International Mother Language Day Act

An Act to establish International Mother Language Day


This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment designates the 21st day of February in each and every year as “International Mother Language Day”.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


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

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 ActPrivate Members' Business

March 31st, 2022 / 5:40 p.m.
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Blake Desjarlais NDP Edmonton Griesbach, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for introducing such an important bill. He spoke very well on the importance of making sure that we have a diversity of languages. However, a very important point is the lack of translation. In Canada, we are used to a system of English and French, and oftentimes our indigenous languages, like my language in particular, Cree, which is a native language in Canada, have been almost put into the ground and diminished. We have seen that time and time again through government intervention.

Would the member agree that when we are ensuring that we understand mother tongue languages, we make a special place and a special recognition for the native languages of this land as extraordinary to the contributions of languages across the world?

International Mother Language Day ActPrivate Members' Business

March 31st, 2022 / 5:45 p.m.
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Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Madam Speaker, I totally agree with my hon. colleague. In fact, just yesterday it was interesting to see news from Elections Canada that it intends to prepare material for elections in the local indigenous languages. Again, the idea is to generate understanding, engagement and participation, and we do that by communicating in a way that our audience will understand. It absolutely makes sense. Above and beyond the respect and the cultural diversity that a mother language day would promote across the country, it would also help to unite us in common understanding of what is going on.

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, certainly in Canada we have a great cultural mosaic of people who come to this country from around the globe, from every corner of the earth, and bring their languages and their culture with them, including, most importantly, those from Ukraine. Certainly we are seeing a great outpouring of support right now in Canada.

Would my colleague comment on how we can use the culture that we have here in Canada of so many Ukrainians who have come here over the past century to welcome and embrace refugees from Ukraine and perhaps even encourage visa-free travel from Ukraine to Canada to this welcoming atmosphere here in Canada?

International Mother Language Day ActPrivate Members' Business

March 31st, 2022 / 5:45 p.m.
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Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Madam Speaker, I spent my youngest days in Edmonton, where the Ukrainian community there was large and vital and heavily engaged. Those Ukrainian folks came over as farmers, and the prosperity that Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba particularly enjoy is in no small measure thanks to their efforts over the years.

In bringing our Ukrainian refugees here, I think that the mechanism of visa-free travel is certainly one that could be used, but I understand that the process that has been put in place would actually work much more quickly and much more effectively to make sure that we are welcoming the best of the best here in Canada and those who really, truly need our protection for the next few years.

International Mother Language Day ActPrivate Members' Business

March 31st, 2022 / 5:45 p.m.
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Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech on the bill.

I look forward to hearing from the member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, especially in a context where we are truly committed to the principle of protecting linguistic diversity and, more importantly, with the number of people reporting French as their mother language in decline. The influence of people whose mother language is French is declining in Canada.

I would like to hear his views on the importance of recognizing these mother languages, particularly French in Quebec.

International Mother Language Day ActPrivate Members' Business

March 31st, 2022 / 5:45 p.m.
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Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Madam Speaker, I absolutely agree with the sentiments of that comment.

After the 2015 election, my wife and I decided that we would buy a home here. It was strategic. After a day at the office, I get to go home and spend some time with my wife, which I would not be able to do back home in Fleetwood—Port Kells because it is very busy any moment we are there. We bought in Aylmer, across the river in Quebec, and we are just absolutely delighted with that community and the richness that it enjoys.

I would also say, and I do not mean this in any kind of derogatory way, that last weekend we rescued a dog on the Quebec side. The dog only understands French, so it is an incentive for us to improve our French at home because this new boy of ours really needs to be understood.

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 / 5:55 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 / 6:05 p.m.
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Blake Desjarlais NDP Edmonton Griesbach, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank all those members who spoke previously in regard to this very important bill. Today happens to be National Indigenous Languages Day, a moment for all of us to truly reflect on what that really means.

Before I get into the proposal for a national mother language day to be established on February 21, I really want members to reflect on what indigenous languages truly mean in Canada. The previous member just spoke about the importance of the French language to the Québécois and how important our languages as indigenous people are, not only to our identity and to who we are as people but also to our future ideas of self-determination. It is rooted in our language. It is rooted in our culture. It is in our society.

However, Canada has a deep history of suppression of languages, whether it is the French language or indigenous languages. This is a reality facing cultures across Canada. Some indigenous people have had their languages completely annihilated. We can think of nations that in some sense, especially during the early 1800s, have been wiped out by famine and by war and in particular by actions by governments.

The United Nations estimates that a language disappears every two weeks, taking with it an entire culture and intellectual heritage—every two weeks. Let us think about that. Every single time, twice a month, a whole language is gone from our planet. Thousands of years of incubation and cultural exchange create something that is truly unique to our species, which is our ability to communicate, our ability to understand one another, and also our ability to make sure we understand our environment around us.

