FATAH: The census battle over mother tongues

Not sure to which extent the campaign mentioned by Fatah makes a difference. 2016 Census reported 502,700 Punjabi speakers, 211,995 Urdu:

There are times when one wonders if the policy of multiculturalism is a value worth enshrining as a Canadian value or whether it’s a time bomb that is slowly eroding the foundations of our country.

Where once we had to bring the Quebecois and Anglo Canadians together and bridge the Protestant-Catholic divide, today we are facilitating endless petty schisms among new Canadians, matters often seeped in the very hostility they escaped.

Source: FATAH: The census battle over mother tongues

The Pandemic Imperiled Non-English Speakers In A Hospital

Of note, both the findings and the measures the hospital took to address the problem:

In March, just weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic, the incident command center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston was scrambling to understand this deadly new disease. It appeared to be killing more black and brown patients than whites. For Latino patients, there was an additional warning sign — language.

Patients who didn’t speak much, if any, English had a 35% greater chance of death.

Clinicians who couldn’t communicate clearly with patients in the hospital’s COVID units noticed it was affecting outcomes.

“We had an inkling that language was going to be an issue early on,” says Dr. Karthik Sivashankar, the Brigham’s then medical director for quality, safety and equity. “We were getting safety reports saying language is a problem.”

Sivashankar dove into the records, isolating and layering the unique characteristics of each of the patients who died: their race, age, gender and whether they spoke English.

“That’s where we started to really discover some deeper, previously invisible inequities,” he says.

Inequities that weren’t about race alone.

Hospitals across the country are reporting higher hospitalizations and deaths for Black and Latino patients as compared to whites. Black and brown patients may be more susceptible because they are more likely to have a chronic illness that increases the risk of serious COVID. But when the Brigham team compared Black and brown patients to white patients with similar chronic illnesses, they found no difference in the risk of death from COVID.

But a difference did emerge for Latino patients who don’t speak English.

That sobering realization helped them home in on a specific health disparity, think about some possible solutions, and begin a commitment to change.

“That’s the future,” says Sivashankar.

Identifying the mortality risk is just the first step

But first, the Brigham had to unravel this latest example of a life threatening health disparity. It started outside the hospital, in lower-income communities within and just outside Boston, where the coronavirus spread quickly among many native Spanish speakers who live in close quarters with jobs they can’t do from home.

Some avoided coming to the hospital until they were very sick, because they didn’t trust the care in big hospitals or feared detection by immigration authorities. Nevertheless, just weeks into the pandemic, COVID patients who spoke little English began surging into Boston hospitals, including Brigham and Women’s.

” We were frankly not fully prepared for that surge,” says Sivashanker. “We have really amazing interpreter services, but they were starting to get overwhelmed.”

“In the beginning, we didn’t know how to act, we were panicking,” says Ana Maria Rios-Velez, a Spanish-language interpreter at the Brigham.

Rios-Velez remembers searching for words to translate this new disease and experience for patients. When called to a COVID patient’s room, interpreters were confused about whether they could go in, and how close they should get to a patient. Some interpreters say they felt disposable in the early days of the pandemic, when they weren’t given adequate personal protective equipment.

When she had PPE, Rios-Velez says she still struggled to gain a patient’s trust from behind a mask, face shield and gown. For safety, many interpreters were urged to work from home. But speaking to patients over the phone created new problems.

“It was extremely difficult, extremely difficult,” she says. “The patients were having breathing issues. They were coughing. Their voices were muffled.”

And Rios-Velez couldn’t look her patients in the eye to put them at ease and try to build a connection.

“It’s not only the voice, sometimes I need to see the lips, if smiling,” she says. “I want them to see the compassion in me.”

Adding interpreters and telemedicine tech

The Brigham responded by adding more interpreters and buying more iPads so that remote workers could see patients. The hospital purchased amplifiers to raise the volume of the patient’s voice above the beeps and machines humming in an ICU. The Mass General Brigham network is piloting the use of interpreters available via video in primary care offices. A study found lower use of telemedicine visits by Spanish-speaking patients as compared to white patients during the pandemic.

The Brigham’s goal is that every patient who needs an interpreter will get one. Sivashankar says that happens now for most patients who make the request. The bigger challenge, he says, is including an interpreter in the care of patients who may need the help but don’t ask for it.

In the midst of the first surge, interpreters also became translators for the hospital’s website, information kiosks, COVID safety signs and brochures.

“It was really tough. I got sick and had to take a week off,” saysYilu Ma, the Brigham’s director of interpreter services.

Mass General Brigham is now expanding a centralized translation service for the entire hospital network.

Seeing the inequities within the hospital workforce

Brigham and Women’s analytics team uncovered other disparities. Lower-paid employees were getting COVID more often than nurses and doctors. Sivashankar says there were dozens of small group meetings with medical assistants, transport workers, security staff and those in environmental services where he shared the higher positive test rates and encouraged everyone to get tested.

“We let them know they wouldn’t lose their jobs,” if they had to miss work, Sivashankar says. And he, along with managers, told these employees “that we realize you’re risking your life just like any other doctor of nurse is, every single day you come to work.”

Some employees complained of favoritism in the distribution of PPE, which the hospital investigated. To make sure all employees were receiving timely updates as pandemic guidance changed, the Brigham started translating all coronavirus messages into Spanish and other languages, and sending them via text, which people who are on the move all day are more likely to read. The Mass General Brigham system offered hardship grants of up to $1,000 for employees with added financial pressures, such as additional child care costs.

