International Mother Language Day could become new national holiday

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International Mother Language Day could become new national holiday
WATCH: A senator has introduced a bill that could make Feb. 21, 2021, the first International Mother Language Day recognized as a Canadian holiday – Feb 21, 2020

Senator Mobina Jaffer has introduced Bill S-212 — an act to recognize International Mother Language Day on Feb. 21 as a Canadian holiday.

The United Nations (UN) has recognized International Mother Language Day for 20 years. It said 43 per cent of the world’s 6,000 languages are endangered.

Jaffer said the goal of her bill is to raise awareness and educate Canadians on the importance of languages.

“French and English will always be foundational languages, but in this country, we speak 200 languages,” Jaffer said. “I think that children and adults should be allowed or encouraged to speak more languages.”

There are 63 Indigenous languages in Canada. Cree, Ojibwe and Inuktitut are the only three expected to survive the next 20 years.

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“When I first came to Canada as a refugee, I learned one fact that stayed with me forever — that every time [an] Aboriginal language dies in this country … and many are dying … we are losing a whole culture and we are losing a whole community of people,” Jaffer said.

Randy Morin teaches two Cree language classes and is developing a Cree speaking certificate program at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S).

He said there aren’t many Canadian universities offering classes like his, and the best way to keep a language alive is by speaking it and sharing it with others.

Randy Morin grew up speaking Cree on Big River First Nation. Mandy Vocke / Global News

“Every language is like a world view,” Morin explained.

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Morin said 2019 being recognized as the International Year of Indigenous Languages garnered more support for Indigenous culture. He thinks International Mother Language Day would have a similar impact.

Jaffer will speak more on Bill S-212 in April. She’s hoping it will be approved by the House of Commons by June 2020 but thinks it would be more likely approved in December 2020.

If everything goes as planned, Feb. 21, 2021, will be recognized as International Mother Language Day in Canada.

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