Tuesday, February 21, 2012

February 21 is International Mother Language Day


Today is the Twelfth International Mother Language Day.

November 17th, 1999 was the day when UNESCO declared that February 21st each year would be observed as ‘International Mother Language Day’ and from the year 2000, this day has been marked as the day when All Mother Languages throughout the world are celebrated in their own uniqueness and at the same time have a chance to know and show respect to all the other languages.

Also interesting is the fact that the very first proposal to the UN and UNESCO for this day to be observed went out from the Lower Mainland of Greater British Columbia.

In keeping with the long tradition of Canadian involvement for peace in the world it is noteworthy and significant that such a proposal of respecting each other by respecting ones and others language would only bring the different cultures and people even the ones on the verge of extinction to breathe new life and hope afresh and feel that they are also inclusive of the greater human society.

Canada’s assertiveness in making peace can be traced to Lester B. Pearson’s efforts as External affairs minister when in 1956 he diffused the Suez crisis. His proposal was instrumental in the creation of the ‘UN Emergency Force’ which was the First Peace Keeping Force. The world sees this Peace Keeping force even now scores of years later in strife ridden regions of the world interceding and dividing the combatants and endeavoring to maintain and establish peace. Such was the contribution of one Canadian diplomat and for which of course when awarding him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957, the committee quoted that Lester Pearson “saved the world”.

Canada was another pioneer in devising the Race Free immigration system; the policy that took shape under Prime Minister John Diefenbeiker in 1962 and the Discrimination free Points based Immigration System introduced during the time of his successor Lester Pearson and which is prevalent till today. This went a long way for the successful multilingual and multicultural fabric of Canada that we see and experience today.

Termed the Godfather of Glasnost, USSR’s ambassador to Canada Alexander Yakovlev was the intellectual force behind liberalization in USSR under Gorbachev when he saw and studied the agricultural and other sectors in Canada.

Canada had been an inspiring beacon throughout the world not only for multiculturalism and the practice of democracy and Charter of Rights but also in social fields where its own people have been immensely benefitted.

The Universal Health Care, Pension Plan and Student Loan are to name a few as our nation has carved out a neat niche for itself in the world stage where it is relevant as an assertive, soft Power, a role which by dint of its own sincerity it has successfully managed to play in the world stage.

Now the time has come for Canada to play another role and that is of integrating people of various languages living in various extremities of this planet so that people in general feel important and view the rich and powerful not as masters but friends. Imposition of ones own culture or language or ideas and trend assuming it to be superior cannot impose or bring peace but only the exercise of mutual respect can and this can only bode well for humanity.

Canada which holds the distinction of so many firsts towards augmenting peace also is incidentally the birthplace of the organization that initiated to establish a universal day to celebrate, protect and appreciate the beauty of all the mother languages remembering the ultimate sacrifice of the Bangali people to protect their own mother tongue way back in Feb 21st, 1952 in the streets of Dhaka , Bangladesh. The first Mother Language Monument in Canada termed ‘Lingua Aqua’ has also been erected at the Bear Creek Park, Surrey which is dedicated to all the Mother Language Lovers of the world.

Canada should go steps ahead and way beyond others in raising this subject and awareness at world forums, in diplomatic circle dialogues and world bodies about equality of people , equality of languages and equality of cultures so that the world dares to stare at a better and peaceful future for all mankind.

Its left to be seen now if the Canadian beacon remains aloft in this case also, just like it has been before.

First published in Vancouver Sun, February 21, 2012

Abdus Salam is one of the founders and director of The Mother Language Lovers of the World. He is based in Vancouver contributed the article special to The Vancouver Sun

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