Members of the province’s deaf community were at the B.C. Legislature on Saturday afternoon advocating for American Sign Language (ASL), Langue des Signes Quebecoise (LSQ) and Indigenous Sign Language (ISL) to be officially recognized by the federal government.
Sept.22 is the National ISL, ASL and LSQ Awareness Day, and Sept. 23 is the first ever International Day of Sign Languages, which happens to falls in line with creation of bill c-81:the Accessible Canada Act. The bill aims to “enhance the full and equal participation of all persons, especially persons with disabilities, in society,” and just went through its second reading. However, the Act does not specifically mention the deaf community.
“Our goal is to advocate with the federal government to recognize sign language, that’s ASL, LSQ, and Indigenous Sign Languages… to look at the Accessible Canada Act to also be accessible linguistically,” said Lindsay Carroll, chairperson for the BC ASL-LSQ through an interpreter. “For deaf people, that means that we will have increased access to federal services. An example would be to the CRA even or even just providing more job opportunities for deaf people in the future.”
Advocates also want Indigenous Sign Language to be recognized in the Indigenous Languages Act. Indigenous peoples have used different varieties of sign languages for thousands of years, but they’ve only recently been recognized as languages, even within their own communities.
“Most Indigenous people who are hearing, are aware of Indigenous deaf people, they are aware of Indigenous Sign language, but they are not aware or had not thought of it as a formal language, they think it’s just gestures or body language used by people at home,” said Nicole Sellers, National Indigenous Sign Language, ASL, LSQ representative for the Coast Salish People through an interpreter. “The Indigenous community hadn’t realized that in the beginning.”
Since then, more and more First Nations are recognizing various ISLs, but Sellers wants it formally recognized and preserved in the Indigenous Language Act. She was taught ISL by her grandmother when she was a child, but says she is not completely fluent in it.
Bill C-81 went through its second reading on Sept. 19, and will be tabled for its third reading shortly.