SFU Political Science congratulates Timothy van den Brink on his SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship


When PhD student Timothy van den Brink learned that he had been awarded a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship of $20,000 per year for four years, he knew he could now focus full-time on his academic research. With Supervisor Professor Rémi Léger, van den Brink is examining language politics in Canada.

“Our first project is investigating the road maps and action plans used by the current and past federal governments to shape the discussion of language governance and set the tone for future policy,” he says. “As a whole, our work serves to better elucidate the role and impact of political ideologies on language governance and language representations in Canada.”

“Road maps and action plans” are relatively new in the scheme of the long history of language politics in Canada. They’ve only existed for about 20 years; the first being The Next Act: New Momentum For Canada’s Linguistic Duality: The Action Plan For Official Languages (2003). The federal government produced this document under the leadership of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.

“This is almost an entirely ideological document,” says van den Brink. “It lays out the government’s goals and shapes what its policies will be for the next five years, but it doesn’t push any policy forward in and of itself. This makes a lot of sense, but still represents a new era of language governance in Canada.”

Van den Brink examines the substantive and more subtle changes that occur. He looks at proposed funding shifts, and how the government justifies changes like these. For example, if minority community funding is increased, what are the specific priorities mentioned in the road map or action plan? Is funding increasing overall, or has money shifted from another area to supplement minority funding? Is an emphasis placed on the employability benefits of language training, or cultural benefits?

When asked about the current state of Canada’s language politics and bilingualism, van den Brink says the country is approaching a landmark moment.

“Most federal parties, including the current government, have voiced support for adding Indigenous languages to our official languages,” he says. “This represents an important opportunity because we afford a lot of rights and support to minority language communities, so if and when we add Indigenous languages, I expect a good deal to change.”

Van den Brink sees the potential for the inclusion of languages from larger immigrant communities in Canada, as well.

About Timothy van den Brink

Timothy van den Brink completed his BA and MA at the University of Alberta (Faculté Saint-Jean). He chose to attend SFU for his doctoral studies so he could work with Professor Rémi Léger.

“I can’t stress enough for future grad students that the most important thing you should be looking for in a grad program is a supervisor that’s a good fit,” says van den Brink.

Van den Brink enjoyed being a teaching assistant at SFU and will be acting as a TA in the French Cohort Program in Public and International Affairs in the coming year. Towards the end of his doctorate, he would like to teach a course at SFU and after graduation remain in academia.

If you would like to learn more about Timothy van den Brink’s research, you can email him:

Read more about Timothy van den Brink here.