Throughout the 1960s, Canada saw the rise of modern Quebec nationalism as the federation-wide French Canadian nationalism became less and less supported by the younger Francophone generations of this province. The perceived failure of Canada to establish the equality of the English and French languages within governmental institutions is one of main reasons for the rise of the Quebec secessionist movement.
The Commission was jointly chaired by André Laurendeau, publisher of Le Devoir, and Davidson Dunton, president of Carleton University. As a result it was sometimes known as the Laurendeau-Dunton commission.
Ten commissioners representing each of the provinces were also included in the commission as areas such as education were provincial responsibilities.
The Commission recommended sweeping changes when its final report was published in 1969, some 4 years after the publication of its preliminary report in February of 1965. Among other things, it reported that Francophones were underrepresented in the nation's political and business communities. 1961 statistics of the salaries of Quebec men based on ethnic origin revealed that French Canadians were only better paid than Italian Canadians and Native Americans, behind all other ethnic groups.
Included the following:
- That Ontario and New Brunswick become officially bilingual.
- That Bilingual districts be created in regions of Canada where French speakers made up more than 10% of the population.
- That parents be able to have their children attend schools in the language of their choice in regions where there is sufficient demand.
- That Ottawa become a bilingual city.
- That English and French be declared official languages of Canada.
Incoming Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau made it one of his highest priorities to implement the Commission's recommendations to solve these problems. The most important of these was making Canada an officially bilingual nation. This was introduced in 1969 in the Official Languages Act. The provinces were also recommended to make reforms, and many did. Canada's education system was overhauled and school children across the country were made to learn both languages.
The Commission and its recommendations were supported by both the Progressive Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party, but the Tories did have concerns with the costly implementation of the reforms. Regional parties like the Social Credit Party, the Confederation of Regions Party and later on, the Reform Party would object strongly to these changes.
In his later years Trudeau, made a major parting from the Commission's findings. While Canada would remain a bilingual nation, it would pursue a policy of multiculturalism rather than biculturalism.
In the Constitution Act, 1982, Trudeau ensured that many of the Commission's recommendations were permanently included in the Constitution of Canada, as sections 16 through section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms included several language rights.
While in some circles the Commission's legacy is controversial, others view it as a success. The under representation of French-Canadians in positions of power is less of a problem and French-Canadians have access to government services in their own language.