Saturday, 8 December 2007

A death knell for bilingualism? The advent of multilingualism?

Language is a key component of national identity and community. What is to become of Canada when English and French, the languages of the founding people of this country, are no longer the only officially recognized languages? How can a coherent national identity exist let alone bear the pressures that a multilingual state brings? Canada already has a linguistic divide and it almost tore the country apart and it still has the potential to do so. What good is it to encourages the growth and use of other languages in this country?

This is from The Toronto Star.

Lost in translation in the City of Babel

The Toronto area is proudly multilingual. But more than 145 languages can pose problems in our hospitals and courts, which too often rely on unqualified interpreters

Dec 08, 2007 04:30 AM
Lynda Hurst
feature writer

Note the presumptuous use of the word "proudly" as in "the Toronto area is proudly multilingual". First of all Lynda Hurst doesn't know that. In fact nobody can really say that. Any evidence is purely anecdotal. The fact is that the Toronto area is multilingual and nothing more. When a journalist starts using loaded words like "proudly" or phrases like "Canada is an example to the world" as if all the world governments look to Canada for leadership it should tip you off that the article is biased and you will be lectured to. If the Toronto area is "proudly" multilingual and you live in the Toronto area then you should be proud of this fact too. If not then there are many avenues of reeducation for you to follow for your multicultural indoctrination you white trash, racist, English/French only speaking, unCanadian scum of the land.

Linguistically, Toronto is less the tower than the entire city of Babel.

More than 145 languages are spoken here, and 100,000 new immigrants, more than 40 per cent with little or no English, add more dialects and regional variations to the mix every year.

But in all the discussion about multiculturalism in recent decades, the ramifications of multilingualism seem to have fallen off the table – if, that is, they were ever on it.

By now you should be able to see where this piece is going. Even though it concentrates on the lack of qualified interpretors working in such public sector services as health care and law the subtext is that Canada is not meeting the linguistic demands mass immigration is placing upon it. It's Canada's fault yet again but when is it never? Responsibility is removed from the individual immigrant to learn our language and it is shifted to Canadians who are expected to dole out more tax payer dollars to accommodate immigrants who haven't bothered themselves to learn English or French.

Nowhere are the GTA's linguistic demographics more pronounced than in Peel Region's Brampton courthouse. It's the most multilingual in Canada, using more interpreters than any other, by far.

At Brampton, almost 5,000 cases a year require interpreting into Punjabi alone. But dozens of other tongues – from Cantonese, Kurdish, Spanish and Polish to Somali, Tamil and Urdu – are spoken by the witnesses and defendants who process through its courtrooms.

Section 14 of the Charter guarantees them the assistance of an interpreter, but getting one fully capable of doing the job is a hit-or-miss affair.

The chaotic situation had been an open secret in legal circles for years when Superior Court Justice Casey Hill publicly exposed it in November 2005. After conducting his own inquiry, Hill blasted Brampton's routine use of unqualified and unskilled legal interpreters, people who'd either failed or never taken the Attorney-General's accreditation test, a supposed requirement for employment.


Two years on, has the Brampton situation improved?

Not so anyone has noticed.

See what I mean?

With the focus still overwhelmingly on French-English bilingualism, the demands of multilingualism get set aside, says Janczur. According to Ottawa, newcomers should speak either official language. The fact is, she adds, the primary immigrant, likely the husband, will, but the rest of his family will not.

"The attitude seems to be, `They should learn English.' Yes, of course. But that doesn't happen right away."

Diana Abraham, a former citizenship ministry program consultant, says that "something has to be done before something drastic happens." As the Supreme Court has deemed competent interpretation a constitutional right, at least in court, she thinks it should be added to Ontario's Human Rights Code.


Despite the province's radically changed immigration patterns, the multiple-language problem hasn't been met by Queen's Park, says Abraham: "Now we're seeing the consequences. It's a big challenge for Ontario."

What we are seeing are the baby steps towards a multilingual state. The problem with that, as I said at the start, is that language is a key component of communal identity. That's why many immigrants want their children, and their children's children and so on to learn their native language along with English or French. It's about preserving cultural identity through language. Will Canada exist if many languages are competing with each other for cultural dominance? Is it good to see British Columbia divided between Cantonese and Punjabi speakers as the once dominant English language is reduced to minority status - like it is in Vancouver - as other English speakers move away? How is that a good thing? How can national affairs be conducted when offense is easily made when English or French is slighted - or at least perceived to be - and anger erupts?

And the costs. How much more money is Canada to spend on programs it can easily avoid if language was as stressed as we are told it is? How much more money must Canadians spend to compliment an immigration program that estimates suggest costs Canadians over $2 billion dollars a year to service? How much of that money can be recuperated if we reduced immigration numbers and put greater emphasis on language skills? How much of that money can go into health care, pensions, and education? Why is so much money being invested into a program (immigration) of which the alleged benefits are grossly exaggerated and suspect?

How is making the interpretation of English or French into one's native language a human right going to avoid further demands that the expectation to learn English or French is a violation of one's human rights?

The satirical irony of all this, but not not surprising, is that Pierre Trudeau's leftist dogma gave us bilingualism and multiculturalism. It appears that the latter is going to eat the former and it won't stop there. Before you know it English, French, and whites will become minorities in Canada and they will no longer be the perpetrators of discrimination and racism but receivers of it; logging complaints against those who were logging complaints against them many generations ago with the same institutions that were often criticized for restricting free speech and attacking Canadian cultural rights (Human Rights Commissions, the Charter). Now that is irony and exemplary of the lefts "do but don't think things through" way of thinking.

Call me alarmist but I am just exercising what so many on the left, and the right but mostly the left, sorely lack: foresight. Just hope their will be a Lynda Hurst in the future to advocate for the rights of the minority white English or French speaking populations of Canada.

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