AFN asks Ottawa to declare all Aboriginal languages official

37 posts / 0 new
Last post
Struggling
AFN asks Ottawa to declare all Aboriginal languages official

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/afn-asks-ottawa-to-declare-...

 

The indigenous peoples have been asking for this since the time of the B&B Commission which explicitly excluded them. No party has ever taken them seriously before, but I'm hopeful that this will change in the light of reconciliation. Should we establish a new Royal Commission on Language to study this matter? Will Federal parties' policies really change beyond lip service? Your thoughts?

lagatta

I certainly agree with this in principle, and there are several languages spoken widely in northern Québec, but in practical terms what can be done in the case of languages with very few speakers?

Struggling

lagatta wrote:

I certainly agree with this in principle, and there are several languages spoken widely in northern Québec, but in practical terms what can be done in the case of languages with very few speakers?

 

If they still want to keep their language, then provide theit children with education in the language as a first step.

Struggling

Given that the B&B Commission explicitly excluded indigenous peoples from consideration in its recommendations on which today's Constitutional language policies are based, maybe a new Royal Commission on Language would be in order with commissioners who speak a sign language, an indigenous language, or another unofficial language.

 

Let's not forget that hearing and non-indigenous communities have been mistreated too. German and Ukrainian Canadians had their right to send their children to school in their languages confiscated after WWI which has never been returned either. I think requiring all commissioners to know at least one unofficial language, and at least one knowing a sign language, and at least one knowing an indigenous language would be an effective way to counteract the Anglo-French ethnocentrism of the B&B Commission.

Mr. Magoo

So sixty-two languages on my cereal box?  Huh.  I suppose in Quebec, French will have to be the largest of those sixty-two.

I'm not averse to the government funding programs to preserve native languages, but is giving a language spoken by twenty living people the same status as English and French the only way to do it?

Struggling

Mr. Magoo wrote:

So sixty-two languages on my cereal box?  Huh.  I suppose in Quebec, French will have to be the largest of those sixty-two.

I'm not averse to the government funding programs to preserve native languages, but is giving a language spoken by twenty living people the same status as English and French the only way to do it?

 

Given that the TRC has concluded that our Anglo-French-dominated government committed an act of genocide according to the international legal definition of the term (with the qualifier "cultural" preceding it still making it an act of genocide), it should come as no surprise that English and French predominate. The Official Languages Act and the religious and linguistic provisions of the Constitution of Canada only reinforce this injustice. This applies equally to the lack of official recognition for a sign language and the abrogation of German and Ukrainian linguistic rights after WWI.

 

I believe that Chief Bellegarde is an intelligent man who did not seriously intend to suggest that we put sixty languages on cerial boxes, but rather to emphasize that what applies to one ought to apply to all. By implication, we could also interpret his comment to mean that English and French shouldn't be obligatory on cerial boxes, or alternatively that we should adopt the Belgian principle of regional status for each language rather than the present nation-wide status, or alternatively still, an international auxiliary language, or some other means of ensuring the principle of justice whereby the local indigenous language enjoys an at least equal Constitutional status to English and French, whatever that status may be (which could even equate to no status at all).

 

However, to defend the gains (which include the separate school system, the OLA and the English and French provisions of the Constitution of Canada to the exclusion of a Constitutionally and legally at least equal status for the local indigenous language) would make me an accomplice to this act of genocide as defined in international law.

 

Not willing to make myself an accomplice to an act of genocide, I'm therefore left having to choose to defend one of many policies, all of which guarantee an at least equal status for the local indigenous language as is granted to English and French. Anything less would make me an accomplice to an act of genocide as acknowledged by the TRC.

Struggling

But if the government does not know how to accomplish this, then establish a Royal Commission on Religion and Language to re-examine the separate school system and official bilingualism in the light of reconciliation.

Mr. Magoo

Quote:
I believe that Chief Bellegarde is an intelligent man who did not seriously intend to suggest that we put sixty languages on cerial boxes

I'm just going by the link in the OP.

Quote:
Perry Bellegarde, who was elected National Chief of the AFN last fall, agrees it would not be easy to require translations of all indigenous languages to be printed on the sides of cereal boxes and milk cartons.

“That would be the ultimate goal,” Mr. Bellegarde said in an interview on Wednesday at the three-day annual general meeting of the AFN, Canada’s largest indigenous organization.

Struggling

Mr. Magoo wrote:

Quote:
I believe that Chief Bellegarde is an intelligent man who did not seriously intend to suggest that we put sixty languages on cerial boxes

I'm just going by the link in the OP.

Quote:
Perry Bellegarde, who was elected National Chief of the AFN last fall, agrees it would not be easy to require translations of all indigenous languages to be printed on the sides of cereal boxes and milk cartons.

“That would be the ultimate goal,” Mr. Bellegarde said in an interview on Wednesday at the three-day annual general meeting of the AFN, Canada’s largest indigenous organization.

 

"An ultimate goal."

 

So clearly he acknowledges the challenges involved, and that's why I'm convinced that his real intent was to simply say that what the law gives to one it ought to give to all.

Struggling

The principle, not the details.

Struggling

Though I'm convinced many will, intentionally or not, misunderstand him and then come to the conclusion that because we can't put 60+ languages on cerial boxes that we ought to continue to defend the status quo Constitutional policy of Anglo-French dominance.

Mr. Magoo

If he said something he didn't mean, he's free to retract.

Meanwhile, am I supposed to base my own opinion on something that you hope was what he really meant?  Or am I free to go on his words?

Struggling

Mr. Magoo wrote:

If he said something he didn't mean, he's free to retract.

Meanwhile, am I supposed to base my own opinion on something that you hope was what he really meant?  Or am I free to go on his words?

 

If he meant it at face value, then as long as English and French must be printed on cereal boxes, it's only fair that that obligation be extended to each indigenous, language. However one understands it, the principle of justice still applies.

Struggling

But I think it's clear that if he said that, then he's not referring to some lesser status to English and French, but a Constitutionally at least equal one, which is fair.

lagatta

Struggling, Francophone people (Québécois, Acadians and others) have also been oppressed since the Conquest. I most definitely support promoting Indigenous languages (I'm very much involved in Aboriginal cultural activities) but using this important task as a means of undermining the defence of the rights of francophones really isn't cool. Your anglo-french stuff is nonsense, and interested nonsense.

Technology in terms of language study and teaching - and cereal boxes - has evolved by leaps and bounds since the early Commission.

Mr. Magoo

Quote:
But I think it's clear that if he said that, then he's not referring to some lesser status to English and French, but a Constitutionally at least equal one, which is fair.

OK.  Is that different from what I said in post #4?

Struggling

lagatta wrote:

Struggling, Francophone people (Québécois, Acadians and others) have also been oppressed since the Conquest. I most definitely support promoting Indigenous languages (I'm very much involved in Aboriginal cultural activities) but using this important task as a means of undermining the defence of the rights of francophones really isn't cool. Your anglo-french stuff is nonsense, and interested nonsense.

Technology in terms of language study and teaching - and cereal boxes - has evolved by leaps and bounds since the early Commission.

 

I'm well aware that we were oppressed, but English and French are now Constitutionally 100% co-official with a higher prestige status than any other language. They are also equally entrenched in the UN Charter.

 

They are officially unequal in aeronautical and maritime radio communication,  but I would oppose a policy of official bilingualism (or in the light of reconciliation, multilingualism) lest we should risk public safety. There are two ways of establishing equality between languages: you raise the one or lower the other. In the case of international radio communication,  replacing English with an international auxiliary language would probably be the preferred option.

The same at the UN level. Rather than try to inscribe all of Canada's indigenous languages in the UN Charter, calling on the UN to gradually replace English and French with an international auxiliary language would make more sense. 

 

Though there may exist many legitimate ways of achieving official equality between the English and the French on the one hand, and the unofficial linguistic communities on the other, I do believe that if we are sincerely intent on promoting official equality between the English, the French, the Deaf, the indigenous peoples, and other unofficial linguistic communities, that it must be real equality and not a highly prestigious status for some and a token recognition for the others.

Struggling

Mr. Magoo wrote:

Quote:
But I think it's clear that if he said that, then he's not referring to some lesser status to English and French, but a Constitutionally at least equal one, which is fair.

OK.  Is that different from what I said in post #4?

 

I don't think so.

Unionist

Where's Machjo when we need him?

 

Struggling

@lagata, I should have been more precise than to just say "we". I'm a Franco-Ontarian.

Struggling

Unionist wrote:

Where's Machjo when we need him?

 

 

Who's Machjo?

Struggling

I don't see why they can't all be constitutionally equal though.

Struggling

I could possibly see us applying the Belgian model of regional monolingualism but have all documents that apply Canada-wide be translated into all of the languages.

swallow

Official status is what protects certain rights for the two languages in areas where they are in minority status. It's been one of the few things preserving minority-language communities. It's given space for the funding of English-language minority cultural activities in Quebec, boosted the revival of a vibrant "francaskoisie" in Saskatchewan and other francophone communities in other provinces, and been good for everyone (despite the buffoonery of some who didn't want to be subjected to French on their cornflakes box).

