Language matters

Language matters. You hopefully already know that.

In the immigrant/refugee sector, we have a lot of language that gets used somewhat interchangeably:

  • visible minority/racialized
  • newcomer/immigrant/new Canadian
  • ethnic/new mainstream/cultural communities
  • foreign trained/internationally educated/internationally trained/foreign professional
  • refugee/asylum seeker/bogus refugee/illegal immigrant
  • diversity/inclusion/tolerance

What’s the right language to use? What’s most inclusive? What’s changed that means maybe our language needs to change? What language should we just not use?
A big one in our sector is an ongoing issue about the term visible minority. Is racialized better?

Neither term is acceptable to all, but visible minority is Canada’s technical term for people who have different skin colour (than white, of course). Some in cities like Toronto talk about there being a “visible majority” now. While not the norm for most of Canada, it raises an important question. Are we using the right language?

Recently Stats Can released Census data about the linguistic characteristics of Canadians. Admittedly, I hadn’t see it before, but it lists “immigrant languages” and explains: The term ‘immigrant languages’ refers to languages (other than English, French and Aboriginal languages) whose presence in Canada is originally due to immigration.

It started an interesting discussion on Twitter.

What about anglophone, francophone, allophone, aboriginal? Too Quebec-centric? Allo comes from Greek “other”, so that won’t work with some, for sure.

Someone introduced the term multiculturalism in the mix and said: “Reason why multiculturalism must not be abandoned in favour of something else. It focuses on #equality not immigrants.”

which got the reply:

“I would argue the opposite, that now ppl who are not immigrants feel like they are not part of this new ‘equality'”

It’s a good conversation to have. It’s not a one-time conversation.

And not just in our sector. But, everywhere in your life.

Because, language has tremendous impact on our lives. One word, one moment lives with us forever.

Watch, learn, think:

Oh, and since you’re here. Watch this too. The whole thing.

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marco

Communications in social services/social change, immigration, diversity & inclusion in Toronto. Wannabe librarian, interested in nonprofit tech innovation.

Communications in social services/social change, immigration, diversity & inclusion in Toronto. Wannabe librarian, interested in nonprofit tech innovation.

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