Angelina German, a hospital housekeeper with limited English, says she appreciates getting updates via text in Spanish, as well as in-person COVID briefings from her bosses.

“Now they’re more aware of us all,” German says through an interpreter, “making sure people are taking care of themselves. ”

Moving beyond the hospital walls to address disparities

The hospital also set up testing sites in some Boston neighborhoods with high coronavirus infection rates, including neighborhoods where many employees live and were getting infected. At least one of those sites now offers COVID vaccinations.

“No one has to be scheduled, you don’t need insurance, you just walk up and we can test you,” explained Dr. Christin Price during a visit to one of the testing sites last fall. It was located in the parking lot of Brookside Community Health Center, in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood.

Nancy Santiago left the testing site carrying a free 10-pound bag of fruits and vegetables, which she’ll share with her mother. Santiago said she’s grateful for the help.

“I had to leave my job because of [lack of] daycare, and it’s been pretty tough,” she said, “but you know, we gotta keep staying strong and hopefully this is over sooner rather than later.”

The Brigham recently opened a similar indoor operation at the Strand Theater in Dorchester. Everyone who comes for a coronavirus test is asked if they have enough to eat, if they can afford their medications, whether they need housing assistance and if they’re registered to vote.

The bags of free food, and the referrals to social support, are evidence of a debate playing out about the role hospitals will play, outside their walls, to curb health disparities rooted in racism.

“Poverty and social determinants of health needs are not going away any time soon, and so if there’s a way to continue to serve the communities, I think that would be tremendous,” says Price, who helped organize the Brigham’s community testing program.

Mass General Brigham leaders say they’ll take what they’ve learned dissecting disparities during the COVID-19 pandemic, and expand the remedies across the hospital network.

“Many of the issues that were identified during the COVID equity response are unfortunately pretty universal issues that we need to address, if we’re going to be an anti-racist organization and one that promotes equity strongly as one of our core strategies,” says Tom Sequist, chief of patient experience and equity for Mass General Brigham.

The Brigham’s work on health disparities comes, in part, out of a collaboration with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), and included a focus on gathering, analyzing and tracking data.

“There’s a lot of defensive routines into which we slip as clinicians, that the data can help cut through and reveal that there are some biases in your own practice,” explains IHI President and CEO Dr. Kedar Mate.

“If we don’t name and start to talk about racism and how we intend to dismantle it or undo it,” Mate adds, “we’ll continue to place Band-Aids on the problem and not actually tackle the underlying causes.”

But has the Brigham’s work lowered the risk of death from COVID for Spanish-speaking patients? The hospital hasn’t updated the analysis yet, and even when it does, determining whether (or how) the interventions worked will be hard to prove, Sivashankar says.

“It’s never going to be as simple as ‘We just didn’t give them enough iPads or translators and that was the only problem,’ and now that we’ve given that, we’ve shown that the mortality difference has gone away,” said Sivashankar.

But Sivashankar says more interpreters, iPads, and better messaging to non-English speaking employees, plus all the other steps the Brigham has taken during COVID have improved both the patient and employee experience. That, he says, counts as a success, while work on the next layer of discrimination continues.

Source: The Pandemic Imperiled Non-English Speakers In A Hospital

Time for widespread gender-neutral language in federal policy, legislation, say advocates

Of note:

The very act of not being included in government policy is discriminatory, says Estefan Cortes-Vargas, former Alberta MLA, diversity consultant, and one of the first openly non-binary people elected in Canada, referring to the sparse use of gender-neutral language. It’s an issue the federal government says it’s trying to fix, piece by piece.

This area has recently been a focus for the B.C. government, with sweeping changes made to more than 70 laws and regulations in March, replacing 600 clauses with gender-neutral terms.

According to Ravi Kahlon, B.C.’s minister of jobs, economic recovery, and innovation, these changes were made in an effort to increase accessibility.

Sherwin Modeste, executive director of Pride Toronto, praised the changes as very progressive but said it’s something that still needs to be done federally, “because federal legislation carries weight through all the provinces and territories.”

However, the federal justice department told The Hill Times in an email statement that it has been implementing gender-neutral language, albeit in a “piecemeal” fashion.

“Over the years, the practice has evolved with the use of ‘they’ and its other grammatical forms and other drafting techniques in the English version of Acts. New acts are drafted using these techniques. When existing Acts are amended the drafters will, whenever possible, update the wording of the provisions that are being changed to reflect existing drafting conventions,” Justice Canada spokesperson Ian McLeod wrote.

In French, a gendered language, there are grammatical rules that could affect legislative language, he said. The department is studying this area, with the review being undertaken by departmental “jurilinguists.”

“The use of inclusive language acknowledges and values human diversity, and recognizes that individuals have differing experiences, values, beliefs, and lifestyles,” Women and Gender Equality Canada spokesperson Maja Stefanovska said in an email.

While she didn’t specify if they’re being followed, Ms. Stefanovska said the Translation Bureau has linguistic recommendations on inclusive correspondence in French.

While the English side of things generally has gender neutral replacements, like “spouse” for husband and wife, and “they” for he or she, French’s analogues are gendered, said Lee Airton, assistant professor of gender and sexuality studies in education at Queen’s University.

“It is an entirely different process to create gender neutral law and policy in French … it would be much more difficult, but no less necessary,” they said.

Practically speaking, Hélène Frohard-Dourlent, a bilingual senior strategist at gender consulting firm TransFocus, said one possible strategy is adding a dot before the final “e” in a word to indicate both masculine and feminine forms as well as the possibility of other grammatical genders. Another method is to rephrase sentences, they said, like switching “Alex is happy” to “Alex is a happy person” thus preventing happy from being tied to the person’s gender.

