Keith Spicer, Canada’s first commissioner of official languages, has passed away. He was 89 years old.
Spicer was also a columnist and editor for several newspapers, including the Globe and Mail, the Ottawa Citizen, and the Vancouver Sun.
Spicer served as the language commissioner from 1970 to 1977. In that role he was tasked with promoting the new Official Languages Act among Canadians, according to his profile on the commissioner’s website.
“Commissioner Spicer saw institutional bilingualism as an ideal of human dignity that called for the mutual respect of the two language groups,” his profile reads.
Spicer is also credited with helping to establish the Canadian Parents for French advocacy group and lobbying for increased French immersion school programs across the country.
He Canadian Museum of History described Spicer as “a colorful young journalist who promoted bilingualism with humor and energy.”
In 1974, Spicer’s office came up with a board game called Oh Canada! who promoted bilingualism. Two million copies of the game were produced.
In 1978, Spicer was inducted with the Order of Canada, one of the country’s highest civilian honours. Spicer’s profile on the Order of Canada website says “implemented the policies of the Official Languages Law with courage and imagination.”
Spicer was also a commissioner of the Canadian Radio, Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) from 1989 to 1990. He left that position after being asked by then-Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to chair the Citizens’ Forum on Canada’s Future, which was discussing The political future of the country after the collapse of the Meech Lake constitutional agreement.