Statement by the Prime Minister on the passing of Keith Spicer

Image of Canada’s first Commissioner of Official Languages, Keith Spicer. (image from Ottawa Citizen)

The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today issued the following statement on the passing of Canada’s first Commissioner of Official Languages, Keith Spicer:

“It is with a heavy heart that I join Canadians in mourning the passing of Canada’s first Commissioner of Official Languages, Keith Spicer.

“Raised in a unilingual English Canadian family in Toronto, Ontario, Mr. Spicer dedicated his life to promoting bilingualism and advocating for French in Canadian institutions and media. A respected academic and public servant, he started his career teaching at the University of Ottawa in the early 1960s and was a researcher on bilingualism and biculturalism.

“In 1970, M. Spicer was appointed as Canada’s first Commissioner of Official Languages. In this role, he advocated for equality between English and French in our institutions, based on the values of respect, inclusion, and dignity. With his visionary leadership, negotiation skills, and frank honesty, he helped the Official Languages Act gain acceptance among the Canadian public and advocated for the rights of French-speaking minorities everywhere in Canada. Years later, he chaired the Citizen’s Forum on Canada’s Future, through which 700,000 Canadians were consulted to help shape the political and social future of our country.

“An Officer of the Order of Canada, Mr. Spicer was also an accomplished journalist and television host as well as the former editor of the Ottawa Citizen newspaper. In 1989, he was appointed Chair of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, before moving to Paris, France, in 1996, where he remained an active lecturer and writer.

“On behalf of the Government of Canada, I offer my deepest condolences to Mr. Spicer’s family and friends. His tireless work over decades helped shape Canada’s linguistic landscape as we know it – a torch we continue to hold high as we work to achieve substantive equality of English and French in Canada.”


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