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Laurendeau and Dunton chair bilingualism commission

The Story

In 1963, Canada is in a state of cultural emergency as separatists threaten to break from the nation. As a result, the federal government calls a Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism. Canadians refer to it as Laurendeau-Dunton, after its co-chairmen. André Laurendeau and A. Davidson Dunton have one of Canada's most important tasks: to investigate whether increased French-English duality can keep Canada together. In this TV clip, Dunton assures the CBC's Norman DePoe that they will "proceed as quickly we can with dispatch."

Medium: Television
Program: CBC Television News
Broadcast Date: Aug. 20, 1963
Guest(s): A. Davidson Dunton, André Laurendeau
Host: Norman DePoe
Duration: 3:17

Did You know?

• Canadians also referred to the inquiry as the B&B or Bi&Bi Commission.
• The commission began in response to growing dissatisfaction among Quebecers over the lack of bilingualism in Canada. Its goal was to study and report on the state of bilingualism and biculturalism. Commission members travelled across the country holding meetings with ordinary citizens to determine whether they wanted bilingualism.

• The commission's report would include recommendations on how to protect the French language and avoid separatism.
• The three main areas of inquiry were:
-To investigate bilingualism in government.
-To determine whether Canadian organizations promoted biculturalism.
-To find out if opportunities for learning French and English were good.

• Another Commission goal was to determine whether the languages and cultures of other ethnic groups should be protected.
• The idea for the Commission first came from André Laurendeau himself. In a 1962 Le Devoir editorial, he proposed that Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson call a royal commission on bilingualism.
• Laurendeau worked as an editorial editor for Le Devoir. He once said: "I didn't especially enjoy participating in politics. But I like to follow it and comment upon it." Laurendeau had a brief political career when he was elected as the provincial leader of the Bloc populaire canadien in 1944.

• Laurendeau studied history and politics, and was a student of philosophy at Paris's Sorbonne University.
• Pierre Elliott Trudeau said Laurendeau had "the most exact and refined mind of anyone."
• During his time as commissioner, Laurendeau was also a successful author and playwright. His works included the play Deux femmes terribles (1962) and a novel Une vie d'enfer (1965).

• In 1945, at the age of 33, A. Davidson Dunton became the first full-time chair of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Dunton was also a newspaper editor for the Montreal Star and Standard and studied abroad, including in France.
• He resigned his post at the CBC to become Carleton University's president - a position he held until 1972. Dunton was also a companion of the Order of Canada and received seven honorary degrees.


The Road to Bilingualism more