Mother Language Day

Honouring the Preservation of Mother Languages


by Virginia Gillespie



Photos: Poetry Rock and Dr. Rev. Byung Sub Van by Boaz Joseph, Lingua Aqua opening by Ali Ashraf Nutan.


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Photo: Mother Tongue/first language learned by Myungsook Lee.


UN sanctioned Mother Language Day is celebrated internationally on February 21st each year. Rafiqul Islam and Abfus Salam are co-proponents of the initiative to UNESCO which was recognized in 1999. Residents of Surrey and Burnaby, British Columbia, they were instrumental in bringing this concept to the Canadian government¡¯s attention, one of the first countries to bring the motion forward. Bill C- 407 was tabled on 21st of February, 2007 by Sukh Dhaliwal, Member of Parliament of Newton - North Delta, B.C. as an act in the 39th Parliament Session (House of Commons) of Canada.

Components of Bill C-407 underscore Canada¡¯s commitment to multiculturalism:

• A mother language is vital to every individual¡¯s sense of identity and development.

• Language is the cornerstone of culture and provides a means of communication among people.

• Many of the 6500 languages in this world are dying with the passing of the last generation to speak them.

• Multiculturalism is enshrined in Canada, and tolerance, dialogue and dignity are benchmarks of Canadian values.

• Canada can act as a leader in supporting languages and cultures throughout the world by respectfully observing International Mother Language Day and by launching programs that will promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multiculturalism.

Bangladeshi-Canadian Mohammad Aminul Islam compiled the backgrounder for the bill and also made a presentation to Surrey Council about creating a monument which influenced the Public Art Project called Lingua Aqua. Much of his motivation comes from Bangladesh¡¯s sacrifice for language in 1952 and his passion to raise awareness, educate and preserve. ¡°Lingua Aqua is very similar to the Shaheed Minar of Bangladesh, a national monument established to commemorate the Language Martyrs, who sacrificed their lives to save their mother language on February 21st, 1952 in Dhaka. The day is revered in Bangladesh and in West Bengal of India as the ¡®¡¯Language Martyr¡¯s Day¡¯¡¯. Therefore, Lingua Aqua has a great impact on our Bangladeshi Community at large. I also believe, very soon Lingua Aqua will stand as a testament of the Canadian ideal, where cultural multiplicity is celebrated and safeguarded.¡±

Mr. Islam is also concerned about the future of languages in his new home. ¡°British Columbia is the most Linguistically Endangered Zone in Canada. Amongst all of the Canadian original endangered languages, almost 50% are from British Columbia, especially from the Lower Mainland and the First Nations area where they are facing immediate extinction.¡±

¡°I believe, Lingua Aqua will serve as a permanent reminder of the role of various mother languages (including the sign languages) play in the rich social fabric of British Columbia. Various immigrant and ethnic mother languages will also get a chance to integrate and bloom themselves into the main stream culture.¡±



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DIVERSE 5th Issue

We are pleased to announce that DIVERSE 5th issue, Summer 2011 has been released.  

12 Diversity in Canadian Workplaces What are the obstacles to a better form of ¡°diversity¡± in the workplace?

- Open Door Group

- BC Workplace Diversity Inclusion Awards

6 BC¡¯s Diversity through 30 portraits



2 ThePower of Exchange A Historic Collaboration between Germany¡¯s

Premiere Art Collections and Canada¡¯s First Nations

28 Ezra Kwizera  Born in Uganda to Rwandese refugee parents, Canadian Musician and genocide  survivor speaks on the art of  forgiveness and of adapting to Canadian culture

42 Dana Claxton  

The Mustang Suite: Questioning mobility, freedom and autonomy 


24 Gung Haggis Fat Choy in Vancouver, BC: The Diversity of Canada      

38 Denise Brillon Breaking barriers in the fashion world



32 Pysanky¡¯s Resurgence

Joan Brander¡¯s contribution to the renaissance in traditional

Ukrainian egg art


10 Publisher¡¯s Note

27 Benefits of being a bilingual writer

31 Canadians come in all differences



35 News Briefs on Multiculturalism

36 Publisher¡¯s Picks


You Can Order Here.


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