CAD Fights Back Against the Closure!

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CAD Fights Back Against the Closure!

September 16, 2010

Monday August 30, 2010

Department of Education Attn: Honorable Darin King, Minister of Education
Confederation Building
3rd Floor, West Block
P.O. Box 8700
St. John’s, NL A1B 4J6
Re: Closure of the Newfoundland School for the Deaf

We, the Canadian Association of the Deaf, are writing an open letter to the Department of Education in Newfoundland and Labrador to express our strong opposition to the closure of the Newfoundland School for the Deaf (NSD).

The Canadian Association of the Deaf is the national information, research, and community action organization of Deaf people in Canada. We promote and protect the rights, needs, and concerns of those who are linguistically and culturally Deaf.

On July 19th in Vancouver at International Congress of Educators of the Deaf (ICED), an agreement was signed that repudiated 130-year-old resolutions which have caused incalculable damage to Deaf people around the world. In 1880 at Milan, Italy, the ICED passed a motion that effectively banned Sign language from Deaf schools and prevented Deaf people from becoming teachers. More than a century of illiteracy and unemployment resulted in Deaf communities around the world.

That 1880 motion was formally rejected in July when the “New Era” agreement was signed by ICED Chairperson Claire Anderson, World Federation of the Deaf President Markku Jokinen, Canadian Association of the Deaf President Doug Momotiuk, and B.C. Deaf Community leader Wayne Sinclair.

You have attempted to justify the school closing by saying all 199 Deaf students in the province are enrolled in regular schools. How could there be sufficient support services to meet the needs of 199 Deaf students when there are only 9 Sign language interpreters in the province?

Moreover, your department released statistics less than four years ago that showed over 400 Deaf students in the province. Have half of these students graduated? Or have you just reclassified them in order to reduce the numbers on paper? Are there in fact 400 students needing the services of only 9 interpreters?

The decision to close the NSD does not only defy the New Era document in which actual educators of the Deaf affirm the need for Deaf schools and Sign language; it also violates the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Not only did the Canadian Parliament ratify this document, but so did your own Legislative Assembly. Prime Minister Stephen Harper insisted that each and every province must ratify it before he would allow Canada to ratify it. You have therefore broken your own passed legislation.

The United Nations Convention explicitly supports “recognizing and promoting the use of Sign languages” (Article 21, section e); “facilitating the learning of Sign language and the promotion of the linguistic identity of the Deaf community” (Article 24, section 3b), and “ensuring that the education of persons, and in particular children, who are blind, deaf or deafblind, is delivered in the most appropriate languages and modes and means of communication for the individual, and in environments which maximize academic and social development.” (Article 24, section 3c). That last article means Deaf schools.

The Ministry of Education is therefore legally and morally bound to respect the UN Convention. It must also recognize and respect the New Era document of the ICED, and the resolution adopted by the World Federation of the Deaf at its 15th Congress at Madrid in 2007 which was also signed by official Canadian delegates. The WFD resolution states the following:

Reaffirming that deaf people are entitled to the same human rights as all social groups and that diversity is an intrinsic factor in the Deaf Community, Recognising the importance of children and youth; deafblind; deaf with disabilities; immigrants; indigenous peoples; lesbians, gays, transgenders and bisexuals; people in rural areas; religious minorities; senior citizens; and all deaf people as citizens of society with the same rights and obligations as other citizens, Emphasising that by adopting positive actions, equality among all will be accelerated, Emphasising that Sign language is a human right for all members of the Deaf Community, including those who use assistive devices and implants, Reaffirming that multi-lingual education in Sign language gives deaf and hard of hearing people the best opportunity to achieve full citizenship and enjoyment of all human rights, The World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), its Members and the participants at the 15th World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf agree to promote and implement this Congress Resolution to all governments and authorities, demanding respect for the realisation of HUMAN RIGHTS THROUGH SIGN LANGUAGES

We call upon you to reserve your decision to close the Newfoundland School for the Deaf; and in keeping with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the New Era agreement, and the Resolutions of the 15th Congress of the WFD, that you respect that Sign language and Deaf education are important means of communication, equality, and participation of Deaf people in all aspects of society.

We look forward to your positive response to this important issue on behalf of all the Deaf communities in Canada.


Doug Momotiuk Frank Folino
President Vice President

cc: Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General, United Nations
Markku Jokinen, President, World Federation of the Deaf
The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada
The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs
The Honourable Josée Verner, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs
Hon. Michael Ignatieff, Leader of the Official Opposition & Intergovernmental Affairs
Hon. Bob Rae, Liberal Critic, Foreign Affairs
Hon. Jack Layton, Leader of New Democratic Party & Intergovernmental Affairs Critic
Paul Dewar, Foreign Affairs Critic, New Democrats Party
Hon. Danny William, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador
Yvonne Jones, Liberal Leader of Opposition, Newfoundland and Labrador
Lorraine Michael, Leader of New Democrats Party, Newfoundland and Labrador
Jim Roots, Executive Director, Canadian Association of the Deaf
Jodie Burke, President, Newfoundland and Labrador Association of the Deaf
Chris Kenopic, President and CEO, Canadian Hearing Society
Christie Reaume, President, The Association Visual Sign Language of Canada
Hon. Diane Gifford, The Council of Ministers of Education in Canada
Dr. Andrew Parkin, Director General, The Council of Ministers of Education in Canada