International Mother Language Day Act

An Act to establish International Mother Language Day


In committee (House), as of June 15, 2022

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June 15, 2022 Passed 2nd reading of Bill S-214, An Act to establish International Mother Language Day

International Mother Language Day ActPrivate Members' Business

June 15th, 2022 / 5 p.m.
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The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Pursuant to order made on Thursday, November 25, 2021, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill S‑214 under Private Members' Business.

The question is on the motion.

The House resumed from June 14 consideration of the motion that Bill S-214, An Act to establish International Mother Language Day, be read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

International Mother Language Day ActPrivate Members' Business

June 14th, 2022 / 5:55 p.m.
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Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Madam Speaker, I am tremendously grateful to my colleagues from all parties here in the House of Commons for the support they have offered over the last two sessions of debate on this Senate bill to create international mother language day across Canada.

As my friend from Cloverdale—Langley City noted, it has taken a few tries to make this a reality, and in this regard I have to recognize the tireless and persistent efforts of British Columbia Senator Mobina Jaffer and, again, the support and efforts of my friend and colleague the hon. member for Cloverdale—Langley City for sponsoring earlier iterations of Bill S-214. Of course, Mr. Aminul Islam from our home community of Surrey, himself from Bangladesh, has been the drive and spirit behind this effort.

Speaking of spirit, what we just heard from the hon. member from the Bloc, and what we heard from the hon. member for Nunavut, really drive home the point of the beauty and music of our languages and why Canada is a richer country because we have them.

The message in the first hour of debate, and again here today in the second hour, is a solid indication that, when this bill comes to a vote, we will at last fulfill the dreams of many who have wanted Canada to join the rest of the world in celebrating international mother language day this coming February 21.

This is more than symbolic. Our deliberations here have recognized that our own indigenous languages need our urgent attention and support to prevent their extinction. Also, since becoming a member of Parliament, I have maintained a home in Gatineau's Aylmer community, and more than ever I have come to treasure the unique and enriching value that French means to Canada, and it not just the language, but the culture and spirit that comes with it.

I was young, many, many years ago, French was the language of international diplomacy. I will add, by the way, in a moment of self-gratification, that I am celebrating the 25th anniversary of my 50th birthday today. However, a long time ago, French was the language of international diplomacy. It has been supplanted by English for a long time now, and anglophones, like me, will find English in most places we visit in the world.

In that regard, I noted with some personal embarrassment the words of a Bloc Québécois colleague in the first hour of our debate when he expressed frustration and resentment with the hegemony of the English language. It made me recall the words attributed to the person famous for weaponizing English speech in the Second World War. Sir Winston Churchill, who, perhaps also feeling that same sense of discomfiture, is said to have once said that English is a language that lurks in dark alleys, beats up other languages and rifles through their pockets for spare vocabulary. However, the legislation we are supporting today makes some amends for that.

Beyond our standing as a bilingual nation, our embrace of multiculturalism in Canada sets a table of unparalleled cultural richness. All across our country, we find languages that have come here from the homelands of the people who have chosen our country to be theirs. As I mentioned in my opening comments on this bill, the iconic symbolism and idioms of those languages can teach us much about how many of our fellow Canadians see the world.

As a Liberal, I firmly stand with the proposition that we are stronger because of our differences, not in spite of them. Part of the reason is, looking through those differences in culture, custom, dress, religion and language, we have discovered, as Canadians, the common things that bind this unlikely nation together. We love our families. We work to earn and enjoy the prosperity and privileges our nation offers. When it counts, we are all ready to stick up for our rights and what we believe in with the confidence that this country allows, indeed expects, us to do so.

Thus, to confidently enjoy the opportunity to celebrate our heritages says a lot about Canada and who we all are to each other and to the rest of the world. This is something we can affirm next February 21, and as I have noticed, something we can vote to support tomorrow here in the House of Commons.

International Mother Language Day ActPrivate Members' Business

June 14th, 2022 / 5:45 p.m.
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Julie Vignola Bloc Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Madam Speaker, a few years ago, I read a National Geographic article about endangered languages. I do not remember the names of the specific languages, but I know there was one in Russia, one in India and a series of them in Mexico.

This article not only gave a voice to some of the people who still speak these languages, but it also illustrated the richness of these languages and the difference they make in people's world views.

A language is a way to describe the world, after all. The more ways there are to describe our world, the more accurate picture we will have of that world and its features. An international mother language day would allow us to highlight those features, take time to acknowledge them, love them and promote them.

I want to tell my colleague from Cloverdale—Langley City, whom I hope is still listening, that the Bloc will be supporting Bill S-214.

My speech in support of Bill S-214 will provide a brief history of the idea of mother language day and some statistics. I will also spend a few moments on the mother tongue aspect of languages and give some examples of the richness of different languages.

UNESCO has been observing International Mother Language Day since 1999, when it was adopted unanimously. When this day was added to the calendar, UNESCO noted that 43% of the languages spoken today are at risk of disappearing. In fact, one language disappears every other week on average. It is alarming. That is what will happen now and in the future if nothing is done to preserve and promote the languages. That does not even include all those that have already disappeared over time.

In 2007, the UN General Assembly asked its members to encourage the preservation and protection of all the languages spoken by all peoples in this world. At the time, many languages had already disappeared and many others were disappearing. Why does this happen?

There were events that took place in the past. Civil wars between nations and colonization are two examples of history and its impact, which weakened several languages and made them disappear. We have to acknowledge that and be able to look to the future, make things right and move forward. We have to be able to recognize the mistakes of the past so as not to repeat them.

These days, educational systems, the online world and the belief that English is the only international language of business all contribute to making languages vulnerable. Just a few hundred languages in the world are supported by existing educational systems, and even fewer are supported by the online world and social networks. If you were to go by social networks alone, it would be easy to assume that English is the world's only economic salvation, but people do business in almost every language in the world, not just in English.

When we are conscious of what puts languages in danger of disappearing, we are in a better position to take action, to find solutions and to foster relationships of respect. Mutual respect allows us to see languages as complementary, rather than incompatible or incongruous, ways to talk about and see our world.

Have you ever wondered why we use the expression “mother tongue” instead of “father tongue” or “birth language”? It is simply because the first words children hear are usually spoken by their mother. These words are usually tender and kind, and those sentiments reflect our attachment to our mother tongue.

Like mitochondrial DNA, the mother tongue is passed down from the mother. For example, when French settlers arrived in Quebec, they had several different accents, because France did not, and still does not, have only one nationwide accent. Today, there is the Norman accent, the Parisian accent, the northern accent called the Ch'ti accent, and the southern accent, from the Marseille or Toulouse region. At the time when the first French settlers came to America, it was the same. It was like that then, and it still is today.

How did the distinctive Quebec accent come to be?

Let us talk about one of Quebec's accents, because it is wrong to claim that there is just one. There is the Montreal accent, the Quebec City accent, the Gaspé accent, the Acadian accent, and so on. The first Quebec accent is thought to have come from the filles du roi. They were poor girls or orphans, sometimes belonging to the genteel poor, who were educated at the expense of the French king Louis XIV. The accent we hear today, with words like “moi” and “toi” pronounced like “moé” and “toé”, is the Parisian accent of the 17th century. To those who tell us, even today, that our French is not French, I would say that our French is the legacy of what created French in France and the international French of today. Our expressions are a gateway to history. The same goes for all the world's languages. Some are modern, while others are doors to the past, to nature, and more.

A few years ago, when I was in university, my English second language professor confessed that she adored French. I get that. Even though it was not her mother tongue, she adored it because she found French to be more vivid and precise than English. Take it easy; those were her words. For example, she said that, in English, there is blue, light blue and dark blue, but in French, there is a whole spectrum of blues. She found English interesting because it is a fast language made up of short words. She loved her mother tongue, but she was able to perceive the charms of another language. We should all be like her.

This is true of other languages too. There are words that exist in one language and not another. If I remember correctly, in Inuktitut, there are several dozen words for snow. That makes sense because it was crucial that they be able to describe snow precisely. It was a matter of survival. It helped them find their way. By comparison, in French we have wet snow, loose snow, packed snow, icy snow, slush, powder, and a couple more I have probably forgotten. We do not have that many.

It is only by taking an interest in lesser-known, rarer languages that we can discover the breadth and beauty of the world we live in. Mother tongues should be celebrated. We need to share them, to share the insight that each of them gives us into our world, our emotions, our spirit. The more words a person has, the more precise their vision of the world, both physical and abstract, is. By sharing our languages, by respecting and honouring them, by doing everything possible to protect endangered languages and by allowing these languages to be passed on, we are sharing world views, sharing our visions, and learning to respect one another. As the great Pierre Bourgault said, to protect a language is to protect all languages from the hegemony of one, whatever it may be. A nation can have one, two or three official languages, and individuals can have many more. It is this individual richness that must be preserved and praised.

In conclusion, a language is a system of concepts. It is the basis of every individual and of the construction of the psyche. The more we do to keep the world's languages from disappearing, the more we will enable people to have a strong psyche that is rich in imagery, and the more we will love this diversity. The world's mother tongues are also part of diversity, and we must love them, no matter what they are.

I want to close with this final thought. International mother language day is a bit like Valentine's Day. Lovers love each other all year round, not just on Valentine's Day. We must love our mother tongue all year round, not just on February 21. We have to demonstrate it every day. Still, I do hope we will all celebrate international mother language day together next February 21.

International Mother Language Day ActPrivate Members' Business

June 14th, 2022 / 5:25 p.m.
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Lori Idlout NDP Nunavut, NU

[Member spoke in Inuktitut and provided the following text:]

ᐅᖃᖅᑎᑦᑎᔨ, ᐊᒃᓱᐊᓗᒃ ᖁᕕᐊᓱᒃᐳᖓ ᒪᑭᑦᑕᕆᐊᒃᓴᖅ ᑖᒃᓱᒥᖓ ᒪᓕᒐᒃᓴᖅ S-21 ᑕᐃᔭᐅᓪᓗᓂ ᓯᓚᖅᔪᐊᕐᒥᒃ ᐊᓈᓇᒋᔭᖅᓄᑦ ᐅᖃᐅᓯᓕᕆᓂᖅ ᐅᓪᓗᖅ ᐃᓕᑕᕆᔭᐅᖁᓪᓗᒍ.

ᐱᒋᐊᕈᑎᖃᕈᒪᓪᓗᖓ ᖁᔭᓕᒍᒪᓪᓗᒋ ᐃᓄᒃᑎᑐᑦ ᐃᓕᓴᐃᔨᒋᓚᐅᖅᑕᒃᑲ ᐸᓛᓐᑎᓇ ᒪᒃᑭᒃ, ᒫᓂᑲ ᐸᓂᐸᑯᑐᒃ, ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᒫᓂᑲ ᐃᑦᑐᒃᓵᖅᔪᐊᖅ.

