Punjabi and Cantonese As Canada’s Two New Official Languages?

April 20, 2006: Punjabi and Cantonese As Canada's Two New Official Languages?


A recent Vancouver Sun column, written by a person of Punjabi origin, stated that in order for broadcasts of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver to be understood by all the people in the country, and to “embrace Canada's new linguistic reality”, Canada should consider making Cantonese and Punjabi Canada's two new official languages. These languages happen to be the ones spoken by a large number of recent immigrants.

Most Canadians would find the suggestion exceptionally arrogant and would shake their heads in disbelief. And undoubtedly, a number of Punjabi and Cantonese speakers would be embarrassed to hear that a member of their group had publicly expressed such a view. But it is clear that others see nothing wrong with it.

The question that Canadians have to ask is this: Why are this person and his supporters making such a statement?

Canadians do not have to look very far to find some answers:

(1) Multiculturalism: Canada's multiculturalism policies have encouraged the separation of many immigrant groups from mainstream Canada. Although previous waves of immigration have produced similar isolationist behaviour, the behaviour was never officially encouraged by governments. Consequently, it gradually dissolved. However, since mass immigration began in 1990, a number of elected officials at all three levels of government have actively promoted isolationist, multicultural policies in order to secure votes—effectively perpetuating this behaviour.

Not long ago, British Columbians heard one particular result of elected officials' encouragement of this attitude: a demand for a division of B.C. into two provinces (one chiefly occupied by visible minorities) in order to have the interests of visible minorities better served. Canadians did not hear any censure of this view from elected officials, a number of whom seem to believe that satisfying every such demand, no matter how absurd, is perfectly acceptable.

(2) Mass Immigration: For most of Canada's history, our country has never had a mass immigration policy. Contrary to conventional wisdom, Canada's population growth has been driven primarily by natural increase, not by immigration. Between 1861 and 1900, for example, Canada experienced population growth, but emigration from Canada actually exceeded immigration. Although Canada did have large numbers of immigrants arrive here just before World War 1, it has had, since then, significant “immigration breathers”—periods of low immigration (often caused by high unemployment) in which newcomers had a time to adjust to the country and integrate.

The current mass immigration policy has given the immigrants of some particular groups the idea that unlimited numbers of their groups can and will continue to enter Canada, and that sooner or later, their groups will outnumber the host population in certain regions. The person who has made the suggestion that Punjabi and Cantonese be made official languages of Canada has seen his linguistic group become the majority in a few areas, and he obviously believes that immigration is primarily about competition for power. To him, the idea that new immigrants should make a genuine effort to accept Canada's ethnic make-up and to fit into Canada is unecessary and unworthy of consideration.

(3) Complete Ignorance and Disregard of Canadian History: The people who have expressed such a view are so immersed in where they came from, and have so completely re-created that place here, that they have no idea where they are. If Canada is going to assist any groups in the preservation of languages, it should be our aboriginal people. Beyond them, the trans-continental nation state of Canada has only two founding nations. Period. Most Canadians are willing to respect newcomers, but it is becoming clearer and clearer that a continuation of high immigration numbers means that certain groups are going to demand linguistic status equal to that of the French and English founding nations, or status equal to that of aboriginals.

Canada's response should be to immediately end its unjustified mass immigration policy. Otherwise, the country will descend into complete absurdity. Canada is supposed to be an established country, not some partially-filled space where newcomers use every possible legal or illegal device, with the assistance of a number of elected officials and their supporters, to increase their numbers and compete for power. This attitude shows a complete contempt and disrespect for Canada. The people who present the idea that Punjabi and Cantonese should become Canada's two additional official languages have to be told loudly and clearly that this idea is absolutely ridiculous. And elected officials and their supporters who nourish this view should get long terms in the political obscurity they so richly deserve.