“And then, inevitably, if you are committed to neutral or inclusive French, you have to invent some new words and some new endings that are themselves going to be more inclusive,” they said.

The problem with this, Dr. Frohard-Dourlent noted, is that these words have to be socialized to the point where readers will actually understand them.

As for what these terms might look like, Joel Harnest, co-executive director of QMUNITY, an LGBTQ+ resource centre, said that cues should be taken from French-speaking trans folk, who can share the emerging language and phrases.

He also noted that not everything should be gender neutral. While it makes sense for certain words like husband or wife, he said that there is still a need for gender-based language when “you need to specifically call attention to or talk about a certain gender experience.” As an example, he pointed towards policy around gender-based violence.

“If we move too fast to this utopian ideal of a genderless future, we’re not really acknowledging the reality that those people have to live,” Mr. Harnest said.

Overall though, Liana Cusmano, who is interim president of the Green Party and uses they/them pronouns, says they’re receptive to the current approach for changing terminology.

“I think that’s definitely a good place to start, which is to slowly do revisions and then, when drafting new material, to apply the agenda … I don’t think that it would be a good idea to rush,” they said, adding that relying on people practiced in those legislative areas along with consultation with inclusive experts would be the best approach.

Their own party is in the process of implementing gender-neutral language in both English and French. The Liberal Party, according to spokesperson Braeden Caley, also uses gender-inclusive language, with regular policy and document review. The NDP and Conservative Party did not respond to requests for comment on their parties’ approach.

Jade Pichette, Pride at Work Canada’s manager of programs, said that there has been a lot of effort already made to move towards more inclusive language, such as changes to the style guides of the Public Service Alliance Canada—the federal government’s largest public-service union.

“Some of that work has already been done, it’s just being done on a subtle basis, where it isn’t a news story, where it isn’t necessarily picked up in the media, because we use they/them pronouns in our speech naturally,” they said. “We will just read through the document without even considering it.”

But even though some changes may happen without fanfare, they’re still critical according to inclusion experts.

Gender-neutral language has significant benefits, diversity experts say

“The very act of not being included in policy is discriminatory,” Mx. Cortes-Vargas said.

Mx. Pichette pointed towards the need to represent everybody who lives in Canada, including non-binary, agender, and two-spirit people “as a matter of respect but also as recognition of their lives.”

This broader representation, Mx. Airton said, not only has a symbolic impact, but also a practical one in terms of making policy and governance more accurate for the public and professionals. And, if there is no gendered language in a piece of policy, they said, then gender becomes less necessary to think about in a particular context.

“Gender, knowing if someone’s a man or woman, isn’t always relevant and can actually be a distraction because people use their common sense or folk knowledge about what men and women do or want to inform their decision making without realizing what they’re doing.’”

There may even be an impact on employers, Mx. Pichette said, with government stances influencing the polices and procedures of businesses.

According to Vandana Juneja, executive director of Catalyst, a women’s workplace advocacy group, this type of inclusion brings practical benefits to organizations, from enhanced financial performance to improved employee engagement and innovation.

On a more personal level, for Mx. Cortes-Vargas this sort of change would make it easier to navigate systems. For instance, when they go to the bank or fill out forms they have to pick gendered slots.

“They’ll say you have to pick one. And it’s like ‘no, I don’t—this is your problem, this isn’t my problem’ … I can’t go through and just fill out a form without having to negotiate existing in that space,” they said.

The benefit to changing these systems and writing things into policy would be a reduction of barriers, instead of continually having to ask if there’s room for them and having to get exceptions made, they said.

With gender-neutral language, Mx. Cusmano said they feel seen. While it’s difficult to put into words, the impact, they said, is huge and helps to build trust and effective collaboration.

“Gender identity is real to individuals and it has real impacts on their well-being,” they said.

Kai Scott, president of TransFocus, said the pervasive gendering of systems has significant impacts, with this “systemic exclusion” adversely affecting both mental and physical health and causing non-binary people to wonder if they’re important enough to be recognized in official documentation. “And the key thing is that if they have support and they’re affirmed, their social determinants go through the roof, they’re so positively impacted,” he said.

Mr. Modeste tied this to the economy. With more people comfortable and ready to get out there and work, the burden on society is reduced, he said. Respecting people’s gender identity is critical to alleviating these sorts of long-term impacts, he continued.

For him, gender-neutral language allows for authentic expression. In his case, having been married and lived part of the “straight life,” he said that if he had seen more gay men represented in the world when he was growing up his life would’ve been very different “in a positive way.”

Lawyer Raj Anand, a partner at WeirFoulds LLP with practice in constitutional law, pointed towards the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and its emphasis on gender equality, noting that implementing gender-neutral language would also put into action the promise the Charter was designed to have.

“When the federal government takes [gender-neutral language] on, it sends a huge signal to others, as well as internally,” Mr. Scott said. “It’s really important for employees that work for the federal government to see this change, and if it affects them personally, they benefit from it.”

“But then also for those who it doesn’t impact, they might go, ‘oh well, why is this happening?’ And then we can have conversations about the benefits of gender-neutral language just to bring everybody along on this journey that’s so important for a variety of people.”

Source: Time for widespread gender-neutral language in federal policy, legislation, say advocates

Les immigrants auront peu d’incidence sur le déclin du français au Québec

More demystification:

Deux nouvelles études mettent en lumière les défis auxquels fait face la langue française au Québec. Elles confirment le recul net anticipé du poids des francophones au Québec d’ici une quinzaine d’années — et cela, peu importe les efforts déployés pour accueillir plus d’immigrants parlant français —, de même que l’importance que prend l’anglais en milieu de travail.

