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Endangered speeches: A theoretical approach to aboriginal linguistic minority rights in Canada

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  1. Introduction
  2. Discrimination and assimilationist policies
  3. The alarming loss of aboriginal language vitality in Canada
  4. The threat of cultural loss in Canada
  5. Linguistic and multicultural policy
  6. The assimilationist view in Canada
  7. The contextual framework and theoretical implications of linguistic minority rights in Canada
  8. Conclusion
  9. Bibliography

Today, as globalisation and technology rapidly increase along with industrialisation and environmental degradation, many environmentalists are calling to attention the alarming rate at which ecosystems, forests, clean water and even whole species are becoming extinct. Unfortunately, another type of extinction is taking place on a similar level with less visible, but equally important consequences. While rare species of animals are becoming extinct due to overconsumption and globalisation, many of the world?s languages are themselves becoming extinct, or already have. According to linguist Michael Krauss, in the present day approximately 20%-50% of the world?s languages are ?beyond endangerment? (Skutnabb-Kangass 188), meaning that they are not being passed down to children and therefore will become obsolete in the near future.

[...] Canada should strive to raise the level of aboriginal minority languages through official recognition and cultural tolerance so that the disparity between Native linguistic groups and the majority language population begins to shorten. Only through the unselfish restructuring of socio-political goals on the part of the government, and self initiated language preservation programs on the part of native groups will the extinction of Aboriginal languages in Canada be averted. After all, North American indigenous languages are lost here, there is no other reservoir of speakers elsewhere to draw on to renew that resource? (Herriman 208). [...]

[...] Due to past discrimination and assimilationist policies that continue today, the subject of minority languages in Canada tends to focus on French-English relations and immigrant minority language maintenance with few and hard to find facts about First Nations linguistic vitality. This may be due to the shame that Aboriginal minority languages are disappearing at such an alarming pace. According to the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, before European contact with Natives in North America, there were approximately 450 individual languages thriving in 11 language groups in what is now present day Canada. [...]

[...] In this model, minority languages may be tolerated in order to facilitate a smooth burocracy; however minority linguistic rights operate in mostly restricted areas such as certain territories or municipal jurisdictions. In order to smooth over this linguistic dominance, Canada, soon after declaring its national linguistic policy, also declared an overt multicultural policy to calm the backlash among non-official language and cultural groups over the declaration of official languages. This policy pledged to promote support for all languages and cultures in the country, however in it's evolved state, the Multiculturalism Act of 1988 concerns itself mainly with ?fostering the non-English and French cultures with anti- racism? (Herriman 185) and does not devote any funds to the promotion, only the maintenance of minority language, regardless of historical or cultural relevance. [...]

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