An act to establish International Mother Language Day (IMLD): Historic Bill S-214
March 30th, 2023, is a historic day for Canada and MLLWS. The Bill S-214 on International Mother Language Day (IMLD) was passed in the House of Commons in the Canadian Parliament. This is a significant achievement that would not have been possible without the continuous dedication and decades of hard work, determination, passion, and persistence by several individuals. It would not have been possible without the continuous dedication and hard work of MLLWS's current president, Mr. Aminul Islam who has worked tirelessly for over a decade with Senator Mobina S. B. Jaffer KC, MP Ken Hardie, MP John Aldag, MP Sukh Dhaliwal, the Government of Bangladesh, and the Bangladesh High Commission in Ottawa to make this happen. Initially, Mr. Aminul worked alone on these initiatives since 2007, and from 2012 he continued under the MLLWS banner after it was officially registered as a non-profit organization in the City of Surrey. The High Commissioner of Bangladesh to Canada, H.E. Dr. Khalilur Rahman, was present at the House of Commons during the discussion and passing of the bill.
Currently Bill S-214 is awaiting royal assent for the official national declaration of International Mother Language Day (IMLD) in Canada.
To respect and celebrate all mother languages, the late Mr. Rafiqul Islam, founding president of Mother Language Lovers of the World (MLLW), first proposed to The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to declare February 21st as International Mother Language Day (IMLD). In a letter to Kofi Annan, the then Secretary-General of the United Nations, on January 9, 1998, Mr. Rafiqul applied to commemorate the history of the Bengali nation's sacrifice for language and to wish all the mother languages of the world on February 21st as International Mother Language Day. In 1999, with the help of the Bangladesh Government and along with 29 other countries, including Canada, UNESCO unanimously agreed to observe International Mother Language Day on February 21st each year since 2000.
It was vital for Canada to officially observe this day as well, given the many languages that are disappearing with the passing of the last generation to speak to them. This includes the 104 indigenous languages spoken in Canada, with 28 in serious danger of disappearing. The Act has been introduced to celebrate and recognize the contribution of all languages, which are an essential part of Canada's living history.
There were several attempts to establish International Mother Language Day in Canada. The first one was through Bill C-407 on February 21, 2007, during the 39th Parliament. Honorable Sukh Dhaliwal MP for Newton—North Delta introduced the Private Members Bill C-407, entitled the “An Act respecting an International Mother Language Day,” in the Canadian Parliament. The proposed Act seeks to promote linguistic and cultural diversity in Canada by officially observing International Mother Language Day on February 21st every year. Unfortunately, it did not pass at that time.
Despite the setback, MLLWS of British Columbia continued their efforts. In 2017, Honorable John Aldag MP for Cloverdale-Langley City proposed the idea again and tabled it in the Canadian Parliament on February 21, 2017. He highlighted that February 21 is recognized by the global community as International Mother Language Day, a day to celebrate the linguistic heritage of peoples across the world that was recognized by UNESCO in 1999. This effort would not have been possible without the support of the Vancouver-based organization, the Mother Language Lovers of the World Society.
Following this, the MLLWS pushed the private bill with the help of Honorable MP John Aldag to the Canadian Senate, where it was presented as Bill S-247, also known as An Act to establish International Mother Language Day. Sponsored by Senator Mobina S. B. Jaffer, the bill passed its Introduction and First Reading on March 22, 2018, and its Second Reading on December 5, 2018. However, the bill was referred to the Standing Committee of Senate on Social Affairs, Science and Technology for further review but did not proceed.
A new bill, known as Bill S-214, was introduced in the Senate by Senator Mobina Jaffer on November 24, 2021, and later in the House of Commons by MP Ken Hardie on December 14, 2021. During the discussion, Members of Parliament from different parties expressed their support for the bill and emphasized the importance of language rights. The bill passed its third reading in both the Senate and the House of Commons. After being reviewed by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, Bill S-214 on International Mother Language Day (IMLD) was passed in the House of Commons of the Canadian Parliament on March 30th, 2023.
The passing of the Bill S-214 has been met with gratitude and acknowledgement for the contributions of those who worked to make it a reality. We would like to thank our founding President, the late Mr. Rafiqul Islam, and Mr. Abdus Salam, our current president Mr. Aminul Islam, Honorable Senator Mobina S. B. Jaffer KC, MP Ken Hardie, MP John Aldag, MP Sukh Dhaliwal, different MLAs, the Honorable Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Government, and the Bangladesh High Commission in Ottawa for their outstanding efforts and contributions in making this historic event happen. We are thrilled to see our efforts being recognized and celebrated in such meaningful ways. We see this as just the beginning, and we are excited to continue our work towards promoting and preserving mother languages in Canada and around the world. We extend our heartfelt thanks to all those who have supported us throughout this journey.
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