Dévoilées lundi après-midi par l’Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF), ces études viennent étoffer des données contenues dans le grand Rapport sur l’évolution de la situation linguistique, publié en avril 2019, et dans une étude de Statistique Canada publiée en 2017.

Pas de grande surprise par rapport aux constats, donc, mais les conclusions « confirment ce que plusieurs études ont montré — le français décline », commentait lundi Myriam D’Arcy, directrice générale de la Fondation Lionel-Groulx, qui s’intéresse de près à ce dossier. « Il est temps d’agir : on attend impatiemment le projet de loi » que doit déposer le gouvernement Legault pour mettre à jour la Charte de la langue française.

La première étude s’appuie sur les Projections linguistiques pour le Canada, 2011-2036. Ce rapport prévoit notamment une diminution importante de la part de la population utilisant le français à la maison (de 82 % en 2011 à 75 % d’ici 2036).

L’OQLF a demandé aux chercheurs de Statistique Canada d’étudier différents scénarios — touchant tous la composition de l’immigration — pour mesurer s’ils auraient un effet sur la part relative du français dans les différentes catégories habituelles (langue maternelle, principale langue d’usage à la maison, etc.). Résultat ? Les « scénarios auraient somme toute un effet assez limité sur l’accroissement du poids démographique de la population québécoise de langue française », notent les chercheurs.

Même un scénario « théorique peu probable » qui ferait en sorte que 100 % des immigrants du volet économique (c’est Québec qui assure leur sélection) seraient originaires de pays francophones « ne permettrait de faire progresser que marginalement les différents indicateurs du français ».

L’OQLF conclut donc elle aussi que « le poids des francophones de langue maternelle et celui des personnes dont le français est la langue parlée le plus souvent à la maison diminueront d’ici 2036 ». Dans le premier cas, on parle d’un recul d’au moins sept points de pourcentage ; dans le second, d’au moins six points.

Au travail

Pour l’étude Langues utilisées dans diverses situations de travail au Québec en 2018, l’OQLF a mandaté une firme de sondage pour qu’elle éclaircisse qui parle anglais au travail et pour quelles raisons. L’Office s’est gardé d’établir des comparatifs ou de commenter la situation.

Sur l’île de Montréal — là où se concentrent les questions liées à la protection du français —, 53 % des travailleurs parlent surtout français au travail, alors que près de 19 % utilisent surtout l’anglais. Le quart des travailleurs passent d’une langue à l’autre.

Pourquoi ? Près de la moitié (49 %) des répondants qui utilisent au moins régulièrement l’anglais le font pour « offrir un service à la clientèle du Québec ». Parmi les autres raisons mentionnées régulièrement, il y a notamment le fait que des « collègues préfèrent utiliser » l’anglais (25 %).

Source: Les immigrants auront peu d’incidence sur le déclin du français au Québec

Conservatives Back Bloc Québécois Push To Make French The Mandatory Language For Quebec Immigrants

Pandering. Quebec already selects its economic class immigrants where it sets language criteria. Citizenship is exclusive federal jurisdiction which the Conservatives know and should respect. And the “decline” of French is more a myth than reality as it pertains to the language most often spoken at home, where immigrant languages have increased rather than English (see André Pratte’s https://montrealgazette.com/opinion/opinion-questioning-whether-french-is-in-decline-should-not-be-heresy):

Conservatives MPs voted nearly unanimously with Bloc Québécois members Wednesday in favour of making French the mandatory language for all immigrants to Quebec.

Bloc MP Sylvie Bérubé’s private member’s bill, however, was defeated — 147 in favour to 172 against — with the Liberals, NDP and Green Party members opposed.

In a statement, the Bloc accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly of failing to act to counter the decline of the French language in Quebec. “[They] have a big credibility deficit,” MP Mario Beaulieu, the Bloc’s critic for official languages declared.

Last week, Joly proposed several new measures to achieve what the government calls “substantive equality” of both official languages. Among the proposals, the federal Liberals proposed giving workers employed by companies under federal jurisdictions in Quebec the right to work in French, as well as those in other regions of the country with a strong francophone presence.

Right now, the Citizenship Act states that applicants aged 18 to 54 must demonstrate an adequate knowledge of one of the official languages of Canada before obtaining citizenship. The Bloc campaigned in 2019 to change the law so that those residing in Quebec need to demonstrate only knowledge of French.

The bill also suggested that anyone 18 to 65 should have to demonstrate their language capability.

Several dozen Grit MPs sought to register their objection to the bill en français.

Over on the Conservative side, less French was spoken but all but one vote — New Brunswick MP John Williamson — lined up with the Bloc.

Ontario MP Marilyn Gladu, who registered her support in French, told HuffPost Canada there are about 8,000 francophones in her Sarnia–Lambton riding, and they’re seeking a bilingual designation from the province to obtain French-language services in the region. “This is an important issue,” she said.

“I think it is important to protect the French language in Canada, especially in Quebec.”

As someone who previously travelled frequently to Quebec for work, Gladu said, she believes receiving services in French is particularly important.

“Our party supports strengthening the French language in Canada,” she said, “and we would like to see this bill go to committee.”

British Columbia MP Dan Albas told HuffPost Canada that he had concerns about the bill’s changing the maximum age for requiring linguistic knowledge to 65 from 54 but felt that the bill “warrants study at committee.”

That line was also repeated by Quebec MP Pierre Paul-Hus, who told HuffPost that while the bill has the commendable objective of protecting French, it might be hard to impose language requirements on those 54 to 65, “because the change can be difficult for new arrivals.”

That said, he added that his party believes the bill should be sent to committee and amended.

Pressed about his personal opinion on the bill, Paul-Hus said he was “before anything else, a Quebecer who is proud of his francophone heritage.

“And I want Quebec to remain that way,” he said, in French.

During a debate in the House of Commons last fall, Bérubé said her bill’s objective was to ensure that anyone who becomes a citizen and resides in Quebec can “integrate into their host society.”

“In Quebec, the common language is French. The purpose of the [province’s] Charter of the French Language is to make French the official and common language of Quebec,” she said. “Right now, a permanent resident who wants to become a citizen and reside in Quebec could do so without knowing a single word of French.”

‘Most immigrants who live in Quebec speak French,’ says Liberal MP

The Liberals’ response came from Soraya Martinez Ferrada, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship. She spoke of her own experience arriving in Quebec as a political refugee, and seeing her single mother and grandparents take French classes.

“We all received our citizenship before we could speak French. Today, my children and my cousins are all young Quebec francophones who work and study in French. That was possible in 1980, and I think it is still possible today,” she said.

Martinez Ferrada said the federal government is determined to help all newcomers obtain the language skills they need to integrate into their host community and noted that Quebec already selects its economic-class immigrants.

“Most immigrants who live in Quebec speak French. Census data show that, 10 years after they arrive in Canada, 90.5 per cent of economic immigrants, 71.1 per cent  of immigrants under the family reunification program and 84.3 per cent of refugees speak French,” she said during the bill’s only debate in November.

Montreal MP Anthony Housefather told HuffPost that he believes the current requirement — to have adequate knowledge of French or English no matter where you are in the country should stay that way.

“We live in a bilingual country and when becoming a citizen you should be able to do this in French or English anywhere in Canada you happen to live,” he said. “These qualifications for citizenship should not be different based on the province or territory someone happens to live in.”

Housefather added that the Tories’ position was “very much a reversal on previous Conservative positions on Quebec and language issues, which is consistently happening these days to compete with the Bloc.”

Tories have high hopes in Quebec

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has made no secret that his goal is to obtain 30 seats in Quebec during the next election. The party currently has 10. For the Liberals and the Tories, securing a large portion of Quebec’s 78 seats is often seen as a ticket to a majority government.

Manitoba Conservative MP Raquel Dancho told the Commons last fall in declaring the Tories’ support for the bill that the Conservatives were doing so because they have “great respect for the Quebec nation and understand the cultural importance of protecting the French language.

“The Conservatives are offering Quebeckers a serious alternative to the Liberals. We are the only ones who can beat them in the next election and form the next government,” she said.

But standing in either party’s way is a popular Bloc Québécois, which currently has 32 seats and, according to the latest Angus Reid survey, 29 per cent support among respondents, compared with 31 per cent for the Liberals and 18 per cent for the Conservatives.

The Liberals tried to quash a previous version of the Bloc’s bill back in 2018. Bill C-421 — as it was then called — was deemed by a subcommittee to be unconstitutional and non-votable. The Bloc appealed and a secret vote was held in the House that the Liberals — who had a majority of the seats back then — were successful in defeating.

Three years ago, things were different.

The Conservatives did not participate in the bill’s only debate.

Bloc bill riddled with errors, says lone Quebec NDP MP

Pierre Nantel, at the time an NDP MP, spoke in favour of the bill, saying his party’s Quebec caucus would surely have sent the bill to committee for further study if it had been given a chance.

“It is shameful and disrespectful for any Quebec MP to ignore the vulnerability and value of Quebeckers’ quiet nationalism and to fail to proudly defend Quebec’s distinct identity,” Nantel said in the chamber. (Nantel was later dumped by the NDP and was defeated running as a Green candidate in the 2019 election.)

This time round, the party’s lone Quebec MP, Alexandre Boulerice, told HuffPost the Bloc’s bill is riddled with errors and he doesn’t think his party’s support in the province will suffer because of the New Democrats’ opposition.

For example, Boulerice said, the bill doesn’t take into account future interprovincial moves, doesn’t make note that Quebec already gives francophones priority through its economic immigrants, or that it places an unfair and unnecessary burden on those that arrive as refugees.

“La fausse bonne idée quoi,” he wrote, in an email, loosely translated as a bad good idea, or a good idea at first glance.

Source: Conservatives Back Bloc Québécois Push To Make French The Mandatory Language For Quebec Immigrants

Move to curtail minority-language instruction in schools signals ongoing shift in China’s cultural policy

Of note:

Like many schools in China, the Yanji City Number 6 Middle School posts its school calendar on an outside wall. On the list are the usual subjects: language and literature, math, English, biology, politics, physics, history and sports.

Missing, however, is any reference to the Korean-language instruction that once defined this place. Like many other schools in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, Number 6 has long taught most courses in Korean.

Yanbian borders North Korea and counts 35 per cent of its population as ethnically Korean. But teaching Korean wasn’t just a nod to demographics or history – it was the law. For Koreans, local regulations mandated that courses could be taught in Chinese only with special permission.

Beginning this school year, that suddenly changed.

“Other than Korean class, subjects like math and science are all taught in Mandarin,” said one Korean man in Yanji. “Before, it was all taught in Korean.” A propaganda poster on the wall calls for those at the school to “build up the sense of unity of the Chinese nation.”