ᐃᖅᑲᐅᒪᓪᓚᕆᒃᑕᒃᑲ ᐃᓕᓴᐃᔨᑦᑎᐊᕙᐅᓪᓗᑎᒃ. ᕐᑯᔭᓕᕐᑲᑕᐅᔪᒪᔪᖓ ᐃᓕᓐᓂᐊᕆᐊᖅᑎᑕᐅᕙᓚᐅᖅᓯᒪᔪᓕᒫᓂᒃ. ᐊᒃᓱᕈᖅᑎᑕᐅᔪᒃᑰᒻᒪᕆᓚᐅᖅᑎᓪᓗᓯ ᒫᓐᓇᒧ ᑎᑭᐅᑎᓯᒪᑎᑦᑎᕐᑲᑕᐅᒐᓯ.

ᑭᖑᓪᓕᕐᒥᒃ ᕐᑯᔭᓕᒍᒪᔭᒃᑲ ᐃᓐᓇᒻᒪᕇᑦ. ᐊᒃᓱᐊᓗᒃ ᓇᒡᓕᒋᕙᓯ. ᕐᑭᑐᕐᖓᓯᓐᓂ ᐊᖅᓵᖅᑕᐅᓯᒪᓚᐅᕋᓗᐊᖅᖠᓯᒃ ᓇᒡᓕᖕᓂᒃᑯᑦ ᒫᓐᓇᒧᑦ ᑎᑭᐅᑎᓯᒪᕐᑲᑕᐅᓯᒪᓪᓚᕆᒃᑲᓯ.

[Member provided the following translation:]

Mr. Speaker, it is a tremendous honour to speak today, as I represent Nunavummiut, on Bill S-21, an act to establish international mother language day.

I would like to begin by sharing my gratitude to the Inuktitut teachers I had in grade school: Blandina Makkik, Monica Panipakutsuk and Monica Ittusardjuat. They were such kind and caring teachers.

I share my gratitude with the former residential school students. Despite the abuses you suffered, you have contributed to our well-being and where we stand today.

Finally, I must acknowledge the indigenous elders, especially those whose children were taken from them. It is by your love and care we are able to thrive today. I care very much for your well-being.


What I just said was translated from my mother language into English, one of the two official languages.

In my statement today, I will speak about why passing this bill can contribute to a greater understanding of Canada's history toward its treatment of Inuit, Métis and first nations. I will begin with the extraordinary story of the late Clara Quassa of Igloolik. Mrs. Quassa briefly shared her story in an interview available on

I remember her fondly as a gentle elder. What I did not know until a few weeks ago is that she was forced to send her five children to a residential school in Chesterfield Inlet. She was forced to send them about 800 kilometres away.

She had no more children in her home because they were all sent to Chesterfield Inlet. She remembers them crying when going on the plane. She said that when they returned from the residential school, they were different. She does remember fondly that they still spoke Inuktitut.

One of her children died after being sent to some other facility. She was told where her daughter's grave was, but Clara died having yearned to see her daughter's grave. Despite all of this, I can see her legacy in her adult children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. When I return to Igloolik, I see and hear them speaking in Inuktitut. I see them cherishing her fondly.

What I despair to share is that her story is not unique. There are far too many Inuit, first nations people and Métis who have stories similar to hers. Canada is founded on Inuit, Métis and first nations lands. Canada thrives as a first world country based on the injustices it caused to indigenous peoples. While Métis, first nations people and Inuit have been voicing their stories for generations, their voices were suppressed, ignored and not allowed to be understood by mainstream society.

Canada is a so-called bilingual country with two official languages, English and French. Meanwhile, UNESCO estimates that 75% of indigenous languages in Canada are endangered. Regular Canadians, settlers, have also been victims of Canada's colonial history. Regular Canadians, settlers, have been robbed of their sense of being Canadian. After all, many are proud of being Canadian. What most do not realize is that they are proud of Canada's suppression. They are proud of Canada's oppressive policies. They are proud of colonial laws and policies that continue to impact current generations through intergenerational trauma. They are proud of the chronic underfunding that ensures that Inuit, first nations and Métis remain suppressed, in poverty, undereducated and not able to overcome the mental health challenges of intergenerational trauma.

Indeed, I myself used to be proud to celebrate Canada Day. I too was robbed through Canada's colonial education system. During my participation in the PROC study on the viability of indigenous languages in federal elections, I learned more about first nations and the extent of how endangered their languages are. We were provided data by Statistics Canada reflecting 2017 figures. There are over 70 indigenous languages spoken in Canada, but only 15.6% of the indigenous population have the ability to have conversations in any of these mother languages. We were told that only 170 of those who identify as Kutenai, 255 of those who identify as Tlingit and 455 of those who identify as Haida speak their mother language. These figures must be understood in terms of just how strong Canada's colonial laws and policies are today. The extent to which these languages are endangered shows just how hard we must all work to indigenize Canada's history. We must ensure that all first nations, Inuit and Métis are supported and resourced in order for these beautiful mother languages to be revitalized.

I am thankful to both Bangladesh and UNESCO, which in 1999 proposed that International Mother Language Day be established. By 2002, it was recognized by the United Nations General Assembly. I understand that starting in 1948, the Bengali stood up to the imposition of Urdu by the Government of Pakistan in Bangladesh. I am thankful the Bengali people demanded that their mother language be an official language alongside Urdu. The atrocities experienced by the Bengali are physically and collectively terrible. Once the Bengali demanded change, many were injured and killed at a protest organized by students of the University of Dhaka against the government's repression of Bengali. This protest happened on February 21, 1952. Qujannamiik to the Bengali people. We must acknowledge their enormous sacrifices and celebrate their history.

