QUEEN’S PARK – Ontario NDP MPP Chris Glover (Spadina – Fort York), Official Opposition Critic for Accessibility and Disability Justice Sarah Jama (Hamilton Centre), and MPP Peter Tabuns (Toronto – Danforth) announced their legislation today to proclaim September 23rd as the International Day of Sign Languages to raise awareness about the importance of sign languages, the need for accessibility services, and the cultural importance of sign languages here in our province.
“There are 150,000 Ontarians who are Deaf, part of a global community of 70 million Deaf individuals who use sign languages and services,” said Glover. “The International Day of Sign Languages is a day to recognize and support sign languages and the communities that use them.”
This Bill, titled International Day of Sign Languages in Ontario Act, 2023, recognizes the significance of early access to sign languages and services, emphasizes the preservation of sign languages as a part of cultural diversity, and promotes the principle of inclusion and collaboration for Deaf communities.
“Erasure of languages has been a colonial tool for a long time,” shared Jama. “This is a step in the direction of making sure that Deaf people are able to keep their culture that has been attempted to stripped from them.”
“I am very proud to be a co-sponsor of this bill,” added Tabuns. “Sign language needs to be recognized and promoted for inclusivity and equality. I want to thank former MPP Gary Malkowski for his advocacy over the years and for bringing the idea of this bill forward.”
The Ontario NDP MPPs were joined by former MPP Gary Malkowski, the first and so far only Deaf person to be elected to the Ontario Legislature; Donald Prong, Executive Director of Ontario Association of the Deaf; and Leah Riddell, President of Ontario Cultural Society of the Deaf.
“It is urgent time for the Government of Ontario to start investing all Ontarians to learning enriching sign languages, increasing employees sign languages proficiency skills level, in the early childhood education, and education systems, post-secondary educational settings, and booming sign language industry that creates more jobs for hundreds of Deaf Ontarians and Canadians.”
- Gary Malkowski Director, Sign Language Institute Canada, Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf
“Sign Languages are essential, health needs and benefits of all Ontarians including babies, children, youth, adults and seniors to appreciate Ontario life in the Province of Ontario.”
- Leah Riddell, President, Ontario Cultural Society of the Deaf
“Sign languages are human rights, and they are not just options. Sign Language Rights are supported by United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ratified by the Government of Canada. It is time the Government of Ontario joins them in proclaiming this important day.”
- Donald Prong, Executive Director, Ontario Association of the Deaf
“Recognizing language is something very important for us, and of course the value of sign language. Without that, what is life and identity? Without culture, and the erasure of those things...including for children, who for many years have experienced barriers? This is a step towards eliminating those barriers and it is time to liberate from any forms of Audism, discriminations and oppressions against Deaf people.”
- Denise Read, President, Association Ontarienne des Sourds Francophone (ASOF)