Each time I see my grandchildren, it makes me so happy to speak to them in English, French, and my mother tongue of Gujarati. It is beautiful to see them embrace Canada’s official languages as well as my language. This is not just my story, but the story of Canadians across our country: our family’s heritage languages are core to our identity.
Canada has a long history of accepting diversity, it is our strength as a nation. However, as part of this national dialogue we often overlook the many heritage languages spoken here. The German government goes out of its way to make sure children of German descent do not lose their important language by subsidizing Saturday classes in Canada. In addition to our official languages of French and English, indigenous languages, over other 200 languages are spoken in our great country. From my own family in Vancouver, our languages include Gujarati, French, English, Spanish, and Swahili.
Across the country, families bring with them the languages of many cultures, a neat assortment settled under each Canadian roof. The beauty of this country is that we as citizens feel comfortable having continuity in educating our next generations.
In spite of being home to over 200 languages, Canadians struggle to find language teachers and support in promoting the continuity of heritage languages. It is not simply the protection of a family’s past, but rather an embracing of their future: Continuity in heritage language allows for better communication around the world.
All three levels of Canadian government should do more to protect heritage languages. I strongly believe that Canada would greatly benefit if Canadians received support in their efforts to protect their heritage languages. By acknowledging and appreciating our heritage, we move with more strength into our future.
Heritage languages are at the core of what makes Canadians diverse, and in turn what makes us strong as a nation. It is because of this that I hope that we can begin to have a constructive dialogue about what role government can play in supporting the protection and continuity of all these languages.
The protection of language is a matter of protecting our heritage. Please send me your feedback on what you think our government can do to better protect our heritage.
By Senator Mobina S. B. Jaffer