Letter to Ministry of Education in Ontario

News & Events
April 13, 2016

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Wednesday April 13, 2016

Honourable Elizabeth Sandals
Minister of Education
22nd Floor, Mowat Block
900 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1C2

BY EMAIL

Dear Honourable Elizabeth Sandals,

On behalf of the Canadian Association of the Deaf-Association des Sourds du Canada (CAD-ASC), I am writing you a letter to inform you that we have received some concerns from Deaf Ontarians on the current consultations provided by the Ministry of Education in Ontario about the possible closure of several Deaf schools in Ontario.

Founded in 1940, the CAD-ASC 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 who use American Sign Language (ASL) and langue des signes québécoise (LSQ).

The decision from the Government of Ontario to conduct the consultation process is clear in violation against the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CPRD) that Canada has ratified the treaty in March 2010, which the Government of Ontario is therefore legally and morally bound to respect the UN Convention. This position is consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which 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 references to Deaf schools.

We wish to make it clear that the multitude of benefits of accessing language acquisition through Sign language (ASL and LSQ) is a part of children’s language development because we believe that all children deserve to grow up in inclusive environment where ASL and LSQ are the birthright of every Deaf child in Canada. There is quite an array of existing research that proves that Deaf schools are the best places to teach in Sign language. Deaf students who have strong levels of ASL/LSQ early proficiency also attain high levels of English/French literacy.

For most Deaf children and students, that means the Sign language environments and curricula of the four schools in Belleville, London, Milton, and Ottawa (French/LSQ Deaf School) are their best chance to achieve academic and social excellence. All objective research proves conclusively the benefits of teaching in Sign language; if this were not true, why do parents by the thousands enroll even their hearing children in “Baby Sign” classes?

We in the Deaf community constantly see the long-term results of the campaign against Sign language and Deaf schools: adults who are poorly educated and unable to quality for post-secondary institutions; who are unemployed; who suffer mental health and addiction problems directly related to their lack of real language skills; and those who have a delayed embrace of the liberating force of Sign language that was denied to them at an age when it would have been most beneficial for their entire lives. Long-term expenditures, including mental health, of short-term budget elimination of appropriate Deaf education methods and environments are astronomical. Are you willing to save a few dollars on education, only to spend millions more on poverty, unemployment, and social and health expenses as a consequence of such budget cuts?

The full range of programs provided at the Schools For the Deaf must be fully funded to enable Deaf children to obtain education and language skills that will provide them with the opportunities to achieve full citizenship and education (access and completion of a higher level education) and employment (access to labour force participation). We are aware that Deaf organizations in Ontario, including the Ontario Association of the Deaf (OAD), and the Association ontarienne des Sourd(e)s francophones (AOSF), have in the past provided long lists of recommendations for improving the efficiency and academic achievement levels of Deaf schools. Shouldn’t you try improving Deaf education by these means instead of throwing up your hands and quitting on Deaf children by closing their schools?

The CPRD makes a specific reference on Sign language rights towards to the “importance of recognizing the cultural and linguistic identity of Deaf people” (Article 30) and “to recognizing and promoting the use of Sign language” (Article 21) and there are over 60 countries around the world that have, to date, recognized their national Sign languages. The Canadian Association of the Deaf-Association des Sourds du Canada is currently working on getting the recognition of American Sign Language (ASL) and langue des signes québécoise (LSQ) as official languages of Canada through the Parliament of Canada.

We urge the Government of Ontario to keep its Deaf schools open in Ontario, and endorse the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ with its articles that state universal rights for Deaf education. The Canadian Association of the Deaf – Association des Sourds du Canada stands ready to meet with the Minister of Education in Ontario to discuss these very crucial issues.

Please contact me at ffolino@cad.ca for a meeting before you make any final decisions regarding the future of Deaf education in Ontario.

Thank you for this attention on this letter.

Sincerely,

[Original signed by F. Folino]

Frank Folino
President

Distribution Lists:

  • Board of Directors and Staff, Canadian Association of the Deaf-Association des Sourds du Canada
  • Provincial and Organizational Affiliates, Canadian Association of the Deaf-Association des Sourds du Canada
  • Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General, United Nations
  • The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister, Canada
  • The Honourable Stéphane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Canada
  • The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sports and Persons with Disabilities
  • The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children, and Social Development
  • The Honourable Rona Ambrose, Interim Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and Leader of the Opposition
  • The Honourable Thomas J. Mulcair, Leader of the New Democratic Party
  • Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party
  • Patrick Brown, Progressive Conservative Leader of Opposition and Education Critic, Ontario
  • Andrea Horwath, Leader of New Democrats Party, Ontario
  • Lisa Gretzky, Education Critic, New Democrats Party, Ontario
  • Honourable Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario
  • Honourable Deb Matthews, Deputy Premier of Ontario
  • Dr. Shafiq Qaadri, Parliamentary Assistant to the Premier
  • George Zegarac, Deputy Minister of Education
  • Grant Crack, Parliamentary Assistant to Minister of Education
  • Dr. June Rogers, Director of Education, Ministry of Education
  • André Marin, Ontario Ombudsman
  • Juan Jaramillo, Advocates for Children and Youth, Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth of Ontario
  • Chantal C. Beaulieu, Executive Director, The Council of Ministers of Education in Canada
  • Colin Allen, President, World Federation of the Deaf
  • Debra Russell, President, World Association of Sign Language Interpreters
  • Rylyn Lennox, President, Deaf Youth Canada
  • Jocelyn Mark, President, The Association of Visual Sign Language Interpreters of Canada
  • Michael McGuire, President, Association ontarienne des Sourd(e)s francophones
  • Geneviève Deguire, Responsible for LSQ Education, Association ontarienne des Sourd(e)s francophones
  • George Postlethwait, President, Ontario Association of the Deaf
  • Donald Prong, Executive Director, Ontario Association of the Deaf
  • Rose Etheridge, President, Parent Advocates for Deaf Schools in Ontario