I recently worked with some other Canadians to identify the major events in plain language in Canada for a book. I took their material and my own and wrote about Canada’s plain language experience for another publication. Now I want to show you what I have compiled in this process: a 40-year history plain language in Canada, in brief.
Since I was not aware at that time that I would be reporting, my memory of events may be flawed. I certainly had my own perspective; I noticed that the contributions of others were focused on their own experiences. So I invite anyone to contribute in the comments below that which they remember differently or that they experienced and may not have come to be known widely at the time.
This series will run to 3 or 4 posts.
Canada’s Setting for Plain Language
A few things most people won’t know about Canada:
- From the Atantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, the greatest width of Canada is 9,306 km. This covers 6 time zones.
- Canada is 9.9 million square kilometers, the world’s second-largest country by total area, and the largest in the western Hemisphere.
- Canada’s population has grown from 28 million in 1991 to an estimated 35 million in 2012.
- About 4/5s of Canada’s population lives within 150 kilometres of the United States border.
Canada is officially bilingual (French and English) but, as a country of immigrants, many languages are spoken here and referred to as non-official. The First Nations people also strive to preserve their own Aboriginal languages.
This chart gives the most-used non-official languages used in Canada and the number of identified speakers. Yet another 2 million people speak other languages.
Non-official languages 6,147,840 speakers
Chinese, n.o.s. 456,705
Tagalog (Pilipino) 235,615
Inuktitut (Eskimo) 32,380
Canadian Philosophy of Plain Language
Canada took up plain language to serve democratic values. Canadians believe:
1. People must be able to see and understand the laws that rule their lives.
2. Since we hold people responsible to laws, they have a right to know the law.
3. People do not really have rights unless they know and understand those rights.
4. People need to know basic law to do their daily business.
… more soon