Minister for Advanced Education & Training hopes for more use of accessible language

Minister for Advanced Education and Training, Renée Cable, says it’s important for all Canadians language be accessible so they can engage in politics. Joanne Roberts has the story.

For some, language in politics isn’t always so easy to follow or understand. One Manitoba Minister is calling for this to change — both for politicians and for Manitobans, so everyone can understand what’s happening in the province.

“If we want people to be interested in politics, to vote, to participate, we need to show them that the doors are open,” said Renée Cable, Manitoba’s Minister of Advanced Education & Training and MLA for Southdale.

“I think when we don’t tell a story in a way that is easy to understand we create walls and barriers for people to really be included,” she said. “I think if we look historically at different systems around us, in some ways that language is intentional. It was only for a certain kind of person, a certain class of society. As we move forward, I think those times are changing.“

Renée Cable, MLA for Southdale and the Minister for Advanced Education & Training, says language used in politics needs to become more accessible for Canadians. (Photo Credit: Joanne Roberts, CityNews)

Minister Cable says it’s important that her work and work done by the provincial government stay accessible for Manitobans, this includes making sure language is easy to understand.

“In politics we use words like ‘legislation’ instead of ‘law’. We use like ‘educational facility’ when we can say ‘school’. A good part of learning that I wanted to be a part of this was learning how to decode that language,” she explained.

First-generation immigrant, Kris Ontong, who is also the host of vodcast Barangay Canada and the former executive assistant of Member of Parliament, Kevin Lamoureux, says it’s especially important immigrants are able to understand what’s happening in their communities.

“A lot of problems that constituents encounter are very complicated and they only are able to elaborate it in their native language,” explained Ontong.

“[People] come to a new country and then they try their best to understand how the government is being run so that is a challenge for them. It’s an added responsibility for them to understand the Canadian system of government. Then we have two levels of government — we have the provincial and then we also have the federal. You can just imagine how challenging it is for them to understand what’s going on.”

Ontong’s show often features different politicians speaking about current events, to which he adds subtitles in Tagalog for his audience. He says he hopes more people in politics make time to speak to media which caters to different cultures to help further engage communities.

“Immigrants actually want to know what’s going on around them. Of course they’re very busy and trying to make ends meet, but the fact that the issues are accessible, that they’re easy to understand, means a lot. That’s why when I worked with organizations like the Ethnocultural Council of Manitoba – Stronger Together [Inc.], whenever there’s an issue here in the province, they would come out with videos explaining what that issue is [in different languages],” said Ontong.

Kris Ontong, host of the vodcast Barangay Canada, says it’s important for newcomers that language is accessible in English and the native languages of different cultures in Canada. (Photo Credit: Joanne Roberts, CityNews)

Cable echoes Ontong’s sentiment. She says people get a taste of what immigrants feel when they’re put into situations where they rely on others to help them get their message across language barriers.

“I have been interviewed a number of times by a number of different outlets in languages that I don’t speak and I think it’s a fantastic initiative and also a phenomenal exercise in trust that actually allows me to feel how newcomers will feel when they don’t understand English. I am trusting, when I am being interviewed and somebody is translating on my behalf, that what I am saying is being portrayed how I want it to. It’s a wonder exercise, I feel like, in empathy,” stated Cable.

Cable says many of her colleagues who are multi-lingual rely on each other to help make their work accessible to different communities. She says she’s hoping as the new caucus continues its work, plainer language makes its way into how they address Manitobans.

“We are changing the face of politics but that means also that the systems that we’re operating in and the language that we use need to change, too.”

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