It “feels like the suppression of an ethnic minority – or possibly the cancellation of ethnic languages altogether,” the man said. Police closely followed a Globe and Mail reporter on a recent trip to Yanji, and The Globe is not identifying people interviewed there to shield them from retribution.

What happened in Yanji, however, was not accidental.

Last year, a commission under the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, the permanent body of China’s central legislature, examined rules that mandate use of local languages and found them unconstitutional, according to a disclosure made last week. The review takes aim at language policies nearly identical to those found in Yanbian and Inner Mongolia, where fierce protests and teacher strikes erupted last fall after officials halted most Mongolian-language instruction.

It is one of the strongest indications to date that what is taking place in classrooms on the distant fringes of the country reflects a major change in Beijing’s approach to those whose language and history differ from the dominant Han culture, which makes up more than 90 per cent of the country’s population.

The constitutional review appears to form “part of a concerted effort aimed at changing national policy towards minorities,” said Changhao Wei, a postdoctoral researcher at Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center and the founder of NPC Observer, a website that tracks Chinese legislative development.

The broader Chinese ambition is about “Han supremacy. It’s a racial project of domination,” said Gerald Roche, an anthropologist who specializes in language politics at La Trobe University in Melbourne. “They want to be at a point where they are a nation united by language.”

From the early days of Communist Party rule, China has carved out a unique place for its minority populations. Following a Soviet model, it officially recognized 56 nationalities, categorizing people from the dominant Han to the Hezhe, which in 1964 numbered just 718 people. The Chinese Constitution guaranteed ethnic groups “the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages and to preserve or reform their own traditions and customs.”

Though chairman Mao Zedong ultimately suppressed some ethnic policies, since 1949, China’s 55 minority groups have received benefits including government-backed language support, advantages in hiring and education and exemptions from the strictest family-planning policies.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, however, has overseen major changes. Across China, cities and provinces – including Yanbian – are stripping away the additional university placement exam points long awarded to ethnic minorities to improve their scores. Affirmative-action-style hiring policies are being reworked. Officials have rescinded lenient family planning policy for some minority groups, including the largely Muslim Uyghurs.

Mr. Xi has advocated the “forging of a communal consciousness of the Chinese nation,” calling for greater recognition of Chinese culture by people of all ethnic groups. Authorities must strengthen Chinese language education, emphasize patriotic education and “bury the seeds of loving China in every child’s heart,” Mr. Xi said in 2019.

Late last year, Beijing for the first time appointed a Han official to lead the National Ethnic Affairs Commission – Zhu Weiqun, one of China’s most prominent voices on ethnic affairs, has argued that China’s current ethnic policies are in need of replacement, saying recognition of minorities and preferential policies toward smaller ethnic groups fractures national unity.

Banishing minority-language instruction, Chinese authorities and scholars have said, is necessary to reduce poverty and create equal workplace opportunity.

Teaching Mandarin is the best way to “improve the quality of the next generation of ethnic minorities,” said Yang Wenhui, an ethnic studies scholar at Yunnan University. “They can’t afford to always be falling behind.”

The promotion of Mandarin began in earnest in 2001, with the adoption of a national language law. By 2009, half of China’s population was deemed competent in Mandarin. By last year, 80 per cent had reached that level.

Beijing’s insistence on Mandarin education, however, has been interwoven with efforts to suppress ethnic dissent. After riots in Tibet and Xinjiang in 2008 and 2009, a “more oppressive assimilatory dynamic really emerged,” said Prof. Roche, who spent eight years living in Qinghai and working with linguistic minority groups.

In 2017, authorities in Xinjiang placed teachers in intensive Mandarin-language summer instruction. Last year, a similar program was rolled out nationwide, with authorities pledging to increase teachers’ use of “excellent Chinese language and culture.”

In Yanji, the imposition of Mandarin instruction has support within the Korean community. “I went to Korean schools. I couldn’t keep up with my classmates at all when I entered the university,” one man said. “Mandarin was too difficult.” He has placed his own child in a Chinese kindergarten. “Our mother tongue is Korean. We can speak [it] at home if we really want to,” he said. Local bookstores, too, continue to stock large quantities of Korean-language titles.

Others, however, worry what’s happening in schools is a sign their own government has turned on them.

“Our mother tongue has been removed just because we are an ethnic minority group,” a Korean woman says. “We can see from places like Tibet and Xinjiang that for a minority to become too strong isn’t a good thing these days. It feels to me like oppression.”

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/world/article-move-to-curtail-minority-language-instruction-in-schools-signals/

Sweden proposes language requirement for would-be citizens

Pretty standard requirements elsewhere:

Justice and Migration Minister Morgan Johansson presented details of an inquiry into the proposals on Wednesday morning.

“Language is the key to work, but also the key to society,” said Johansson as he outlined why the government thought it needed to find “a better balance between rights and responsibilities” for would-be citizens.

Foreign nationals applying to become Swedish would need proof of Swedish skills at A2 level for speaking and writing, the second lowest out of six levels on the Common European Framework of Reference, and B1 for reading and listening.

To take the test, it would cost 500 kronor ($60) for the section relating to civil society and 2,000 kronor for the language component.

Citizenship applicants could alternatively provide proof of passing Grade 9 in a Swedish high school, or a course at upper secondary school, or the highest level of the Swedish For Immigrants (SFI) course.

The language requirements would apply to people aged between 16 and 66 who apply for Swedish citizenship, but certain exceptions are proposed, including for people with certain disabilities or those who are from a vulnerable background – for example being stateless or illiterate – who can prove they have tried to reach the required knowledge level but been unsuccessful.

