Take this recent article about immigration and language.
Calgary Herald columnist Naomi Lakritz praises multiculturalism minister Jason Kenny for wading into the "politically correct minefield" of multiculturalism and being determined to weed out any government-funded programs that promote cultural diversity.
…[T]he government has sensibly ceased funding programs such as heritage language classes. Why should the federal government pay for children to learn the language of the country their parents and grandparents come from? …
"I think it's really neat that a fifth-generation Ukrainian Canadian can speak Ukrainian-- but pay for it yourself," Kenney says. Kenney's right--it is neat. If you can speak your family's mother tongue, your life is just that much more enriched. But such immersion in heritage shouldn't come at the expense of you identifying yourself as a Canadian first --and it certainly shouldn't come at Canadian taxpayers' expense.
Now let me see if I read this right.
Cross-cultural education is "neat and enriching" for the kids of immigrants who are fortunate enough to grow up immersed in the heritage language and culture of whence they came. But an intimate knowledge of one's heritage culture can actually be harmful to Canadian self-identity. So it behooves our government to ensure that kids born in Canada are denied such enrichment.
Then the government turns around and digs deep into the pockets of these unenriched Canadians to provide programs that give culturally enriched newcomers a leg up?
It sure looks like native-born Canadians are getting the short end of the stick here.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t welcome newcomers and help them adjust to life in Canada. (I’m of Ukrainian descent, and Ukrainians are known as some of the most hospitable and helpful people in the world. I recall reading in an old magazine (circa 1919) I found in the local Ivan Franko library about some Canadian travelers who were lost in the wilds of Saskatchewan and were amazed at the willingness of a Ukrainian settler to take time away from tending her desperately ill child to help them get their bearings.) Helping newcomers integrate is the right thing to do. Obviously.
I'm not saying I disagree with Ms. Lakritz that ... "Part of the integration process means you leave your old hatreds and animosities at home and adopt enlightened Canadian attitudes of respect for other people's race, religion and basic human rights."
Nor am I saying that newcomers shouldn’t be required to learn our official language(s). When my grandparents and great-grandparents came to Canada they learned English, paid for it themselves, and didn’t complain about it.
For awhile there, tho, it looked like as a society we finally were starting to make some progress. In 1971 the Multiculturalism Act was introduced, and progressive-minded people succeeded in getting heritage language programs into the public schools so that future generations would be more culturally literate than mine. (Altho if some of today's short-sighted national leaders and media elites have their way, they won’t be for much longer.)
No. What I am saying is that it's detrimental to all Canadians that our collective attitudes still aren't enlightened enough to grasp the benefits of knowing more than one language. Given the medical studies cited in this CTV article and on American TV news, just imagine the cost-savings to our health-care system! (Never mind the cultural enrichment.)
It would benefit all Canadians, native-born and newly-arrived alike, if heritage language programs got more respect than lip service from government, media, and in fact many mainstream Canadians.
Actually, if heritage language programs got anywhere near as much respect as they do lip service, it would be a vast improvement for all Canadians … including those who have to be dragged kicking and screaming into truly enlightened times.