I must acknowledge what has been attempted to promote and protect indigenous languages. In 2014, Matthew Kellway, a New Democrat, introduced a private member's bill to recognize this day. As we debate this today, we know it did not pass. We now have the Indigenous Languages Act, which created the position of the indigenous languages commissioner. I had the pleasure of meeting the indigenous languages commissioner, Ronald Ignace, and directors Robert Watt, Georgina Liberty and Joan Greyeyes, at their first meeting here in Ottawa. I look forward to the great work they will do to promote and protect indigenous languages.

I do suggest that the bill be amended to replace the word “aboriginal” with the word “indigenous”.

I conclude by stating that the federal government must provide the same resources, rights and privileges to indigenous languages as it does for the two official languages. I conclude that I will gladly support the passing of this bill into law.

International Mother Language Day ActPrivate Members' Business

June 14th, 2022 / 5:15 p.m.
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Mario Beaulieu Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois welcomes Senator Mobina Jaffer's Bill S-214, entitled an act to establish international mother language day.

In November 1999, the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization proclaimed International Mother Language Day. The United Nations General Assembly called on its member states to encourage the preservation and protection of the languages spoken by the peoples of the world.

Anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss said, and I quote:

A language is a monument that is just as important as a stone monument, if not more so. Each culture represents a repository of considerable human wealth. Each people has its own repository of beliefs and institutions that represent an irreplaceable experience for humanity as a whole.

This is in keeping with the Bloc Québécois' historic commitment to defending and promoting the French language in Quebec, Canada and America, which in turn is in keeping with the fight for cultural and linguistic diversity in the world and people's right to self-determination.

We know that the right of peoples to ensure the survival and vitality of their language and culture is part of their fundamental right to self-determination. Under the United Nations charter, every people has the right to self-determination, whether they are Scottish, Catalan, Palestinian, Kabyle or Québécois.

With neo-liberal globalization, the entire world is experiencing the commodification and anglicization of culture. U.S. mass culture is steamrolling national cultures.

It is therefore important that we ask ourselves whether we want globalization in a form that makes all national cultures and languages uniform, or one that ensures mutual respect among peoples. I believe that the latter path is the only one that can result in a peaceful and progressive solution that fosters world peace.

It is estimated that half of the 7,000 languages spoken on Earth today will disappear by the end of the century. Biodiversity loss does not just affect nature and wildlife. It also affects the world's linguistic heritage, which is in serious jeopardy.

We are seeing it here. Indigenous languages are at serious risk of disappearing, and the status of French in Canada shows that it is in decline. For example, only 2.4% of francophones outside Quebec speak French at home. French is critically endangered.

Language laws exist all over the world. In the study of various language planning models, they are grouped into two broad categories: models based on the principle of territoriality of collective rights and models based on the principle of personality, of individual choice of languages in a given territory.

Wherever personality models are used, the result is the assimilation of minority languages, because the free choice of languages always favours the majority languages. Moreover, virtually all scholars around the world agree that territoriality is the only approach that allows for the protection of minority languages.

Bill 101 is based on territoriality. We know that the Quebec model, with its Charter of the French Language, aims to make French the only official and common language on Quebec territory.

This is one of the Quebec government's main demands. We are discussing it here in the context of modernizing the Official Languages Act. We want Quebec to be the master of language policy on its territory, while respecting the historical English-speaking minority and recognizing the right of first nations to maintain and develop their original languages and cultures.

In 1977, Camille Laurin made the following statement:

By proclaiming French as Quebec's official language and by recognizing the right of all Quebeckers to use French in all facets of their lives, we are making our language a national public asset, an asset belonging to all Quebeckers, the best way to unite us all and promote dialogue among Quebeckers of different origins. We are giving Quebeckers a way to express their identity to the world.

People who champion French in Quebec have always sought to include newcomers. It comes down to math. If we do not help newcomers learn French, we cannot ensure the survival of the language. Helping newcomers learn French and including them in Quebec society is how we achieve social cohesion. If we want to understand one another, we have to be able to speak the same language.

This is a highly relevant issue right now. Canada's Official Languages Act was, in a way, a response to the 1867 Constitution, which gave rise to language laws that prohibited people from teaching French and banned French schools and the use of French in the governments of nearly every province that now has an anglophone majority.

Then there was an uprising. The Estates General of French Canada were held, and André Laurendeau came along demanding collective rights for Quebec. In the end, the Laurendeau-Dunton Commission fell well short of that goal. It gave us an Official Languages Act that only sought to apply the personality principle, an institutional bilingualism that tried to promote the free choice of French or English in federal institutions where numbers warranted. Outside Quebec, numbers often did not warrant it. The way this was applied has meant that in every census since 1969, the year the Official Languages Act came into force, there has been an increase in the assimilation of francophones outside Quebec.

In Quebec itself, French is now in steep decline. As we know, the proportion of Quebeckers with French as their mother tongue is decreasing. In 1996, 81.5% of the Quebec population had French as their mother tongue. In 2016, it was 78%. Statistics Canada predicts that by 2036, which is only 15 years from now, that figure will be between 70% and 75%. As for the language used at home, it is the same thing: It will drop to around 75% or 76%. The common language, the public language, is an indicator that depends on the language used at home, the mother tongue.