Citizens of other Nordic countries who live in Sweden would also be exempted, as they are subject to a different process and are only required to notify authorities, rather than apply, in order to receive citizenship.

The proposals were put together based on reviewing the processes in place in other European countries, of which only three including Sweden do not currently require a language test.

But the details aren’t finalised yet. The next stage is to send the proposals out for consultation from relevant authorities, and they may be adapted depending on the responses received. Then a proposal would need to be passed by parliament and work to begin on putting together the tests.

“This is a reasonable proposal and we hope that it can be put into place as soon as possible, but of course this is a large organisational challenge,” said Johansson.

The government committed to investigating language tests for citizenship applicants in the cross-bloc deal struck with the Centre and Liberal parties, whose support the Social Democrat-Green coalition needed to form a government.

Separately, the government is looking into whether language skills should be required for permanent residence in Sweden.

Source: https://www.thelocal.se/20210113/sweden-proposes-language-requirement-for-would-be-citizens

Bloc to promote bill on French-language proficiency for new citizens

Virtue signalling, given that citizenship is exclusively under federal jurisdiction. Challenge for Liberal, CPC and NDP Quebec MPs and will see if any pander to this bill:

The Bloc Québécois will get to debate a bill Thursday that would require anyone applying for Canadian citizenship in Quebec to demonstrate functional proficiency in French.

Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet says that familiarity with the official language of Quebec is essential amid what he calls an ongoing threat to the mother tongue of most Quebecers.

Currently, most applicants must demonstrate a professional proficiency in either English or French to qualify for citizenship, but a private member’s bill Bloc MP Sylvie Bérubé introduced in February would change that to require French for immigrants who have settled in Quebec.

The chance to debate the legislation comes after Montreal Liberal MP Emmanuella Lambropoulos told the House of Commons official languages committee last week that the idea of a French-language decline is a “myth.”

She reversed her comments following a social media backlash, saying in a statement Saturday her remarks were “insensitive,” that French is in decline and that she hopes to find ways to protect it.

Blanchet said some Liberals threw Lambropoulos “under the bus” in calling her out for her initial remarks, and suggested the governing party was hypocritical in its professed concern for the state of the French language.

“What is insensitive actually is the reaction of the rest of her caucus,” Blanchet said Wednesday. “She probably said out loud what many of them do think.

“I strongly doubt that when they have private conversations in the corners of their caucus they say, ‘Oh, French is in a bad situation.'”

Meanwhile, reports of a recent tweet — since deleted — by Chelsea Craig, the Quebec director of the federal Liberal party, referring to the province’s 43-year-old language law as “oppressive” fanned the regional firestorm.

Craig posted a subsequent message to Twitter on Wednesday stressing that Bill 101 is important and stating in French that “French is declining in Quebec and it must be protected.”

But the damage was done. For the third day in a row, Bloc and Conservative MPs hammered the Trudeau government with questions about the state of the French language in Canada.

“It makes no sense,” Conservative MP Alain Rayes said in French during question period in the House of Commons Wednesday afternoon.

“Will the prime minister immediately condemn her disrespectful comments?”

Blanchet asked Trudeau whether he agreed with Craig.

“Does the prime minister of Canada believe that Bill 101 is ‘oppressive’ against the English in Quebec” Blanchet asked in French.

The prime minister replied that the government supports the law — known as the Charter of the French Language — and recognizes that in a bilingual Canada, Quebec “must be first and foremost French-speaking.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Wednesday he supports stronger laws to protect French, adding that the government needs to provide more educational tools to foster language development.

Source: Bloc to promote bill on French-language proficiency for new citizens

How does technology keep up with ever-evolving language on race and identity? We asked people who write dictionaries


The Rolodex of terms that can describe identity seems to expand and change on a steady basis. So, how do dictionaries both physical and online keep up? Sometimes they don’t.

The term “BIPOC” meaning Black, Indigenous and people of colour, has become the topic of many explainers since June, when this year’s racial reckoning began after George Floyd’s death. According to the New York Times, BIPOC was first used on social media by a Toronto-based account in 2013. Yet the date stamp on Merriam-Webster’s entry for “BIPOC” is just Sept. 3, 2020, and Google has yet to generate its own dictionary landing at the top of search.

It took some time for the word “racialized” to move from academic papers to colloquial use. Even as it has become more common, it’s a toss up if it can be typed out free of a crimson spell check flag depending on the online browser or platform being used.

And according to Merriam Webster’s online time traveller tool, which shows the year words were first recorded, “genderqueer” first appeared in 1995, but when typed into the messaging app Slack, it generates a red underline.

Kory Stamper is a New Jersey-based lexicographer and author of the book “Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries.” Stamper said that the challenge is that many English-speaking countries have set up the dictionary as an authority on language, which is not the case.

“As a lexicographer, you’re always way behind. You’re basically behind (language), picking up the crumbs, so that you can follow where it’s heading,” she said. Dictionaries record a snapshot of language at a particular time, she adds.

Even for words that are age-old but in need of updating, it’s still a process. Stamper once had to update the definition for “god” which hadn’t been updated in 60 years when she was an associate editor at Merriam-Webster. It took her four months.

For a term like “BIPOC” to enter the dictionary, it has to come across a lexicographer’s desk, have a good amount of printed uses, and is ultimately a subjective decision of that worker and the dictionary, if it’s widely used enough to make the cut. And from there, a lot of thought consideration and research is required to make sure that the definition crafted is nuanced and does the word justice.

