Minority languages symposium 

By Barbara Black

Concordia’s School of Extended Learning (SEL) played host to a symposium on language and identity issues on Feb. 28 and 29.

It was the third annual symposium on Official Language Minorities in Canada, co-sponsored by the Association for Canadian Studies (ACS/AEC) with input from Heritage Canada, the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) and the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadiennes du Canada.

This was the first time the event has been held at Concordia, and fittingly, the accent was on youth. Among the community leaders, academics and government officials were representative young Canadians, notably from francophone communities outside Quebec, but also including some Concordia students.

They discussed the changing demographics of official language minority communities, the impact of migration and mobility, the challenges facing minority-language schools, and the need to maintain strong leadership in official language minority communities.

Quebec Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities Yolande James at the symposium. Magnifying glass

Quebec Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities Yolande James at the symposium.

Jack Jedwab, executive director of the ACS, was one of the speakers at the event, as were Official Languages Commissioner Graham Fraser and Quebec Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities Yolande James.

Jedwab explained in a brief interview that the minority-language communities present different profiles. For young francophones outside Quebec, the French language is a vital means of transmitting their culture in an overwhelmingly English-speaking culture. For young people in ethnically diverse, highly bilingual Montreal, it’s a question of linguistic identity; just defining “anglophone” is a challenge.

At the open-mike session that ended the discussion, young participants urged their elders to include youth on boards and decision-making bodies. There was a consensus that acquiring a second language, French or English, continues to be popular across the country.

As a co-host, Dean Noel Burke said the conference was a way to engage Concordia in this milieu, where it already has close ties. Concordia’s SEL has applied to the federal government to be named as a research hub for minority language communities in Quebec. Burke said, “We have not received a response, but we are hopeful.”

The SEL held a planning day in February to focus on its strategic plan, which will be revealed this spring. The School plans to offer non-credit certificate programs, community development, customized training for business and the public service, a “blended” e-learning platform, a qualifying credits program, and local and international partnerships.

“Programming and additional staffing for the coming year will depend on the acceptance of our strategic plan by the Concordia community, its Senate and the Board,” he said. “In the meantime, all of the usual activities will continue as planned.”


Concordia University