work experience and improving second language skills. Many students participate in the program because they are working towards a career that requires bilingual candidates – public servants, doulas, social workers, etc. By providing these youth with green job opportunities, they are oriented on a path that will raise their awareness and interest in environmental issues, making them more environmentally conscious in the long-term.

One success story is that of Nessim Boudghene, who has a Certificate in Management from Laval University and was employed as an administrative assistant at Lighthouse Sustainable Buildings Centre, in Vancouver. This student says, “The impact that Languages at Work had on my position in the job market was remarkable. It gave me an opportunity to find a job in a city that I enjoy. Vancouver is well recognised for making green efforts and it is a cause that I’m glad to work for. I also think that it is very important to learn both official languages – to get the most benefits of what a bilingual country like Canada has to offer.” Nessim is now working part-time for the non-profit organisation, while completing a Certificate in Marketing.

Chantal Martin, youth programs coordinator at the Vancouver Botanical Gardens Association adds: “Our association has a mission to inspire understanding of the vital importance of plants to all life. Languages at Work provided an opportunity for a student to foster children’s environmental curiosities, and help to create connections to the natural world. Children explored diversity in language and culture while discovering that environmental awareness and appreciation links all Canadians. Green jobs such as this equip Canadian youth with the skills and training that they can incorporate into any field.”

The Fédération de la jeunesse Canadienne-française welcomes the prioritisation of environmentally-responsible endeavours and hopes that these efforts will continue to grow and expand in the future. This approach, while promoting official bilingualism, helps to raise awareness among a generation of young Canadians about the benefits of environmental responsibility.

In addition, it allows for a greater outreach to employers, who are in turn exposed to the benefits of this economic diversification. It’s a win-win solution for all the players involved, and ultimately, it’s the whole country that comes out on top!

  8. Bergeron, personal communication, April 20, 2017.


Josée Vaillancourt

Executive Director

Pierre-Luc Lanteigne

Young Canada Works Coordinator

Marie Shuman

Project Officer – Green Economy

Fédération de la jeunesse Canadienne-française

Tel: +1 613 562 4624


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