Meanwhile indigenous langauges are dying out, and fewer people in "mainstream" society take time to study them than do the same with "Klingon."

Without these languages, nations fade away or least lose priceless parts of their cultural patrimony and heritage. And what is done to preserve them by government? Almost nothing. 

"Official" status would give these languages dignity and symbolic equality, and lead to pressure for resourcing them, which is clearly Perry Bellegarde's point. Making the request also makes a vital point about how indigenous langauges are being permitted to die by indifferent governments. 

Some sort of official status or indigenous languages would make them present and visible as, for instance Welsh has become in Wales. There are many countries that manage to grant status to indigenous languages in ways that are manageable and helpful to those languages and their speakers. I'm sure Canada could manage something. If there are peopel who really want to go to the wall for the purity of their cereal boxes, official language policy can be applied only to the pubklic sector, for instance, or only in designated areas in which certain langauges can be considered indigenous. There are many options. 

One possible path is phased improvements available to indigenous-langauge speakers - see for instance what Nunavut mapped out for its third official language, at http://langcom.nu.ca/node/40

Pondering

Struggling wrote:

I don't see why they can't all be constitutionally equal though.

Because it's impratical. The government has a legal obligation to provide services in French and English. There aren't enough qualified people to translate all government documents into 60 indigenous languages so it can't be made a legal obligation. I doubt the smaller groups want to spend a lifetime translating documents and not even get through 1% of them. What would be the point?

"The same" is not equal when people have different needs. For the languages with few speakers the recording of elders by linguists and historians is urgent. Some of the languages are in common use, never went away. Others are in the process of revival.

It would make more sense to direct funds to actual practical needs. For example, indigenous people could form an organization whose responsibility it would be to focus on the languages, their growth or demise, and providing services to any indigenous person that needed help due to the language barrier. (all funded by the federal government) I'm sure there are already existing groups working on languages. I am just talking about something better funded and more unified.

A common language already exists. It is called Esperanto and it is in widespread use. Nevertheless English will remain the common language because it is already established as such. Throughout the world air traffic controllers speak English. It is the language of business and science. Most indigenous broadcasts are in English. The internet is overwhelmingly English. Kids are going to want to learn it. You can't roll back the clock.

 

 

 

Struggling

Sorry Pondering, but was talking more about long term goals as Bellegarde was certainly discussing when he mentioned all languages on cereal boxes. For the short to medium term you are correct, but for the long term unless they have complete equality eventually the assimilation process will continue.

 

We can see how even a Constitutionally equal status for French is insufficient when it is not equal in some international organizations.

Struggling

But I think the cereal box comment makes it clear that he is looking for eventual Constitutional linguistic equality of some kind and we have an obligation to explore how to eventually accomplish this in the long term.

Struggling

I should point out that I'd also understood the Chief's comments to refer to a seventy-year time span or similar. To me this is natural since I usually do think of policy matter in such terms.

 

Given that most Canadians across the political spectrum tend to think along a four to five year time span, it's natural that the Chief's comments might go right over most Canadians' heads, them concluding that there is no way we could implement his recommendation within the next government mandate.

 

In terms of five-year time spans, maybe just implementing Jean Charest's recommendation that Federal government offices in Quebec submit to Bill 101 would be a good first step. Right now, the Federal government imposes two languages on unofficial linguistic communities,  whereas the Quebec Government imposes only one.

 

This way, indigenous and other non-Anglo linguistick communities on Quebec would need to learn only French to access Federal government employment, especially given that many indigenous Quebecers don't know English, a required knowledge of which gives Anglo Quebecers an unfair advantage.

abnormal

Putting the question of "sixty languages on cereal boxes" aside, what would this mean in terms of the legal system?  Would that require all laws to be translated into each of those sixty languages?

Struggling

abnormal wrote:

Putting the question of "sixty languages on cereal boxes" aside, what would this mean in terms of the legal system?  Would that require all laws to be translated into each of those sixty languages?

I guess that would depend on how exactly we intend to achieve Constitutional linguistic equality:

 

No official language like in the USA.

 

Regional recognition for languages like in Belgium.

 

An auxiliary language like Esperanto.

 

Universal multilingualism like in Canada now but for more languages.

 

These are just some possibilities alone or in combination, in the long term.

