Session 6: Contending with Language Practices and Policies in Canada

A History of the Present: The Exclusions of Multiculturalism within Bilingualism

Dr. Eve Haque

In this presentation, I want to explore whether or not multiculturalism can offer us any insight into ongoing colonial exclusion and racialized belonging in the present. I want to argue that this question requires us to trace the emergence of multiculturalism as policy in the wake of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism’s project of rescripting a modern Canadian national consensus, based on a limited notion of ‘founding races’. It is the realization of this project, articulated as multiculturalism within a bilingual framework, that has created the durable exclusions of dual white settler colonialism in the present which underpin the current contradictions of multicultural inclusion and anemic reconciliation.

Eve Haque is York Research Chair in Linguistic Diversity and Community Vitality at York University in Toronto. Her research and teaching interests include multiculturalism, migration and language policy, with a focus on the regulation and media representation of Islamophobia and gendered racism in white settler societies. She is the author of Multiculturalism Within a Bilingual Framework: Language, Race and Belonging in Canada.

‘Committed to Linguistic Plurality’: Negotiating Language and Diversity Policies in the Federal Government — Past and Present Perspectives

Dr. Robert Talbot

How has the relationship between language and diversity policies been perceived and negotiated at the heart of the Canadian state – within the federal apparatus? What have senior officials said? What about ordinary federal employees? For some, official bilingualism and multiculturalism policies are difficult to reconcile. For others, including the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, bilingualism and multiculturalism go hand in hand and are complementary. For decades, the Office of the Commissioner has maintained that the two policies share a common goal: to overcome prejudice of all kinds against minorities, in order to promote increased tolerance among Canadians and, ultimately, strengthen social cohesion. Far from being an obstacle to diversity, the promotion of bilingualism, particularly in the Canadian public service, can foster pluralism and inclusion in federal institutions. This makes it possible to have a better sense of the various realities in Canada in a context where French-speaking federal employees feel that there are more barriers to using their language in the workplace. It is important to remember that bilingualism is an essential part of Canadian diversity and not separate from it. As the newest Supreme Court of Canada Justice the Honourable Mahmud Jamal recently pointed out, using both of Canada’s official languages can help us better understand Canada’s diversity to its fullest extent.

Robert Talbot has been the Manager of Research at the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada since 2017. From 2013 to 2018, he taught history at the University of Ottawa and served as English Language Secretary of the Canadian Historical Association. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of New Brunswick and a PhD in History at the University of Ottawa, specializing in Francophone/Anglophone relations.

Multiculturalism and the City: How Canadian Cities Manage Multilingualism

Dr. Sathya Rao, Dr. Odile Cisneros, Dr. Ann De Léon, & Charlene Ball

In 1971, Canada endorsed multiculturalism as an official government policy. Seventeen years later, this policy received Royal Assent and became an Act, making Canada the first country to pass a national multiculturalism law. While the Canadian Multicultural Act recognizes the “cultural and racial diversity of Canadian society”, it doesn’t place much emphasis on multilingualism. As some scholars (Duff 2008, Haque 2012) have pointed out, any attempt to devise a multilingual policy collides with the Government of Canada’s commitment towards bilingualism. This lack of official recognition of multilingualism contrasts with the reality of increasing linguistic diversity in Canada. This diversity is particularly noticeable in major cities like Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton, which have attracted a growing number of international immigrants. In response to both economic and social imperatives (e.g., attracting and retaining immigrants, fostering inclusion, fighting discrimination, and communicating with ethnic communities), these cities have developed innovative multilingual service provision policies and practices. Drawing on recent fieldwork findings, this presentation will aim to shed light on some of these policies and practices. In fact, over the past four years, cities like Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton have become increasingly aware of the impact that language barriers have on achieving social inclusion. Documenting different cities’ multilingual policies and practices can help inform discussion on the need and scope of a multilingual policy at the federal and federal levels.

Sathya Rao is a professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies at the University of Alberta. He has published in the areas of Translation studies and Francophone studies.

Odile Cisneros is Associate Professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies at the University of Alberta. With Richard Young, she co authored Historical Dictionary of Latin American Literature (Scarecrow Press, 2011), and co edited Novas: Selected Writings of Haroldo de Campos with A.S. Bessa (Northwestern UP, 2007). She has translated the work of Régis Bonvicino, Haroldo de Campos, and Jaroslav Seifert, among others. Prof. Cisneros specializes in Latin American and contemporary Brazilian poetry, ecocriticism, and translation theory and practice. With Sathya Rao and Ann De León (University of Alberta) and Charlene Ball (City of Edmonton), she leads a SSHRC-funded project on community translation. She is editor in chief of Revista Canadiense de Estudios Hispánicos.

Ann De León is Associate professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies at the University of Alberta where she teaches courses in Spanish, Latin American studies, Translation and Nahuatl. Her research interests have focused on the study of colonial and 19th-century Mexican literary and visual cultural productions, projects of cross-cultural translation, Indigenous pictorial documents (codices) and the “Aztec” language (Nahuatl). More recently she has been working on a collaborative SSHRC-funded project on community translation practices in Edmonton with Dr. Odile Cisneros and Dr. Sathya Rao (University of Alberta) and Charlene Ball (City of Edmonton).

Charlene Ball is a Multicultural Liaison Officer at the City of Edmonton.

Faire une place aux langues des Métis dans les écoles en contexte francophone minoritaire albertain: discussions autour du/des michif(s)

Dr. Eva Lemaire

In Alberta, where French is not an official provincial language, Francophone schools have the mandate to bring Francophone identity and culture to life with the language rights inherited from the Mahé case (Aunger, 1999). Calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC, 2015) and related educational policies developed at the provincial level, however, lead the French-speaking school environment to rethink its relations and practices with other minorities, and in particular with Indigenous communities. As part of a research project to promote educational programs rooted in a logic of reconciliation (Madden, 2019), we have worked collaboratively with Francophone schools and with various Métis Elders and educators around the integration of Métis languages and perspectives in the school curriculum in different disciplines. Our starting point was Michif, initially posed as “the official language of the Métis Nation ”(Canadian Geographic, 2018), but also as a mixed Franco Cree language (Bakker, 1997; Papen, 2005) or as a French-Canadian dialect (Papen, 2009; Papen and Bigot, 2010; Sing, 2010), depending on the dialect considered. Collaboration with Métis Elders and educators emerged and brought about more diverse perspectives, enriching the way in which the languages of the Métis of Alberta (with a greater or lesser influence from French) can be presented to students and teachers in French-speaking schools. This in turn can help develop more complex understandings of reconciliation and relationships with local indigenous communities. After presenting our collaborative process, I will then present the languages spoken by the Elders with whom we collaborated and the way in which these languages were integrated into an educational program tested in a French-speaking school environment.

Eva Lemaire is a professor of education at the University of Alberta (Associate Professor at Faculté Saint Jean and Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Education, Department of Educational Policy Studies). Her research is part of the field of intercultural education, inclusive education, and the teaching of plurilingualism. As a group member “Situated Knowledges: Indigenous Peoples and Place” (SKIPP, University of Alberta), Eva is interested in the integration of indigenous languages in a minority Francophone context.