To put that in perspective, the Cree language, the language of the nêhiyaw, meaning Cree people, has a much more profoundly poetic understanding in that language. It actually means “star people”, people from the stars. It tells a story, and that story, if ignored, diminishes all us.

If we think about Canada and we think about indigenous languages, particularly on this day and in light of this proposed bill, we remember that there are 3,000 indigenous languages today that are endangered and at risk of extinction globally. That is 3,000 indigenous languages endangered globally. Why are they endangered? We often do not answer this question. Why? We do not need to look too far behind us in the history of not only this country but the history of imperialism, in particular European imperialism, across the world. This has truly affected how we understand culture, language and heritage across the globe.

By recognizing this day, we are welcoming diversity and inclusion to be embedded in our system and our society. I agree with the hon. members who spoke previously in support of this bill. We need to do far more, though. It is one thing to recognize the languages of cultures. It is one thing to celebrate them. However, it is an entirely different thing to ensure that we put resources, capacity and protections in place, not just here in Canada but across the globe. We have to recognize Canada's international role in the harm that we have done, the legacy of imperialism in Canada, the legacy of imperialism across the globe. It has truly done a great disservice to thousands if not millions of people across the globe.

On May 16, 2007, the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution called upon member states “to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world”.

As an active member of the United Nations, Canada has an obligation and responsibility to commit to this promise. I am very pleased to see that after many attempts to have this bill recognized and have this work truly done in Canada, I agree, as was mentioned by a previous member, that now is the time we must do this. Now is the time we have to understand these implications. However, we have to go far beyond these recognitions.

We truly have to partner with indigenous people. We have to partner with other languages. We have to understand their needs. We have to understand how the community organizes, and we have to be there as true partners.

It is especially important in Canada to recognize mother languages. Indigenous people form the nations of this land. Everyone else has come from a different place. Indigenous people, their languages, their perspectives and their culture are rooted in this territory and in this land. A person cannot go anywhere in Canada without encountering a piece of land that indigenous people have stewarded. There is no group that has come from overseas that can claim this from us. This is indigenous people's land. This is indigenous people's right and we will not allow these languages to die. We will not allow our people to continue to lose so much of what we have survived on and how we have understood this world. We are not going to give up what we believe to be our vision and our self-determination for our future.

Not only does celebrating different languages promote multiculturalism and diversity, but it also encourages a rich development of oral history and a knowledge base that benefits generations to come. Western European societies often rely on intellectual institutions we call libraries, universities and colleges. Sure, those are good institutions. Indigenous people, in particular, and other nations around the world use oral tradition: oral stories. We pass on this knowledge. We pass on these traditions to our young people in a large, unbroken cycle of knowledge.

My grandparents, my kokum and moshom for example, would tell us stories about the residential school. My father would tell us stories about how afraid he was to speak his mother tongue. Can members imagine if, overnight, every single person in this country lost their mother tongue, regardless of what it was? That would have a catastrophic cultural impact on our mosaic here, but this is the true fact that is facing many indigenous nations today. They do not know whether the next generation is truly going to have the tools, the resources or the human alliance that is required of all humans to protect this diversity. If we do not take this seriously, we will lose something for the world: a perspective, a history and a reality. This is what is truly at risk when we are talking about languages.

As a proud, indigenous Cree-Métis person, I especially understand the importance of making sure we preserve oral history, and its importance in making sure our young people have a true future they can recognize themselves in. Being of this land and having indigenous cultures present in all of our communities is a good thing. Whether it is in Quebec, Ontario or British Columbia, indigenous people have marked every single inch of this territory. We cannot continue to neglect that.

Although our official languages may be English and French, they are not languages of North America. They are not from Turtle Island. They come from Europe. That is a fact. We have to recognize that true fact and preserve the identity of North America. We have to preserve our ability to understand this land and the indigenous people who have occupied it, protected it and ensured that it continues.

Today I call on all communities, here in Canada and globally, and all my fellow members of Parliament to take special pride in the linguistically rich and culturally diverse place we all live in. It is truly a gift.

I want to be able to thank my hon. colleagues for their support of this bill. I support this very critical piece of legislation and hope to see it passed swiftly.

International Mother Language Day ActPrivate Members' Business

March 31st, 2022 / 6:15 p.m.
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Kingston and the Islands Ontario


Mark Gerretsen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons (Senate)

Madam Speaker, it is an honour today to rise and speak to this private member's bill that has been through the Senate. I understand that it has been introduced a number of times. I think this is the third attempt. After being passed by the Senate, it has been brought over to our chamber for debate to see if we can get it passed here to establish February 21 as international mother language day.