We know that language transfers largely happen towards English, even in Quebec. That is why the Government of Quebec has asked for French to be recognized as the only minority official language. We need the federal government to stop always promoting English as an official language in Quebec, because it leads to the anglicization of newcomers.

Allow me to quote Pierre Bourgault, a great defender of the French language and one of the founders of the Rassemblement pour l'indépendance nationale, or RIN: “To fight for French in Quebec is to fight for all the languages of the world against the hegemony of one.”

I think it is vital to fight for French if we want to maintain linguistic diversity in North America.

The House resumed from March 31 consideration of the motion that Bill S-214, An Act to establish International Mother Language Day, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

International Mother Language Day ActPrivate Members' Business

March 31st, 2022 / 6:25 p.m.
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Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to private member's bill, Bill S-214, an act to establish international mother language day.

International mother language day is a worldwide annual observance held on February 21 to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and to promote multilingualism. Mother language day is part of a broader initiative to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by people around the world. Beginning in Bangladesh, then East Pakistan, the idea to celebrate international mother language day was an initiative to fully recognize the Bangla language.

As we all know, our nation has a rich cultural heritage that is cultivated by indigenous peoples, European settlers and immigrants from every corner of the globe. This is succinctly demonstrated in the first three lines of the preamble to Bill S-214:

Whereas English and French are Canada’s official languages;

Whereas more than 60 different Aboriginal languages are spoken in Canada;

Whereas Canadians speak a multitude of languages that greatly enrich Canada and its culture;

If culture and tradition are the branches of the tree, then surely language is the trunk. Without supporting the base of the tree, the branches suffer, wither and fall.

According to Michael Krauss, then head of the Alaska Native Language Center in Fairbanks, who published “The world's languages in crisis” back in 1992, some 600 languages had fewer than 100 surviving speakers. Half of the world's languages were kept alive by a fifth of 1% of the entire global population. Of the 7,000 existing languages, only half were being taught to children, so Canada mirrors the global language crisis. Of the 60 or more indigenous languages in Canada, just three, Cree, Inuktitut and Ojibwa, are stable and viable. They account for nearly two-thirds of the nearly 229,000 Canadians who claim an indigenous language as their mother tongue and who regularly speak that language in the home.

Of the 12 major language families once solidly established here in the country, nine are today the linguistic expression of a mere 6% of the indigenous population. There are 50 languages spoken by first nations with fewer than 3,000 members. Even among indigenous communities where the loss of language is widespread, language revitalization is a powerful aspirational goal linked to reconciliation and the preservation of culture.

My own riding of Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock boasts 63 different languages spoken as mother tongues. This is also recognized in the Conservative Party of Canada policy document, section 133, “Recognition that language is an integral part of one’s culture and heritage should form the basis for decision-making relating to its cultural and artistic community.”

We encourage the government to recognize the diverse cultural nature of Canada and its shared history and to take these into account when working to strengthen opportunities and accessibility in both the domestic and international markets for our creative success.

I want to close by saying I support mother languages.

International Mother Language Day ActPrivate Members' Business

March 31st, 2022 / 5:55 p.m.
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Luc Desilets Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, this evening we are debating Bill S-214, an act to establish international mother language day. Specifically, the bill would designate February 21 of every year as international mother language day in Quebec and Canada. This bill originated in the Senate and was sponsored by Senator Mobina Jaffer, an independent senator from British Columbia. This bill is at second reading here in the lower chamber.

The Bloc Québécois very much supports Bill S‑214 because what it ultimately does is protect linguistic diversity on a global scale. This issue is an integral part of the Bloc Québécois's cultural and linguistic vision, which is why we support this bill.

I think it is worth repeating the prophetic words of well-known sovereignist Pierre Bourgualt who said, “when we defend French here in Quebec, we are defending all the languages of the world against the hegemony of one.”

Pierre Bourgault was a friend of my father, Antoine Desilets. He often stopped in at our house to have a drink. At the time, I was 8, 9 or ten years old, and my room was beside the kitchen. On the evenings when Pierre Bourgault came to visit my parents, I would leave my door ajar because I liked to hear him talk. I would do that until my mother came to my room and shut the door because it was time to go to sleep.

At the time, I did not understand much about this man's eloquent speeches on power, the economy, language or independence, but I was completely mesmerized by his voice. His diction was perfect and his vocabulary and syntax were exceptional. We listened intently, and despite my young age I would gulp down every word just like a thirsty man who discovers an oasis in the middle of the desert. In my opinion, there is no doubt that Pierre Bourgault was the greatest orator in the history of Quebec.

Very few members know it, but I myself have written a few books. For me, writing is the expression of a passion for this language. I suspect that my love of the French language was strongly inspired by the evenings spent secretly listening to Pierre Bourgault through the crack in the door to my room. As a photographer, my father played with light. As a result of my love of the French language, I learned to play with words.

Whenever he spoke, Pierre Bourgault always, or frequently, made the connection between Quebec's quest for independence and our national language, the mother tongue of our people, French. The only thing a people must do to ensure its cultural vitality and freedom is protect, care for and cherish its mother tongue. What better way to convey the identity and culture of a people, any people? My leader, a trained anthropologist, will have a lot to say about this.

What would the Basque independence movement be without Euskera? What would Catalonia's independence movement be without Catalan? What would Quebec's independence movement be without French?

A few years ago, a columnist for The Economist, who was anglophone, obviously, wrote, and I quote: “Forget Chinese or Hindi. If you want to learn a language which is truly global, learn French”.

