Celebrating Canada Day and Sri Lanka’s Official Language Week

A Message from David McKinnon | The High Commissioner of Canada

David McKinnon
High Commissioner of Canada
High Commission of Canada to Sri Lanka and Maldives

It is my great pleasure to mark again the Official Languages Day in Sri Lanka. In 2019, Canada marked the 50th anniversary of its own Official Languages Act, which protects our nation’s French and English linguistic duality. We are pleased to draw on our own experience as a bilingual country to support the implementation of Sri Lanka’s Official Languages Policy. Serendipitously, Canada Day also coincides with the beginning of Sri Lanka’s Official Language Week.

Canada is a longstanding partner of Sri Lanka in its journey to advance language rights and diversity.  We have been sharing our experience and supporting language rights issues in Sri Lanka since the early 2000s through a series of language initiatives. Currently, that work is in the form of the National Languages Equality Advancement Project (NLEAP). These projects are designed to strengthen the implementation of the Sri Lankan Official Languages Policy and the recommendations of the 2011 Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission report.

A language allows us to share ideas, thoughts and feelings with one another. It has the power to build societies, but also, if we are not careful, to sow division. Language rights in multi-ethnic and multi-cultural societies such as Canada and Sri Lanka afford minorities the respect for their cultural, ethnic and religious identities.  At the same time, the protection and advancement of such rights enables linguistic minorities to see themselves as integral to the country as a whole.

Canada strives for inclusion and diversity even as we come to terms with very difficult aspects of our history. Ultimately, our differences can strengthen us and bring us together, but it takes effort.

Respect for languages can promote trust and understanding, and the ability to communicate with someone in their own language is an invaluable step toward healing ethnic divides and achieve lasting peace. Now more than ever, it is critical that we all, whether in Sri Lanka or Canada, or elsewhere around the world, question the misinformation and intolerance that seeks to divide us.

On this special occasion celebrating the Official Languages Day 2021, I wish all Sri Lankans a successful journey on the path to reconciliation, peace and prosperity.