A Few Little Words

I know this is old news, but it’s  been fermenting in my mind for a while now.

Robert Dziekanski  – Remember him, from Vancouver airport fame?  He was the Pole who couldn’t decipher signs well enough to figure out how to meet his mother, who was living here in Canada.

The RCMP got a lot of flak for his death, and likely still do.  But my question is this:

Don’t they sell Polish-English/English-Polish translation dictionaries in Poland?  If not, why didn’t his mother send him one- I’m sure you can find or order one at your local Coles (if they still exist) or Chapters or Indigo or whatever the current big book chain is?

If he had had such a simple, common item, he might well still be alive today because the police would have never had to respond to his being frustrated that Canada wasn’t full of Polish speakers to be at his immediate use.

There are people who are offended at the idea that a person should at least come armed with a bit of reference English.  I’m trying to understand why telling prospective immigrants that they should at least be able to read English well enough to use a translation dictionary is so horrible.

I made sure I had a Greek-English two-way dictionary before I visited Greece, and made darn sure I knew how to pronouce the letters right, too.  I had no problem – signs are fairly simple to read, and the words “help” and “lost” can get you very far.

So why can’t we in Canada ask people to know at least a little English for their own good?

Or do those who are offended think that Canada should have all signs written in every language in the world?

Would they demand this of all countries, in all the world?  Or just Canada?  Or just Western countries – would Japan be included or excluded in this case?

Why shouldn’t an immigrant – who was not some poor refugee – come armed with a language translation dictionary?

His death rests on his own head, and that of his mother’s.  If he had had a dictionary, and been able to at least point out a word or two, or translate signs such as “Exit” or “Information”,  the RCMP would never have been called, and he’d still be alive today.


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2 Responses to A Few Little Words

  1. Daniel Nicholas Rooney says:

    I attended part of the Braidwood inquiry and read most of the transcript. The airport signage at the time was confusing to many people and the responding officers gave conflicting orders, and then used the Taser improperly. When he died, they didn’t notice and left him in handcuffs. Let’s not blame the victim. In the aftermath, the airport changed signage and policy – the RCMP attempted to coverup their mistakes.

  2. darwinianoutcast says:

    But did Englsh-speakers manage to find their way out of the airport nonetheless? I haven’t heard about anyone else getting stuck and frustrated. Maybe this guy’s problem was – HE COULDN’T READ ENOUGH ENGLISH?!

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