We call upon the federal government to acknowledge that Aboriginal rights include Aboriginal language rights.

Indigenous Watchdog Status Update

Current StatusAug. 17, 2020COMPLETE
Previous StatusJune 15, 2020COMPLETE

Why “Complete“?

Bill C-91 “An Act respecting Indigenous Languages” receives Royal assent on June 21, 2020. Bill C-91 states: “The Government of Canada recognizes that the rights of Indigenous peoples recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 include rights related to Indigenous languages.” 

Legislative History as of June 21, 2019

Two legislative initiatives have been put forward by individual parliamentarians in relation to Aboriginal language rights.

December 9, 2015 – Senator Serge Joyal tabled Bill S-212, An Act for the advancement of the aboriginal languages of Canada and to recognize and respect aboriginal language rights. The bill is intended to set out the Government of Canada’s commitment on the advancement of Aboriginal languages and respect for Aboriginal language rights. Bill S-212 was debated and adopted by the Senate at second reading in December 2016 and was referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples for study. The Bill is still awaiting study by the committee, probably because since it was first introduced, the Prime Minister has announced the development of an Indigenous Languages Act.

April 21, 2016 – Romeo Saganash, MP, tabled Bill C-262, An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This bill would require the Government of Canada to take initiatives with regard to the use of Aboriginal languages in the public domain, education and the media. The Bill is now in the Senate.

Feb. 5, 2019 – “Bill C-91: An Act Respecting Indigenous Languages” (The Indigenous Languages Act) introduced in Parliament.

June 21, 2019 – The Indigenous Languages Act, which is intended to support the reclamation, revitalization, maintaining and strengthening of Indigenous languages in Canada received Royal Assent on June 21, 2019. The Act enshrines in law that Indigenous rights include language rights.

The Glendon Declaration:  

On February 9, 2016, eighty-two Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars gathered together at Glendon College, York University, for a national Colloquium on the implications for Indigenous language policy of the TRC Report of December, 2015. The aim of the Colloquium was to address the implications for Indigenous Language Policy in Canada of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada and for the related responsibilities of post-secondary educational Institutions.

The Declaration states:
The Crown and Her Federal Government must formally acknowledge, without the need for litigation, that Section 35(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982 includes Indigenous Linguistic Rights

Official Federal Government Response: Sept. 5, 2019

On December 6, 2016, the Prime Minister promised to enact an Indigenous Languages act, co-developed with Indigenous peoples that will preserve, promote and revitalize Indigenous languages.

On June 15, 2017, Canadian Heritage, the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Métis Nation of Canada launched the co-development of Indigenous languages legislation and agreed on a collaborative engagement process and the creation of a joint co-development working group comprised of all 4 parties.

On June 21, 2019, Bill C-91, An Act respecting Indigenous Languages, received Royal assent.

The bill has been developed to support the meaningful implementation of Calls to Action 13, 14 and 15 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, elements of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the commitment to a renewed relationship with Indigenous peoples based on the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership.

This legislation aims to reclaim, revitalize, strengthen and maintain Indigenous languages in Canada and aligns with the commitment to renew the relationship with Indigenous Peoples based on the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership. Under Bill C-91, Canada recognizes that Section 35 of the Constitution Act includes language rights. This is a monumental step in the relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples.