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.