Professor François Larocque's new project aims to mobilize youth and language rights from coast to coast

Faculty of Law - Common Law Section
Droits linguistiques
Language Rights

By Common Law

Communication, Faculty of Law

François Larocque
This May, Professor François Larocque will undertake a project that aims to improve the protection of language rights in Canada by empowering young Canadians to take an active role in the process of implementing the nation’s language laws and policies.

Entitled “La D-Marche linguistique pancanadienne 2022”, this initiative, which benefits from the collaboration of the Fédération de la jeunesse canadienne-française (FJCF), aims to amplify the experience and impact of Professor Larocque’s ground-breaking online portal Planctus (planctus.ca/) by enlisting the participation of French-speaking students at high school and university levels across Canada, throughout the month of May 2022.

In 2020, as a part of his research program as the holder of the Canadian Francophonie Research Chair in Language Rights, Professor Larocque launched Planctus, an online portal that facilitates the drafting and transmission of linguistic complaints to various authorities across the country concerned with the protection of language rights. By presenting Canada's language rights regimes in simple and accessible language, Planctus is a valuable educational resource that allows citizens of all ages to learn about their language rights and the language obligations of certain governments and organizations.

In 2020 and 2021, Professor Larocque and the French Common Law student group RÉCLEF (Le Regroupement étudiant de common law en Français) organized online versions of an educational activity known as the “Marche linguistique”. Normally, as part of this activity, members of the RÉCLEF executive and students enrolled in the course Linguistic Rights in Canada (CML 4519), leave the classroom and roam the University of Ottawa campus in search of contraventions of the University’s bilingualism regulations. Their findings are then forwarded to uOttawa’s Senior Language Policy Officer. The COVID-19 health crisis offered an opportunity to innovate in 2020 and 2021. The CML 4519 course was taught remotely to students located in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. This situation transformed the traditional Linguistic March into the very first pan-Canadian march. Professor Larocque's students – all Francophones living in minority situations – visited the offices of federal government departments in their respective cities to verify how well they conformed to applicable bilingualism rules. They were then able to document breaches of applicable standards using their smartphones and forward the information to the appropriate authorities.

These experiences demonstrated how Planctus can mobilize citizens by facilitating the drafting and transmission of linguistic complaints. Complaint handling mechanisms play an essential role in Canada's linguistic planning because they ensure respect for language rights, identify systemic problems and educate governments and institutions about their linguistic obligations. Given that it is sometimes complicated and laborious to draft linguistic complaints and to discern to whom they should be directed, Planctus serves to simplifiy and energize the process by guiding users to the relevant authority and supporting them in drafting their complaint.

This May, participants will have the opportunity to take part in a series of stimulating activities and dynamic events online and in person, learning about the nature, origin, scope and implementation of language rights in Canada. Armed with their new knowledge, participants will work in teams to detect breaches of applicable laws and regulations, or to identify the best practices of institutions that respect and promote language rights. The D-Marche linguistique 2022 will include a competition between regions, with each region trying to accumulate as many points as possible by completing various fun challenges related to language rights.

Professor Larocque has received a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) to help grow this initiative.

Professor Larocque was previously honoured for the Planctus initiative as one of the recipients of the University of Ottawa’s 2021 Knowledge Mobilization Excellence Awards.

Congratulations to Professor Larocque on this innovative and exciting new project!