Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities – Elements Cornwall MUST Focus on Now – Part I

Some eighteen months after the historic announcement that Cornwall had been recognised as a National Minority under the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention, the time is ripe to examine various Articles of the document in order to identify specific areas that Cornwall needs to focus on to ensure it gets the protection and increased status that comes with it.

Whilst going through this particular blog post, and next week’s second part of it, the reader may wish to refer to the actual Framework document, which can be found at https://rm.coe.int/CoERMPublicCommonSearchServices/DisplayDCTMContent?documentId=09000016800c10cf

Before going into greater detail on the areas that I believe Cornwall has to focus on, it is worth referring to page two of the document which states: “Democratic society should…create appropriate conditions enabling (the National Minority) to express, preserve and develop this identity.” This can only happen with National Government acceptance of Cornwall’s difference and help in expressing this difference.

Articles 1 and 4 of the Framework Convention deal explicitly with Human Rights – and here is a major area that Cornwall must address without delay. Article 1 states “The Protection of national minorities and of the rights and freedoms of persons belonging to these minorities forms an integral part of the international protection of human rights, and as such falls within the scope of international co-operation” and Article 4.1 highlights “the rights of equality before the law and of equal protection of the law. In this respect, any discrimination based on belonging to a national minority shall be prohibited.” Does this not mean that Cornwall needs to have specific mention in a bill of Human Rights, or indeed particular reference to being a specific ‘different’ territory from that of England as a consequence of National Minority Status to ensure that it gets the Human Rights protection that is clearly stated in the Framework Convention? To be certain that the Cornish gain this recognition in law, then urgent conversations need to be had to clarify this status. The very fact that Human Rights of the National Minority are mentioned so early on in the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention highlight its importance.

Promoting and protecting the indigenous culture of the National Minority is a major element of the Framework Convention – and Articles 5.1, 12.1 and 14.2 deal with this in relation to education (5.1, albeit not specifically, but if you are going to develop and promote an indigenous culture, it needs to be embedded in school curriculums throughout Cornwall). And here is where National Government need to be lobbied as soon as possible. Cornwall Council have no powers to force schools in the territory to ensure their curriculums cover Cornish Culture and language within English, Geography, History, Music and Art lessons. Under this Framework Convention, the young people of Cornwall need to be exposed to their native culture from Key Stage One in Primary School – they need to see where Cornish History diverges from English History – just consider the topic of the Tudors for starters! This can only happen with direct Westminster intervention which the Framework Convention supports: “The Parties shall, where appropriate, take measures in the fields of education and research to foster knowledge of the culture, history, language and religion of their national minorities and of the majority” (Article 12.1).

There is also the Kernewek language which is deserving of greater promotion in Cornish schools – not as an after school club – but in the way that Cymraeg is taught in Wales and Gaidhlig is, particularly in Highland regions, taught in Scotland. As Article 14.2 states – “Parties shall endeavour to ensure, as far as possible…that persons belonging to these minorities have adequate opportunities for being taught the minority language or for receiving instruction in this language.” When will the lobbying start for this? There are clear grounds for Westminster having to do something about it!

Linked closely to this is signage in the language. Whilst there is absolutely no doubt that there is more use of Kernewek in duel language signage, there is still major work to be done. As Article 11.1 clearly states: “The parties undertake to recognise that every person belonging to a national minority has the right to display in his or her minority language signs, inscriptions and other information of a private nature visible to the public.” Therefore, surely the name of every Cornish town or village should also be in duel language as you enter them – but also, and pretty key is urging First Great Western (or GWR as they have recently re-branded themselves) to ensure that all Cornish station names are duel language – in the same way that Scot Rail have station names in both English and Gaidhlig and Welsh train station names are duel language. Eighteen months on, moves need to be made for urging the appropriate companies to make these necessary changes.

NEXT WEEK – Television Services in Cornwall and, Parliamentary Constituencies: New Hope to end Devonwall Once & For All!

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