Professor François Larocque wins award for innovative approach to language rights protection

Posted on Monday, May 31, 2021

Professor François Larocque is one of the 2021 winners of the University of Ottawa’s Knowledge Mobilization Excellence Awards.  He is being honoured for an innovative project that aims to involve the general public in improving the protection of language rights in Canada.

As a part of his research program as the holder of the Canadian Francophonie Research Chair in Language Rights, Professor Larocque launched Planctus (planctus.ca/) an online portal that facilitates the drafting and transmission of linguistic complaints to various authorities across the country concerned with the protection of language rights. These authorities include the Commissioner of Official Languages ​​for Canada, the Ontario Ombudsman and the French Language Services Directorate of the City of Ottawa, to name only a few. By presenting Canada's language rights regimes in simple and accessible language, Planctus is a valuable educational resource that allows citizens of all ages to learn about their language rights and the language obligations of certain governments and organizations.

In November 2020, Professor Larocque and the French Common Law student group RÉCLEF (Le Regroupement étudiant de common law en Français) organized the 10th edition of an educational activity usually known as the "Linguistic March" (“Marche linguistique”). Normally, as part of this activity, members of the RÉCLEF executive and students enrolled in the course Linguistic Rights in Canada (CML 4519), leave the classroom and roam the University of Ottawa campus in search of contraventions of the University’s bilingualism regulations. Their findings are then forwarded to uOttawa’s Senior Language Policy Officer. But this past year, the COVID-19 health crisis offered an opportunity to innovate. The CML 4519 course was taught remotely, with its 20 or so students located in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. This situation transformed the traditional Linguistic March into the very first pan-Canadian march. Professor Larocque's students – all Francophones living in minority situations – visited the offices of federal government departments in their respective cities to verify how well they conformed to applicable bilingualism rules. They were then able to document breaches of applicable standards using their smartphones and forward the information to the appropriate authorities. In less than 3 hours, the participants filed more than 65 linguistic complaints.

This experience demonstrated how Planctus can mobilize citizens by facilitating the drafting and transmission of linguistic complaints. Complaint handling mechanisms play an essential role in Canada's linguistic planning because they ensure respect for language rights, identify systemic problems and educate governments and institutions about their linguistic obligations. Given that it is sometimes complicated and laborious to draft linguistic complaints and to discern to whom they should be directed, Planctus serves to simplifiy and energize the process by guiding users to the relevant authority and supporting them in drafting their complaint. This facilitation of the transmission of language complaints ultimately promotes better access to justice and direct civic engagement in order to better protect the language rights of Canadians.

Congratulations to Professor Larocque on this important and innovative initiative!  We look forward to seeing how Planctus will grow in the coming years.

The Knowledge Mobilization Excellence Awards are designed to recognize researchers who have conducted an impactful research project that has involved knowledge users throughout both the research and the knowledge mobilization processes. The award comes with a $7,000 grant, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council’s Exchange Program, to extend the knowledge mobilization activities.

Register for the panel discussion “From Research to Action: a Knowledge Mobilization Celebration”.

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