I think this bill perfectly illustrates and speaks to what Canada is about. I truly appreciate the comments that were made by my NDP colleague prior to this. He so passionately laid out the realities of our country. However, unless someone is of indigenous descent, we have all come to Canada over the last couple hundred years. For whatever reason there may have been at the time, whether to escape war, to seek out a new place to establish and grow a family or to seek refuge from other incidents that were happening throughout the world, Canadians have come here over the last couple hundred years, unless they are of aboriginal descent.

I think this is such a uniquely Canadian bill. We are not the only country that welcomes people from other parts of the world. A lot of people immigrate to the United States. A lot of people immigrate to other countries. However, what makes Canada unique is that when people come here, we make a point of trying to embrace cultural differences.

To go back to the comments that were so passionately and well put by my NDP colleague, we failed miserably as it relates to those who were here before European settlers started to come here. There is no doubt about that, and I think everybody in the House knows we have a tremendous amount of work to do on reconciliation. However, the idea that we embrace culture and that we look to celebrate it truly is uniquely Canadian, in my opinion.

We can look at particular parts of the United States where a lot of people come. There is this concept or idea that they have to conform to American culture. However, when we look at Canada in particular, we embrace this idea of celebrating that diversity, because we recognize that our diversity is what makes us stronger. By building tolerance, building acceptance and encouraging people to be part of Canada, they never forget where they came from. I think when we look at what this bill is attempting to do by designating one day every year specifically to celebrate our unique mother tongues, it is a way and an opportunity to continue to grow and foster those historical and heritage links we have.

I think of my parents, for example. They both immigrated post-World War II in the 1950s. My mother is from Italy and my father is from Holland. They both come from war-torn countries that were trying to rebuild after the Second World War. In both cases, their parents said they were going to move to Canada to look for a new way of life. However, when they came here, as was the case with so many European settlers at that time, they brought their unique mother culture and mother tongue with them.

I have a unique situation in that, if we look at my mother's side of the family, there are seven children and the majority of the children married Italians, so Italian was spoken quite a bit in the household. With the exception of my mother and one other uncle I had, they all married Italians. In my household there was a Dutch father and an Italian mother, so we did not really get to experience the rich culture the way we might have if both parents had come from the same part of the world.

We would look for opportunities. In Kingston, we had Folklore, which was very popular in the 1980s and early 1990s, where different pavilions would be established throughout the city on a weekend as an opportunity to showcase Ukrainian culture, Italian culture, Portuguese culture and various different cultures that were established. It was a way to celebrate their roots. Unfortunately, as time goes on and children are born and generations pass, people end up in a place where they start to lose that link and forget about the rich identity that their grandparents or great-grandparents brought to Canada. The bill gives us an opportunity to look toward how we can re-establish those roots and make sure that they live on for generations to come.

I would be remiss if I did not also talk about the incredible indigenous cultures that we have throughout Canada. Unfortunately, a big stain on Canadian history is that, although we were so willing to embrace cultures from other parts of the world, particularly, as I referenced, European immigrants in the 1950s and more recently Asian immigrants, we did an incredible disservice, an incredible hardship, in trying to eliminate the cultures of indigenous people in Canada.

Although this might be just one tiny step toward that reconciliation, because that reconciliation involves so much, I am really pleased to hear the member who introduced this and indeed just about every member who spoke to this today talk about the importance of using this tool, this opportunity to celebrate those cultural differences, in the context of lifting up indigenous culture as well. As I look back to the 1980s and 1990s, and talk about Folklore in my community, I do not ever remember any indigenous pavilions. They were largely forgotten or at least pushed aside to the point where they did not have the opportunities to continue the culture.

A lot has changed since then. Every March we have Maple Madness in Kingston, it is an opportunity for people to see how maple syrup is made. In recent years there has also been an exhibit on how indigenous people used sap from maple trees. It is by making sure that inclusion is there that we will properly tell the story of Canada, a story of not just over the last couple of hundred years, but the story that goes back thousands of years.

I very much welcome the bill the member for Fleetwood—Port Kells has brought into the House. I understand that it has already passed the Senate. As I indicated, this is the third try. I am certain that the third time will be the time that it passes, having had the opportunity to come before, but in any event, I want to congratulate the member on bringing forward such an important bill that, although it might just talk about establishing one day, if indeed people utilize this properly, it could be an incredible resource and an opportunity for generations to come to showcase the incredible differences that we have and the incredibly various parts of the world that we came from.

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 / 6:30 p.m.
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The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The hon. member will have six minutes left the next time this matter is before the House.

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

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.