Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

3rd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 147, Issue 64

Tuesday, November 16, 2010
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Language Education

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, a few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending the Southern Alberta Heritage Language Association’s International Languages Symposium in Calgary, Alberta. This year, the language association celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary. For a quarter of a century, this organization has been working hard to lead, advocate and provide resources for the promotion of international and heritage languages education.

During my time in Calgary, I had the opportunity to meet with members of the Canadian Languages Association, which is a national umbrella organization that promotes international languages education.

During our meeting, we discussed the fact that multiculturalism and multilingualism are the strength and heart of our Canadian society. We also reflected on how multiculturalism and multilingualism promote peace, cooperation and respect for one another, both nationally and internationally.

Honourable senators, we are blessed to live in a country that welcomes people from all walks of life and embraces difference and diversity. Throughout my life I have travelled to many parts of the world. I have been fortunate enough to be able to learn many languages. This learning, to me, is not simply an accomplishment that I take pride in; it is part of my identity. It is who I am.

By failing to preserve heritage languages, we are doing a great disservice to our children, for we are robbing them of an important piece of their individuality and identity. Language education has an important role to play in strengthening Canada’s identity as a multicultural nation by providing an inter-cultural perspective on our country through language learning and appreciation.

Language education serves an even greater role in the trading world in which we live. If trade creates opportunities that promote the growth of our country, then we must develop and sustain our capacity to engage in conversations and develop relationships with our global trading partners.

We need to prepare our children to learn more languages. Building a truly multi-linguistic society means educating our citizens and creating the opportunities needed in order for them to play an important role for Canada in the future. Through the promotion of language education, we extend the limits of our understanding to include a global community and we increase our capacity to play an important role in shaping the future at home and abroad.

Honourable senators, there is a growing need to embrace a linguistic plurality. Canada’s identity is made up of a mosaic of languages and cultures, all combining to form a unique and vibrant multicultural community. We need to prepare our children for the new world, a world where children speak three to four languages. Most of our children do not.

Honourable senators, we have much work to do.