Human Rights Case Progress

Wednesday the 17th November saw the start of what looks like the most significant Human Rights language case in New Zealand history( see HRC release on this site) A group of Pacific families from Niue,Cook Is, Samoan and Tongan ancestry have lodged formal complaints with the Commission over the decisions of the New Zealand Ministry of Education to "pause" the Pasifika langauge and literacy publications.The families say this symbolic insult to Pacific people is a continuation of the apparent wish of some white Palagi NZers in power, led by the Minister of Education and senior Ministry of Education Officials to tell Pacific people they should be raising their children in English only- worse than that, to enforce such a policy on Pacific familes through the education system because "they know best what is good for us and our children". "Such attitudes will take away our children's Pacific identities, cultures languages and heritages.."

This deficit strategy of seeing Pacific children as problems to be remediated and needing Special Education intervention to do so(See AK Pasifika Plan). The Human Rights descrimination involves the long standing lack of adequate recognition, support and funding for the learning of Pacific languages and cultures in ECE and in primary schools 9 yr1-6) and the refusal to agree support or fund Pacific languages use as mediums of instruction(see McCaffery & McFall- McCaffery, 2010 on this site)

In a "David Verses Goliath" battle these families have said enough- it has to stop

One family described it as follows-

Instead government has given up what is best for us, its diverse Pacific peoples in favour of the so called interests of the majority who seek to impose their sameness decisions on Pacific families by removing from Pacific families the right to choice and the right to contribute to their children’s education in meaningful ways that allow our children to contribute to and participate in the NZ society in ways that recognize our right to continue to live life and enjoy success in NZ as Pacific people. In doing so they have removed and or refused to enact provisions that would enable our family –

1) to enjoy and experience education success in the Realm of NZ education as Pacific children.
2) to be able to grow up in the context of our own languages, cultures, values and beliefs
3) to gain the skills knowledge and understandings to be productive citizens of the wider world and participate in all areas of society sharing in its material well being.
4) to live life in the Realm of NZ as Pacific people.

The case claims that Pasifika familes and children do have the legal right of access to their own languages and cultures through the education system from ECE to tertiary under NZ 2000 Human Rights Act,the Bill of Rights and international United Nations(UN) Charters and Declarations including the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

As there has never been a claim on language rights before under these recent provisions this case may well set legal and constitutional precidents that will come to define the place of Pacific peoples in New Zealand. As one spokesperson said-

Are we just visitors here, migrants or are our rights different in nature from other migrants? - Are we as Cook Is, Niue and Tokelau NZ citizens, part of the fabric of NZ with language and other rights as indigenous citizens of the legal Realm of NZ which is governed over by the Queen?

In addition the families say the Ministry ofustice has already ruled ( Ministry of Justice /MPIA, 2000 -see on this site that Pacific peoples do have a different legal and constitutional relationship with NZ and that this includes Samoa and Tonga.

The families have also launced a Petition to Parliament calling for the reinstating of the Tupu and Folauga reading materilas and for bilingual education in primary schools. Expect the current Minister of Education and the National Government to fight the case through to the Supreme Court in an attempt to ensure such a ruling is never made and enforced by the NZ or International tribunals and courts.

The families are equally determined that enough is enough and the time has come to fight back by using the Human Rights legal provisions that are now in before their languages cultures and identities are erased by a deficit "you are a problem to us" institutionally racist education system now clearly unwilling to support the aspirations of Pasifika familes for the future of their children to have both English and their own languages into the next generation.

Watch this space - you are seeing history unfold in front of your eyes that will determine if your grandchildren are able to raise their children in their own languages or whether we will all be speaking "English ONLY" in the next generations?