Prime Minister John Diefenbaker and his government made Canadian bilingualism history on this date in 1958. Dief, who had swept Quebec just months before, fulfilled an election promised he had made to French Canadians. The unilingual Prime Minister stood in the House on this date in 1958 and tabled the following motion, destined to be approved by MPs.
“That this House do approve the installation of a simultaneous translation system in this Chamber and that Mr. Speaker be authorized to make arrangements necessary to install and operate it.”
Today, these many decades later, it seems hard to believe that bilingualism was not always the rule on Parliament Hill.
Arthur Milnes is an accomplished public historian and award-winning journalist. He was research assistant on The Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney’s best-selling Memoirs and also served as a speechwriter to then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper and as a Fellow of the Queen’s Centre for the Study of Democracy under the leadership of Tom Axworthy. A resident of Kingston, Ontario, Milnes serves as the in-house historian at the 175 year-old Frontenac Club Hotel.