Despite being a minority in America, Quebeckers, along with Canadian francophones and Acadians, are lucky to speak French because it is indeed an international language. French is in fact the fifth most common language in the world based on number of speakers, and it is the only language besides English that is spoken on all five continents. French is recognized as an official language in 29 countries. According to the Observatoire de la langue française, in 2022, 321 million people in 112 countries and territories are capable of expressing themselves in French.

The nice thing about that statistic is that French is not necessarily all those people's mother tongue. For many, those born in the Americas, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East and Oceania, French is a second or even a third language.

French is not a hegemonic language. It is widespread and a major contributor to the richness of the great human cultural mosaic. We all benefit from the bridges built between the peoples of the world. Cultural exchanges bring people together and are a force for peace in a world where universal peace has obviously not yet been achieved.

For cultural exchanges to be possible and fruitful, the different cultures need to be thriving. They need to be robust, and the transfer of knowledge, the passing on of memories, traditions and heritage from generation to generation must not be obstructed by the imposition of a single culture, a culture of globalization.

I am extremely proud of my mother tongue. I know that this pride is shared by my fellow Quebeckers. However, I cannot—we cannot—continue to ignore the elephant in the room. In Quebec, French is in decline at every level.

In 1996, 81.5% of Quebeckers reported French as their mother tongue. In 2016, it was 78%. Statistics Canada predicts that number will drop to 70% by 2036. We will therefore have gone from 81.5% in 1996 to 70% in 2036.

On the Island of Montreal, the percentage of people whose mother tongue is French dropped from 53.4% in 1996 to 48% recently. It is clear that within 15 years, there will be as many people in Montreal with a mother tongue other than English or French as with French as their first language.

I concede that people's mother tongue is not the only indicator of a language's vitality, but French is the only official language of Quebec, and it should not be declining.

Earlier this month, the Liberal Party introduced its new version of the reform of the Official Languages Act, in which it completely disregards the Bloc Québécois's requests. We support some of the provisions in that act, notably the one concerning the promotion of French in the other Canadian provinces, but we are very disappointed by the rest of the bill.

Only a Quebec language law such as Bill 101 should apply in Quebec. The idea of entrusting the fate of our national language to another nation is totally inconceivable and ridiculous. This is especially true when that other nation overwhelmingly denies visas to francophone foreign students, dithers and drags B.C.'s francophones through the courts, supports and tolerates people like the CEO of Air Canada, and pledges not to take away any of Quebec's seats in the House of Commons, only to turn around and ultimately diminish its political weight.

To sum up, I will repeat that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of the bill to establish international mother language day. When the Bloc Québécois fights in the House to defend and preserve French, it is protecting all languages from the hegemony of one.

International Mother Language Day ActPrivate Members' Business

March 31st, 2022 / 5:45 p.m.
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John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House to speak at second reading on Bill S-214, an act to designate February 21 of each year as international mother language day.

The bill also includes the greater clarity line, which confirms that this does not result in the date of February 21 being a legal holiday. It is not a statutory holiday and would not provide a day off work for those working in federally regulated industries. That is an important point to make at the outset of this debate.

Language, especially one's mother language, is an important part of an individual's personal story and identity. While it is a significant part of who we are personally, it also contributes to who we are as a collective society and a country as a whole. Canada is home to many different groups of people, including indigenous peoples, new Canadians and the children and grandchildren of immigrants. Mother languages, or the first languages learned, are important to each and every one of these groups.

Canada has two official languages, French and English. They are by far the most common languages in Canada and they have special legal status dating back to Confederation.

In the British North America Act, 1867, the Constitution recognized the importance of ensuring that French and English are preserved and that the rights of French Canadians and English Canadians are protected if we want to succeed in creating a strong, unified nation. That is why section 133 of the Constitution Act, 1867, is written as follows:

Either the English or the French Language may be used by any Person in the Debates of the Houses of the Parliament of Canada and of the Houses of the Legislature of Quebec; and both those Languages shall be used in the respective Records and Journals of those Houses; and either of those Languages may be used by any Person or in any Pleading or Process in or issuing from any Court of Canada established under this Act, and in or from all or any of the Courts of Quebec.

The status of French and English was strengthened in the Official Languages Act, which, in its preamble, notes many important points regarding our language in Canada, including that:

the Constitution of Canada provides that English and French are the official languages of Canada and have equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all institutions of the Parliament and government of Canada.

The preamble also states that:

the Government of Canada recognizes the importance of preserving and enhancing the use of languages other than English and French while strengthening the status and use of the official languages.

French and English are the official languages of Canada, as established in our laws and culture. It is important for current and future governments to recognize this fact and to try to ensure that the special status of both official languages is preserved in future.

We have the opportunity to celebrate the French language in Canada. Whether in Quebec, with its majority francophone population, or in New Brunswick, the only officially bilingual province in Canada, the French language is one that perseveres through adversity. That is especially true in official language minority communities throughout the country. We must acknowledge the challenges faced by these communities, including Franco‑Ontarians, Franco‑Manitobans, Franco‑Albertans, and others in every corner of our country.

In my own riding of Perth—Wellington, I am always pleased to hear about parents who are anxious to register their children in French immersion at a young age. It is something that we must continue to celebrate and promote.

There are also languages that have been spoken on these lands for millennia, the languages of indigenous peoples. I find it appropriate that we are debating this bill today on National Indigenous Languages Day, as these languages hold a special place in our history and should hold a special place in our society as well.