 

In the short term, we could start by granting a request Charest once made, that Bill 101 apply to federal institutions in Quebec.

Struggling

But considering that Canada has been found to have committed genocide, I think we owe it to promote Constitutional linguistic equality in one way or another. Anything less essentially would make us accomplices in defending the linguistic gains acquired from an act of genocide. 

Struggling

Details aside, the principle of justice that the Chief expressed makes  it perfectly reasonable for him to request nothing less than an equal status for the indigenous languages eventually and for us to start taking small steps in that direction.

MegB

Mr. Magoo wrote:

So sixty-two languages on my cereal box?  Huh.  I suppose in Quebec, French will have to be the largest of those sixty-two.

I'm not averse to the government funding programs to preserve native languages, but is giving a language spoken by twenty living people the same status as English and French the only way to do it?

Many people speak the languages but aren't considered fluent. Oneida Nation has 90 fluent speakers of Oneida, but many speak it without complete fluency, for example. The official language status wouldn't belong to Canada, but to the nations of the orginal peoples. Since many of those nations don't recognize Canada as a nation, and the Canadian state doesn't recognize First Nations as geopolitical entities, there is obviously an impasse.

lagatta

It might also be interesting to see how other states in the Americas approach this issue.

I agree that at least some of this loss was due to DELIBERATE cultural genocide and not just a more powerful language being a magnet.

By the way, there are a hell of a lot of languages on products in the European Union. I have to take a magnifying glass, and I have good vision for a person my age.

Struggling

MegB wrote:

Mr. Magoo wrote:

So sixty-two languages on my cereal box?  Huh.  I suppose in Quebec, French will have to be the largest of those sixty-two.

I'm not averse to the government funding programs to preserve native languages, but is giving a language spoken by twenty living people the same status as English and French the only way to do it?

Many people speak the languages but aren't considered fluent. Oneida Nation has 90 fluent speakers of Oneida, but many speak it without complete fluency, for example. The official language status wouldn't belong to Canada, but to the nations of the orginal peoples. Since many of those nations don't recognize Canada as a nation, and the Canadian state doesn't recognize First Nations as geopolitical entities, there is obviously an impasse.

 

There's an impasse if we think of Canada as a bi-national state. We can easily overcome the impasse if we think of it as a multinational state.

 

I think Indonesia, for all of its imperfections, can still teach us a lot on how to manage so many indigenous languages within one state.

swallow

Indonesia doesn't grant those languages official status, though (plus it's hands are not exactly clean on minority rights). India does, up to a point. 

Elsewhere in the world:

Quote:
Twenty-seven years ago, the Indigenous peoples of Hawai’i had only 50 surviving fluent speakers. Today, their education system supports Language Nests and Immersion Programs. Their language and culture is taught in all grade levels, and into college and university programs – from early childhood education to PhD. They now have more than 10,000 fluent Hawaiian speakers.

[url=http://www.afn.ca/uploads/files/national_aboriginal_languages_day_march_... statement on Aboriginal Languages Day, 2013 (pdf)[/url]

Mexico has no official languages, but grants rights under law to 69 national languages, including Spanish. This is under a law passed in 2003. Canada could learn, if Canadians were not so navel-gazing as to ignore examples from outside the USA and western Europe. [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_Mexico]Wikipedia on language law in Mexico[/url]

Here are the relevant section from the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the one the Canadian left attacked the Harper government for opposing for many years):

Quote:
Article 13 1. Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literatures, and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places and persons. 2. States shall take effective measures to ensure that this right is protected and also to ensure that indigenous peoples can understand and be understood in political, legal and administrative proceedings, where necessary through the provision of interpretation or by other appropriate means. Article 14 1. Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning. 2. Indigenous individuals, particularly children, have the right to all levels and forms of education of the State without discrimination. 3. States shall, in conjunction with indigenous peoples, take effective measures, in order for indigenous individuals, particularly children, including those living outside their communities, to have access, when possible, to an education in their own culture and provided in their own language.

[url=http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/DRIPS_en.pdf]UNDRIP pdf[/url]

Finally, as an aside, the National Post has the least "Save Our Cereal" rhetoric. [url=http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/joseph-quesnel-focus-on-realis... right-winger makes a case that agrees with the Truth and Reconciliations Commission's call for an Aboriginal Language Act.[/url]

swallow

[url=http://www.cbc.ca/news/making-indigenous-languages-official-in-canada-1.... all 60 indigenous languages spoken in Canada official, along with English and French, is entirely doable, according to a University of Victoria expert. (podcast)[/url]