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Graham Fraser

Senior Fellow, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa
Canada’s Former Commissioner of Official Languages

Graham Fraser, Canada’s Commissioner of Official Languages

Graham Fraser is a Senior Fellow at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa and formerly Canada's longest serving Commissioner of Official Languages. He was originally appointed in October 2006 for a seven-year term. In October 2013, Mr. Fraser was reappointed for another three years. The Commissioner’s mandate was to promote Canada’s two official languages and protect the language rights of official language communities. Since his appointment, Mr. Fraser has been involved in many important issues concerning the language rights of Canadians.

Under Mr. Fraser, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages  handled such high-profile language issues as the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, the 40th anniversary of the Official Languages Act, including the Déjà Vu: 40 Years of Language and Laughter in Political Cartoons exhibition, and the creation of the Award of Excellence – Promotion of Linguistic Duality, 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.

The Commissioner intervened in the 2007 case in which the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada was opposing the abolition of the Court Challenges Program. He also appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada as a co-appellant in the DesRochers (CALDECH) case, which resulted in the Court’s broadening the interpretation of Part IV of the Official Languages Act and recognizing the public’s right to receive service of equal quality in both official languages. In 2008, the Commissioner intervened in the Nguyen case, in which the Supreme Court’s interpretation took into account the interests of official language communities with regard to the rights guaranteed by section 23 of the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

Since Graham Fraser’s appointment as Commissioner of Official Languages, his office published a number of reports and studies that have helped Canadians and federal public servants to better understand why linguistic duality is one of the cornerstones of Canadian identity and what relevant issues need to be considered. Among these were three studies on the vitality of official language communities, one on second-language learning opportunities in Canadian universities and two on the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. The Office of the Commissioner also examined the Canadian sports system, leadership in a bilingual public service and linguistic duality in Canada’s international relations.

As Commissioner of Official Languages, Mr. Fraser was often invited to express his views on provincial, national and international official languages issues, has lectured on language policy in universities across Canada, and has contributed to several anthologies on language rights and language policy.

Mr. Fraser was educated at the University of Toronto, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in History. During his long and distinguished career as a journalist, he wrote in both official languages on issues affecting Canada and Canadians, including cultural and foreign policy; constitutional debates and negotiations; and provincial, national and international politics. Mr. Fraser has held important positions with The Toronto Star, Maclean’s, Montreal’s The Gazette, The Globe and Mail and Le Devoir, and was a regular commentator on public affairs programs. Mr. Fraser has written five books, including Fighting Back: Urban Renewal in Trefann Court (1972), Playing for Keeps: The Making of the Prime Minister (1988) and Vous m’intéressez : chroniques (2001). His book Sorry, I Don’t Speak French, was published in March 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.

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. Fraser was the first recipient of the Public Policy Forum’s Hyman Solomon Award for Excellence in Public Policy Journalism and has been awarded honorary doctorates by the Université Sainte-Anne, the University of Ottawa, Concordia University, and York University.

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