As it states in the preamble of this bill, more than 60 different aboriginal languages are spoken in Canada. These include Cree, Inuktitut, Dene, and many, many more. Sadly, however, many indigenous languages are at risk of extinction following a long period of discouraged use, disrespect and, sadly for far too long in our history, outright hostility. We must recognize the shameful parts of Canada's history that include the efforts to eliminate indigenous cultures, and as part of that strategy, the efforts to end the use of indigenous languages, especially through the dark history of residential schools.

Moving forward, we must ensure these languages are not only preserved but also celebrated. The Government of Canada has a role to play in promoting their use so they can be passed down from generation to generation. That is why the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 stated, “Aboriginal languages are a fundamental and valued element of Canadian culture and society, and there is an urgency to preserve them.” We must listen and act on these calls to action. Symbolic measures are important, but we must also act.

Canada is home to many people who have come here from every corner of the Earth, some to escape violence and persecution, some to reunite with their family, and some to seek new careers and economic opportunities that were not available to them in their homeland. With them, they bring parts of their culture, including their language. It enriches our nation by building on the diversity and multiculturalism we all benefit from. According to Statistics Canada, 7,749,120 people in Canada consider a non-official language to be their mother tongue.

Today, as we see Ukrainians fleeing their homeland to escape the Russian invasion, I must point out a government report from August 31, 2017, entitled, “Linguistic diversity and multilingualism in Canadian homes”. The report indicated that 110,580 people in Canada consider their mother language tongue to be Ukrainian. Canada has a vibrant Ukrainian population. In fact, as we welcome Ukrainians to Canada, it is like welcoming family home.

The government should listen to the recommendations provided by the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration and provide a fast and simple process to bring these victims of Vladimir Putin’s unlawful attack safely to Canada.

In the other place, this bill had a fulsome debate, which included comments from my Conservative colleague Senator Salma Ataullahjan, herself an immigrant from Pakistan. During that debate, she said, “As a country with multilingualism at its core, we need to recognize and understand the importance of preserving all mother languages.”

She went on to say, “I know first-hand the correlation between my mother tongue and my identity. Speaking Pukhto, or Pashto, is more than a means to communicate; it connects me to my ancestors; it allows me to understand the literature, art and poetry of my homeland.”

I believe the senator’s words are a beautiful example of how someone can be proud to be Canadian and also proud of the culture and the language from which they came. Mother languages matter. Indigenous languages, official languages, and non-official languages that have come here through immigration all matter. I thank the House for its time today, and I look forward to continued debate on Bill S-214.

International Mother Language Day ActPrivate Members' Business

March 31st, 2022 / 5:30 p.m.
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Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

moved that Bill S-214, An Act to establish International Mother Language Day, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

This is a time when our nation is weathering some very formidable challenges that some would use to draw out our differences, namely to challenge that most fundamental Canadian value, the one where we care about and act in the common good. Canada is too valuable in the world to have this value damaged, so I am here today with an opportunity, one that reflects, in a small way, the solemn obligation we have in this place, indeed one that we must accept as our imperative, to promote and achieve unity through respect, understanding and dialogue. It may be a small offering toward that goal, but Bill S-214, the call to designate every February 21 as mother languages day across Canada, is intended to raise our awareness of the value of honouring and protecting the cultural and social richness of the languages many of us brought to Canada, or, which is very important, the languages that have been spoken in our land since time immemorial.

An important point to note is that the bill does not propose the creation of a statutory holiday. It simply opens up opportunities for people in every community to celebrate the unique aspect of their culture and history. It is that unique aspect that comes with the language they brought to Canada and maybe still speak at home with their children to keep that heritage alive.

It is a unique honour to sponsor Bill S-214 in the House to hopefully make real the dream of people in our British Columbia community to create a moment for all Canadians to reflect, in yet another way, on an essential aspect of our nation that makes it the place where so many in the world want to live. It is a fact of this country that we are stronger because of our differences, not in spite of them.

I can relate personally to this point because back home in Fleetwood—Port Kells and Surrey, we enjoy an incredibly diverse community: 30.3% of us in Fleetwood—Port Kells are of European heritage and 30.1% of us are from South Asia. This statistic is maybe a year old, and I have a very strong feeling that this ratio has now reversed and that our South Asian community is indeed the largest in my riding.

We have a healthy range of cultures and languages in those two large groups, but we have to add Chinese, at 13%, and Filipino, at almost 10%. There is also Korean, Japanese, Croatian, Latin American and African, and measurable populations of many other cultures. We also absolutely must shine a light on the thousands among us in my riding, in Surrey and indeed right across Canada with aboriginal heritage, who are in urgent need of help to keep their ancient languages alive.

This diversity is highlighted in many ways. It is highlighted in the arts, in the way we worship, in the sports we play, in the ceremonies we celebrate, in the cultural events that we hold in our communities for ourselves and for our neighbours and, to add a personal favourite, in our food. I am delighted to hear that we are going to be celebrating Filipino food just in time for my going back home to Fleetwood—Port Kells. I can tell the Filipino restaurant in my riding that my staff and I will be there to celebrate the food and enjoy its hospitality.

Then there are the languages with the symbolism and idioms that reflect the heartfelt values and character of each community within our community. Long ago, in work to communicate public services and policies, which included invitations to participate in their development and delivery, I grew to appreciate the power of relating to people with the words that carried the meaning and context that delivered the necessary message in a way that promoted the understanding they needed and the engagement they had an opportunity to provide.

