[lg policy] No Mandarin please: Mom complains against English policy in visits with kids in B.C. government care

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Fri May 24 14:59:07 EDT 2019


No Mandarin please: Mom complains against English policy in visits with
kids in B.C. government care

by Carlito Pablo <https://www.straight.com/users/carlito-pablo> on May
22nd, 2019 at 3:27 PM
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   - [image: Language is an important aspect of cultural expression and
   preservation, according to B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Pamela Murray.]


   - Language is an important aspect of cultural expression and
   preservation, according to B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Pamela
Murray.XIXINXING/GETTY
   IMAGES

The mother and her two kids have no trouble with English. They speak the
language fluently.

English is not their first language. It’s Mandarin.

In 2016, the kids were taken into government care by the B.C. Ministry of
Children and Family Development.

Mom was allowed supervised visits, subject to certain conditions, including
having to speak with her children in English only.

The woman was originally from Beijing. She works with the Canadian federal
government with some rank.

She doesn’t think it’s right that she cannot talk with her kids in
Mandarin. She filed a complaint of discrimination based on race before the
B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

Whether or not the government can prohibit a parent from talking to their
children in their first language if that language is not English is
something that the tribunal has to decide.

Meantime, the ministry sought a dismissal of the complaint on grounds that
it has no prospect of succeeding.

According to the ministry, there was no discrimination because the family
can speak English.

However, tribunal member Pamela Murray was not convinced.

In reasons for decision issued Wednesday (May 22), Murray rejected the
government’s request to dismiss the complaint filed by the woman, who was
anonymized as M.L.

“Assuming that M.L. and her children were fluent in English, that the
family has English skills does not answer the question of whether requiring
them to speak English had an adverse impact on M.L. because of her race –
or ancestry or place of origin, although I acknowledge the complaint does
not refer to the latter protected characteristics,” Murray wrote.

The ministry had also argued that language is not a protected
characteristic in the human rights law.

Although Murray noted that language is indeed not a free-standing ground
for discrimination, it can be protected “only if language is tied to a
prohibited ground – such as race, colour, or place of origin”.

“I cannot find that there is no reasonable prospect that M.L. would be able
to show she was adversely impacted in the services provided by the Ministry
by the requirement that she only speak English to her Children,” Murray
wrote. “Where the Ministry uses its powers to remove a child from a family,
that can have a lasting impact on the parent and the child.”

Murray also noted that language is an “important aspect of cultural
expression”.

“Our language has a connection to our race but arguably more commonly to
our ancestry or place of origin,” Murray explained. “Passing down one’s
language to children can be seen as an important part of preserving a
family’s connection to its roots.”

The woman did not respond to the ministry’s now failed application to have
her complaint dismissed.

Murray noted that the human rights code requires complainants to pursue
their cases diligently.

Murray ordered the mother to get in touch with the tribunal’s case manager
by June 22, 2019 to confirm that she is interested in proceeding with her
complaint. Otherwise, the tribunal member will dismiss the complaint
without notice to her.

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 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/

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