But just because a word hasn’t made it through this process, doesn’t mean it’s not a real word or accepted term.

“Just because a word is not in the dictionary, does not mean it is not a word,” Stamper said. “That just means that a lexicographer has not found enough evidence or the production cycle has not moved quickly enough (for it to be entered).” If two people are having a conversation, and they understand the meaning of the words they are using, they are using real words, she said.

Still Stamper thinks about what out-of-date tech and dictionaries can mean for people who aren’t native English speakers.

Once, she typed out “person of colour” and got a grammar suggestion which recommended “coloured person,” a phrase that has long gone out of fashion and leans more offensive, in North America today.

Stamper said that while she and a good amount of people are aware that “people of colour” isn’t grammatically incorrect, and is a fixed phrase, she still thinks of people who may be learning English as a foreign language and may be heavily reliant on these prompts. “Would I have enough knowledge of the nuances of the language to know?”

As for the spell check inconsistencies, Vancouver-based software engineer Dawn Chandler notes that tech companies don’t all refer to the same dictionaries or data sets to operate these tools. Nor do they publicly share exactly what those algorithms are.

There would always be a chance of a lag or bias depending on where the data is being collected from, Chandler said. “Dictionaries are written to record and reflect the language people use.” Still, she said, “they can’t capture languages in every region, in every subculture.”

Kola Tubosun is a linguist currently based in the U.K. who created an online dictionary of Yoruba names after noticing that computers often red-underlined common Yoruba names, and also disregarded tonal accents necessary to write them correctly. He advocates for Nigerian languages to be more accessible and recognized through tech. He’s noticed, for example, that in Nigeria, ATMs are usually only in English, which ends up discouraging Nigerians who only speak local dialects from using banks.

Tubosun does note that media in North America, whether publications or dictionaries, do pay attention to new words, new ways of speaking, the language, the interpretation.

One instance he’s noticed where there can be tech and dictionary gaps in English, are in cultural colloquialisms. A phrase like “see you next tomorrow” which is commonly used in Nigerian culture and means “the day after tomorrow” made it into the Oxford English Dictionary in 2020. But with or without the dictionary recognition, it is still a phrase with a fixed meaning.

“There are many levels in which words get adopted and accepted,” he said.

Angelyn Francis is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering inequity and inequality. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach her via email: afrancis@thestar.ca

Source: How does technology keep up with ever-evolving language on race and identity? We asked people who write dictionaries

Big gender gap in students attitudes and engagement in global and multicultural issues

New interesting element to the OECD’s PISA assessment. Detailed review on my to do list to see if interesting immigrant/non-immigrant comparisons:

Schools and education systems are failing to give boys and girls across the world the same opportunities to learn and apply their knowledge of global and multicultural issues, according to a new report on the first OECD PISA assessment of the knowledge, skills and attitudes of students to engage with other people and cultures.

Are Students Ready to Thrive in an Interconnected World? focused on students’ knowledge of issues of local and global significance, including public health, economic and environmental issues, as well as their intercultural knowledge, skills and attitudes. Students from 27 countries and economies took the test. Students, teachers, parents and school principals from around 66 countries and economies completed a questionnaire*.

The results reveal a gender gap in access to opportunities to learn global competence as well as in students’ global and intercultural skills and attitudes. On average across OECD countries, boys were more likely than girls to report taking part in activities where they are expected to express and discuss their views, while girls were more likely than boys to report taking part in activities related to intercultural understanding and communication.

Boys, for example, were more likely to learn about the interconnectedness of countries’ economies, look for news on the Internet or watch the news together during class. They were also more likely to be asked by teachers to give their opinion about international news, take part in classroom discussions about world events and analyse global issues with their classmates.

In contrast, girls were more likely than boys to report that they learn how to solve conflicts with their peers in the classroom, learn about different cultures and learn how people from different cultures can have different perspectives on some issues. These gender differences could reflect personal interests and self-efficacy but could also reflect how girls and boys are socialised at home and at school, according to the report.

“Education is key to helping young people navigate today’s increasingly complex and interconnected world,” said Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills. “The schools and education systems that are most successful in fostering global knowledge, skills and attitudes among young people are those that offer a curriculum that values openness to the world, provide a positive and inclusive learning environment and offer opportunities to relate to people from other cultures.”

The findings reveal the key role teachers play in promoting and integrating intercultural understanding into their classroom practices and lessons. Most teachers reported that they are confident in their ability to teach in multicultural settings. But the lack of adequate professional development opportunities in this field is a major challenge. Few teachers reported having received training on teaching in multicultural or multilingual settings.

More than 90% of students attended schools where principals reported positive multicultural beliefs among their teachers. Yet students who perceive discrimination by their teachers towards immigrants and people from other cultural backgrounds, for example, exhibited similar negative attitudes. This highlights the key role of teachers and school principals in countering or perpetuating discrimination by acting as role models.

The report found a strong link between students learning activities at school and having more positive intercultural attitudes. Also, speaking two or more languages was positively associated with awareness of global issues, interest in learning about other cultures, respect for people from other cultures and positive attitudes towards immigrants.

On average across OECD countries, 50% of students reported learning two or more languages at school, 38% reported learning one foreign language and only 12% reported not learning any foreign language at school. The largest share of students (more than 20%) who reported not learning any foreign language at school were observed in Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia and Scotland. By contrast, in 42 countries, more than 90% of students reported that they learn at least one foreign language at school.

Source: Big gender gap in students attitudes and engagement in global and multicultural issues