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The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms contains not one but two kinds of equality rights—general equality rights, set out in section 15, and linguistic equality rights, set out in sections 16 to 23—but the relationship between them is not well understood. Do official language rights rest on a distinct set of values, or do they simply instantiate the same general principle expressed in section 15? If the former, what are these values, and how do they relate to other principles of constitutional justice? The matter is further complicated by the need to account for the special constitutional status of Indigenous peoples, who also claim a form of equality. If we are to do justice to all concerned, we need to determine if and how these different claims to equality can and should fit together. However, this requires that we have a clear account of their underlying principles, and our understanding of linguistic equality in this respect lags far behind. While the concept of general equality and the status of Indigenous peoples have both received sustained theoretical attention, linguistic equality has not, leaving a number of fundamental questions—namely its basic analytical structure and its moral foundations—unresolved. The purpose of this article is to lay the groundwork for a theoretical account of linguistic equality, one that situates this concept within a broader framework of constitutional values that includes general equality rights and the rights of Indigenous peoples.

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