DEAF SCHOOLS STILL UNDER ATTACK DESPITE NEW INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENT

News & Events

DEAF SCHOOLS STILL UNDER ATTACK DESPITE NEW INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENT

August 6, 2010

6 August 2010 For immediate release

Ottawa (ON) — It has been a week of great joy and angry grief for Deaf Canadians at opposite ends of the country.

On July 19th in Vancouver, an agreement was signed that repudiated 130-year-old resolutions that have caused incalculable damages to Deaf people all around the world.

Exactly one week later, the Newfoundland and Labrador government pushed Deaf education backwards again by announcing the closure of the Deaf school in St. John’s.

In 1880 in Milan, Italy, the International Congress of Educators of the Deaf (ICED) passed a motion that effectively banned Sign language from Deaf schools and prevented Deaf people from becoming teachers. More than a century of plummeting literacy and employment resulted in Deaf communities everywhere.

That 1880 motion was formally rejected last week 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. Community leader Wayne Sinclair.

“We did it to try to erase the worldwide ignorance and misconceptions about the deaf,” said Sinclair, who spearheaded the negotiations. “The Milan decision was a disaster for all of us. It resulted in two-third of Deaf people being functionally illiterate, and only one-third of us are fully employed.”

Responding to the closing of the Newfoundland School for the Deaf, Jim Roots, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of the Deaf (CAD), caustically observed, “It seems the Newfoundland government is no longer half an hour ahead of everybody else. Instead, they are now 130 years behind!”

The government justified the school closing by saying all 199 Deaf students in the province are enrolled in regular schools, but Roots questioned whether there were sufficient support services in place to meet the needs of 199 students.

“Newfoundland has no more than a handful of qualified Sign language interpreters, and they are all overwhelmed with community demands. The province certainly doesn’t have 199 fully-qualified interpreters to serve these students.

So the government is basically telling these students to either drop out of school or else move to Ontario and try to enroll in the Deaf schools there.”

Doug Momotiuk, President of the CAD, pointed out that the Newfoundland decision not only goes completely against the “New Era” document, it also violates the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

“The Convention explicitly protects our right to be educated in Sign language in Deaf schools,” he explained.

A coalition is building among Deaf organizations such as the Canadian Association of the Deaf, Deaf Bilingual Coalition – Canada, service agencies including the Canadian Hearing Society, and community groups.

“We’re going to work together to address these issues in every province,” promised Chris Kenopic, newly-appointed President and CEO of the Canadian Hearing Society. “The New Era document and the United Nations Convention are not just pieces of paper.  They represent a whole new attitude about the right of Deaf children to an education that includes Sign language.”

For further information:

  1. Wayne Sinclair, independent Vancouver Deaf activist; email to deafwanderer@hotmail.com or text to 778 899 5975.
  2. Roger Carver, Executive Director, Saskatchewan Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services; email to rcarver@sdhhs.com.
  3. Doug Momotiuk, President, Canadian Association of the Deaf; email to DMomotiuk@smd.mb.ca