Belonging and Boundaries: Linguistic Diversity and Language Rights in Canada

Ritendra Tamang

Abstract


This paper explores critical issues surrounding language rights in multicultural Canada and how language rights are connected to ethnic identity, representation, boundaries, and belonging. This paper focuses on language rights of allophones (those whose first language is neither English nor French) from the perspective of Canada’s language policies, including the socioeconomic and political values that allophone immigrants place on Canada’s official languages. Changes to Canada’s language policies since the 1970s have created alternative spaces for allophone groups to challenge the dominant status of English and French and to recreate ethnolinguistic identities and belonging simultaneously from various locations.

Increases in international migration, in conjunction with changes to Canadian language policies over recent years, have generated new discussions and debates about language rights and the socioeconomic and political values that allophone immigrants place on English and French, Canada’s official languages. Canada is currently facing new challenges in ensuring that the identities of linguistic groups are recognised and that members of these groups are guaranteed equal participation in all social, economic, and political activities. Accordingly, the Canadian federal government has made important changes to its language policies. This paper will argue that changes to Canada’s language policies since the 1970s provide allophone immigrants with new opportunities to challenge the dominant status of English and French, as well as enabling them to reconstruct new identities and belonging simultaneously from multiple locations. Issues around language rights in multicultural and multilingual societies like Canada are significant, because these rights are connected to ideas about ethnic identity, belonging, representation, and boundaries.


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5750/bjll.v2i0.17

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