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A Bilingual Legislature? Question Period in Canada's House of Commons

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One of the goals of Canada's official bilingualism policies is to promote the equality of French and English in Canada's federal institutions. The most visible federal institution is the House of Commons, and the activity that attracts the most consistent media coverage is Question Period. This article examines the evolution of the use of French and English during Question Period in the House of Commons over time by examining a random sample of debates from the 24th (1958–62) to the 39th (2006–8) parliaments. This article finds that the use of French in the House of Commons has increased over time and discusses several possible explanations. In addition, this article tests the hypothesis that there exists an informal norm in the House of Commons which holds that responses to questions should be in the same language in which the question was asked.

Keywords: Canada; House of Commons; Question Period; bilingualism; language; legislature

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Political Science,Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green,OH, USA

Publication date: June 1, 2012


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