Doing this is not just a simple matter of translation. We do not just take a word in a language and find the English word that tries to mean the same thing, because there is more to words than just the bare, fundamental meaning.

We need instead to transcreate, which is to adapt thoughts in one language to something that delivers the clear intent of the communication. Our excellent parliamentary translation services staff are well experienced with this.

The opportunity to celebrate our mother language opens the way to share the words and phrases of one language that may have no equivalent in another, and in doing so we learn something about our neighbours in this country of ours. Here are some examples.

In Brazilian Portuguese, we have the word saudade. No single English word can do justice to the emotion it communicates, emotions of longing and nostalgia. In Brazil, they have the beija-flor, or the kisser of flowers, a name that creates such a beautiful image of the creature we call the hummingbird.

In Chinese, the expression meng die captures a similarly beautiful sentiment, while the English equivalent “dream to be a butterfly” offers only a glimpse of a much broader picture than one might imagine when that word comes up in conversation.

Thousands of people in Fleetwood—Port Kells speak Punjabi, and they have a short, very precise expression, raula, which I am told means “a really messed-up situation”, so I will be listening for that one. My Punjabi is very rusty, as members will hear in just a second. There is another Punjabi saying, Suno sab di, karo apni, which offers the wisdom to “take advice from everyone but do what you think is best.”

To be called a Bayani in the Filipino community is high praise. That one word describes a hero, and not just any hero but a patriot who uses their bravery, courage and kindness to further the human race or the cause of the community.

Of course, we have indigenous languages. Coincidentally, this is National Indigenous Languages Day in Canada, an important reminder of the work we must do to protect and preserve the languages that may well be extinct without our intervention. Our government has made that a priority with an allocation in the 2019 budget of $334 million over five years, and there was more in the 2021 budget to fund these efforts.

In B.C. alone, funding through the Indigenous Languages Act provided the First Peoples' Cultural Council additional funding of $6.86 million last November to increase investments through grants for projects that had not previously been funded or that needed additional funding to complete their work. This one measure is covering immersion strategies, language planning, resource development and more to support the revitalization of the 34 first nation languages that we have in B.C. This brought the total federal support for the First Peoples' Cultural Council to $14.6 million, an investment in preserving our history to be sure but also in enriching and strengthening our indigenous culture today, which can be shared right across our diverse communities.

That sharing, by the way, sets up some amazing events. I will never forget a huge gathering of our Sikh community a few years ago in Bear Creek Park. I was up on the stage looking over a sea of turbans of every colour, and there they were enjoying the Red River Reel as performed by a Métis band. This happens only in Canada.

Bill S-214 represents a unique and truly timely opportunity. Establishing every February 21 as Canada's annual opportunity to observe and celebrate mother languages day is something our culturally diverse communities can, as they see fit, use to bring their neighbourhoods closer together in the spirit of what it truly means to be Canadian, and as a way to remind us and remind so many thousands of us why it was they worked so hard to be here with us.

Speaking of events, I should add that as part of this government's pandemic supports, $200 million was dedicated to fund festivals and cultural events because of the fundamental value that they add to the community over and above the enjoyment of each other's cultures.

In closing, I must recognize three of the many people who have worked so hard for years to see this day created. First is the vision and energy of Mohammad Aminul Islam, who has held Mother Language Day events in Surrey for a number of years, at least before the pandemic, and discovered the equity that the celebration he sponsored built between communities when they gathered in the spirit of sharing, discovery and enjoyment.

Second is B.C. Senator Mobina Jaffer, who tried more than a few times to get this bill through the Senate, where she was successful, but getting it through the House of Commons was a bit more of a challenge. The machinations of government held it back more than a couple of times, but her persistence and passion for the idea of creating this day were the catalysts for the steps being taken—once again, in the other place—that we have here before us this evening.

Finally, I want to thank my friend and colleague, the hon. member for Cloverdale—Langley City, who took up this cause in our 42nd Parliament and who was generously ready, willing and able to second Bill S-214 on this occasion.

These people and so many others have seen the importance of promoting, protecting and preserving the languages that flavour our cultural diversity. Appropriately, on this National Indigenous Languages Day in Canada, there is one word from our Coast Salish peoples that perfectly fits their efforts and our opportunity with Bill S-214. The word is tsetsuwatil. It is one word that takes five in English to convey. It means “working together for the common interest”.

Mother Language Day is an observance that can really take root in any and every community across our nation, and I call on my colleagues here to help make its success a reality now and to help Canadians be ready to celebrate it on February 21, 2023. I give my thanks and gratitude for this opportunity.

International Mother Language Day ActRoutine Proceedings

December 14th, 2021 / 10:10 a.m.
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Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill S-214, an act to establish International Mother Language Day

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to sponsor Bill S-214, which is an act to establish February 21 each year as international mother language day in Canada. This bill recognizes that, in addition to Canada's official languages, French and English, there are over 60 different aboriginal languages spoken in our nation. It also recognizes the important cultural and societal values of the first languages of so many Canadians who have chosen this country as their home.

Our thanks and congratulations to our champion, Aminul Islam in Surrey, and to Senator Jaffer, who sponsored this bill in the other place.

(Motion agreed to and bill read the first time)

Message from the SenateGovernment Orders

December 9th, 2021 / 7:35 p.m.
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The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I have the honour to inform the House that messages have been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed the following bills to which the concurrence of the House is desired: Bill S-214, An Act to establish International Mother Language Day, Bill S-216, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (use of resources of a registered charity), and Bill S-223, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (trafficking in human organs).