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Honorary degree citation - Graham Fraser

By: Noel Burke, June 2012

Mr. Chancellor, it is my honour to present to you Mr. Graham Fraser, who as a journalist, author and Canada’s Commissioner of Official Languages, has been one of the most resolute defenders of the country’s linguistic duality and cultural diversity.

During a long and distinguished career as a leading Canadian journalist, Mr. Fraser wrote in both English and French on issues affecting Canada and Canadians. His writing informed the public debate, with verve, intellect and refined style, and on a wide range of topics such as cultural and foreign policy, constitutional debates and negotiations, and provincial, national and international politics. In his writing, professional career and public engagement, he has led by example, showing Canadians that being bilingual is a valuable personal attribute and of great benefit to national unity.

Commissaire aux langues officielles du Canada depuis octobre 2006, M. Fraser fait la promotion du français et de l’anglais de manière vigoureuse. Il s’efforce pareillement de défendre les droits linguistiques des communautés minoritaires de langue officielle. Dans le cadre de son mandat et de son rôle d’ombudsman, il s’est en effet donné pour mission de protéger et de renforcer la vitalité des communautés francophones et anglophones. Il vise aussi à encourager le dialogue entre celles-ci, les institutions fédérales et les nouveaux Canadiens.

Under his tenure, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages has taken on high-profile language issues, including several important legal proceedings. In 2007, the Commissioner intervened in a case in which the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada opposed the abolition of the Court Challenges Program. He also appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada as a co-appellant in a case that broadened the interpretation of the section of Official Languages Act that recognizes the public’s right to receive government services of equal quality in the official language of their choice.

His office also created the Award of Excellence – Promotion of Linguistic Duality, which is given to an individual or an organization in Canada in recognition of outstanding contribution to the promotion of linguistic duality in Canada or abroad, or the development of official language communities.

Le Commissariat aux langues officielles a également publié un certain nombre de rapports et d’études qui ont aidé les Canadiens de même que les fonctionnaires fédéraux à mieux comprendre pourquoi la dualité linguistique est l’une des pierres angulaires de l’identité canadienne. Parmi ces réalisations, mentionnons trois études sur la vitalité des communautés de langue officielle, une sur les possibilités d’apprentissage en langue seconde dans les universités canadiennes ainsi que deux autres sur les Jeux olympiques et paralympiques d’hiver de 2010 à Vancouver. Le Commissariat s’est aussi penché sur le système sportif canadien, le leadership dans une fonction publique bilingue et la dualité linguistique dans les relations internationales du Canada.

À titre de commissaire aux langues officielles, M. Fraser est souvent invité à s’exprimer sur des enjeux liés aux langues officielles, qu’ils soient de portée provinciale, nationale ou internationale. Il a en outre donné des conférences sur la politique linguistique dans des universités d’un bout à l’autre du pays.

Mr. Fraser has written five books, including Sorry, I Don’t Speak French, which was published in 2006 and helped stimulate renewed public discussion of language policy in Canada. He also authored PQ: René Lévesque and the Parti Québecois in Power, which was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-fiction in 1984.

Mr. Fraser was the first recipient of the Public Policy Forum’s Hyman Solomon Award for Excellence in Public Policy Journalism and in 2008. In 2010, he received the Baldwin-LaFontaine Award from the Canadian Club of Vancouver and, in 2011, was awarded the title of Chevalier de l’Ordre de la Pléiade by the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie.

Mr. Chancellor, on behalf of Senate and the Board of Governors, it is my privilege and honour to present to you Mr. Graham Fraser, so that you may confer upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

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