2nd Session, 43rd Parliament
Volume 152, Issue 51
Thursday, June 17, 2021
The Honourable George J. Furey, Speaker
International Mother Language Day Bill
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer moved third reading of Bill S-211, An Act to establish International Mother Language Day.
She said: Honourable senators, I am really proud today to rise to speak to the third reading of Bill S-211, an Act to establish International Mother Language Day.
I want to take this opportunity to thank Senator Petitclerc and the Social Affairs Committee for really working hard and even sitting on a Friday to study this bill. I truly appreciate all the work you did to make this possible.
This day is a way to celebrate, honour and recognize Canadians across the country who proudly speak their mother language.
Honourable senators, all this bill will be doing is declaring February 21 as the mother language day.
International Mother Language Day is a day dedicated to celebrating and acknowledging the value and importance of being able to communicate freely, openly and proudly in the mother language of our choice.
Last week, as the sponsor of Bill S-211, I was so delighted to testify alongside Dr. Monjur Chowdhury, founding Executive Director at Pro-active Education for All Children’s Enrichment, and Jocelyn Formsma, Executive Director at the National Association of Friendship Centres.
In my testimony at committee, I shared from briefings submitted to the committee. I read the powerful words of Anushua Nag, legislative assistant to Senator Dalphond, who spoke about being a child of immigrants from Bangladesh and how the French, English and Sylheti languages formed key parts of her identity, and that she is proud of all those identities and celebrates them.
I also shared the sentiments from a Grade 9 student, Ayaan Jeraj, who speaks French, English, Spanish and Gujarati. Ayaan spoke about the importance of this bill, in that it will allow young people to carry forward the fight for recognition and celebration of all mother tongue languages in Canada.
Honourable senators, at its core, Bill S-211 is about acknowledging the ways mother tongue languages and multilingualism strengthen Canada’s diverse and multicultural society. As we strive for this idea, it is important that we remember, in the 2011 census, more than 60 Indigenous languages were reported, but only 14.5% of First Nations members still had Indigenous language as their mother tongue. In 2016, the number of Indigenous languages reported was more than 70. More than 33 of those languages were spoken by at least 500 individuals. Some were spoken by as few as six people.
It is truly heart-rending to see so many Indigenous languages disappear. Every time a language disappears, we lose a part of our identity.
Honourable senators, you have heard me speak about the mother language bill over many years. It has now reached third reading. At the end of third reading, may I humbly ask you to support this bill. Thank you very much, senators.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.