On the 13th of January 2011, the University of the West Indies opened its gates to heads of state, government ministers, distinguished linguistics, other dignitaries and interested persons, for a most momentous inaugural event. The International Conference on Language Policy in the Creole Speaking Caribbean hosted by the International Centre for Caribbean Language Research (ICCLR) and the Jamaican Language Unit (JLU), was conducted over 2 days (13th and 14th of January 2011) with the primary objective to produce a Charter of Language Rights document that would protect indigenous and Creole speakers across the region.
Day 1 of the conference commenced with an opening ceremony. The welcome and opening remarks were given by Dr. Karen Carpenter and Professor Hubert Devonish, the principal figures of the ICCLR/ JLU. This was followed by presentations from His Excellency Sir Patrick Allen (the Governor General of Jamaica), His Excellency Sir Colville Young (the Governor General of Belize), Her Excellency, Dame Pearlette Louisy (Governor General of St. Lucia), Vice Chancellor of the UWI, Drs. Linda Richardson and Dr. Marta Dijkhoff. Each presenter engaged the listening audience with personal expectations of the conference and the particular language rights challenges being experienced in their own homeland. These presentations set the tone for the overall proceedings.
The second half of day 1 and the first half of day 2 saw the conference attendees breaking into working groups, charged with the task of developing the draft of the Charter pre-prepared by the ICCLR working group. Specifically, each group was asked to grapple with and thoroughly elucidate the myriad factors preventing the indigenous languages of the region from having the same status as the regional states’ official languages. In its pre-preparation, the ICCLR working group had broken down the issues into 3 broad categories, with beginning workings under each. Hence conference attendees were assigned to a work group according to their area of interest or expertise. The 3 broad areas that were looked on by the working groups are:
1) Public Administration, Official Bodies & Socio-Economic Sphere
The final session of the conference was open to the public and an executive summary of the Charter of Language Rights worked on over the 2 day period, was presented. A question and answer segment followed the presentation, which allowed for further queries or recommendations on how the charter’s content could be improved in order to be presented to Governments. At the end of that process, the conference attendees and interested members of the public were invited to affix their signatures to a petition sheet endorsing the Charter and its mandate.
The inaugural Conference on Language Policy in the Creole-speaking Caribbean was certainly fruitful; both for those who attended and for the organisers. The conference achieved its objectives and with this accomplishment, the ICCLR along with the partnerships formed before and during the conference, are now working to have this most crucial document tabled in the houses of parliaments throughout the region.
Here is a list of some of the persons who were in attendance:
v His Excellency Sir Patrick Allen (the Governor General of Jamaica)
v His Excellency, Sir Colville Young (the Governor General of Belize)
v Her Excellency, Dame Pearlette Louisy (Governor General of St. Lucia)
v Hon. Dr. Jacqui Quinn-Leonardo (Minister of Education, Sports, Youth & Gender Affairs, Antigua & Barbuda)
v Professor Oswald Harding (President of the Senate in the House of Parliament, Jamaica)
v Professor Nigel E. Harris (Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies)
v Prof. Lawrence Carrington (Vice Chancellor of the University of Guyana)
v Prof. Hazel Simmons-McDonald (Principal of the UWI Open Campus)
v Dr. Rebecca Tortello (Ministry of Education, Jamaica)
v Mrs. Mala Morton-Gittens (Ministry of Education, Trinidad & Tobago)
v Dr. Marta Dijkhoff (Former Minister of Education, Netherlands Antilles)
v Drs. Linda Richardson (Former Minister of Education, Netherlands Antilles)
And many other distinguished guests!
To see excerpts of the conference, please go to the following links:
1) http://tv.mona.uwi.edu/#id=659 , conference footage link
2) http://tv.mona.uwi.edu/#id=660, conference footage link
For further information on the current activities of the ICCLR and to get a copy of the Charter on Language Rights please go to our website: