We call upon the federal government to enact an Aboriginal Languages Act that incorporates the following principles:

  1. Aboriginal languages are a fundamental and valued element of Canadian culture and society, and there is an urgency to preserve them.
  2. Aboriginal language rights are reinforced by the Treaties.
  3. The federal government has a responsibility to provide sufficient funds for Aboriginal-language revitalization and preservation.
  4. The preservation, revitalization, and strengthening of Aboriginal languages and cultures are best managed by Aboriginal people and communities.
  5. Funding for Aboriginal language initiatives must reflect the diversity of Aboriginal languages.

Indigenous Watchdog Status Update

Current Status March 31, 2021STALLED
Previous StatusDec. 31, 2020STALLED

Why “Stalled”?

No reference to Indigenous language rights being reinforced by treaties (ii above). The Act directly addresses the principles identified above in i, iii, iv and valthough Budget 2019 investments to support implementation of Bill C-91 allocates almost 35% of the funding to after the next election in 2023 ($116M out of $333.7M)

Bill C-91, “An Act respecting Indigenous Languages” received Royal assent on June 21, 2019. The AFN and Métis National Council support the bill but the Inuit Tapariit Kanatami, the national advocacy voice of Canada’s Inuit did not see many of their recommendations incorporated into the Languages Act, thereby leaving Inuktuk, their “national” language with less protection than English or French in their own territory.

On Sept. 5, 2019 the Governments of Canada and Nunavut, and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. are collaborating toward an agreement that will support, revitalize and strengthen Inuktut in Nunavut with up to $42M over 3-year period to support this work.

Current Status response for C2A i, ii, iii, iv and v.

Part 1 or Call to Action: Aboriginal languages are a fundamental and valued element of Canadian culture and society, and there is an urgency to preserve them.

Federal actions towards implementing Bill C-91

June 15, 2017 – Joint announcement with the Federal Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Honourable Mélanie Joly, on the co-development of an Indigenous Languages Act – legislation to ‘revitalize, recover, preserve, protect, maintain and promote’ First Nations languages

March 6, 2018 – Romeo Saganash, a New Democrat who represents a northern Quebec riding, addressed the Commons Procedure and Affairs Committee last week in his native Cree, and urged the House to make it possible for him and others to speak Indigenous languages and have them translated into English and French.
This would be an important recognition of the historical role of Indigenous peoples in Canada and a gesture of respect for their culture and heritage and would allow First Nations MPs to speak out in their own voices and be fully understood.(Toronto Star)

Nov. 29, 2018 – Official release of the 66th Report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, entitled “The Use of Indigenous Languages in Proceedings of the House of Commons and Committees.” The report recommends that the use of Indigenous languages be recognized in the House of Commons and specifies a process for facilitating such interventions.

Feb. 5, 2019 – “Bill C-91, the Indigenous Languages Act, to reclaim, revitalize, strengthen and maintain Indigenous languages in Canada” tabled in the House of Commons. The legislation recognizes and supports all Indigenous languages in Canada and contains mechanisms which will:

  • establish measures for the provision of long-term, sustainable funding of Indigenous languages:
  • advance the objectives of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
  • support the reclamation, revitalization, strengthening and maintenance of Indigenous languages in Canada;
  • support and promote the use of Indigenous languages;
  • work with provinces, territories, Indigenous representative organizations and Indigenous governments to create effective support for Indigenous languages in Canada through a variety of mechanisms
  • establish an Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages.
    http://www.parl.ca/DocumentViewer/en/42-1/bill/C-91/first-reading

June 17, 2019 – Bill C-91 now recognizes the importance of Inuktut to Inuit Nunangat. The Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples has adopted an amended version of Bill C-91, the Indigenous Languages Act, with changes largely prompted by Inuit groups.

June 21, 2019 – “Bill C-91, the Indigenous Languages Act, to reclaim, revitalize, strengthen and maintain Indigenous languages in Canada” is passed in the House of Commons

Sept. 28, 2020 – Announcement of essential steps to advance the implementation of the Indigenous Languages Act. The government is working with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), Inuit Tapariit Kanatami (ITK) and the Métis National Council (MNC) on the development of the consultations. Key steps include:

  • host close to 40 virtual consultations with Indigenous Peoples across Canada
  • An online questionnaire is also available to ensure the minister hears from all interested parties, including Indigenous elders, youth, persons with disabilities, women, men, two-spirit, and LGBTQ persons.
  • a selection committee from AFN, ITK and MNC will be created to support the appointment process for the positions of Commissioner and Directors of Indigenous Languages.
  • host a virtual Indigenous Languages Symposium in early 2021, which will bring together a wide range of national and international experts to share their knowledge and best practices on the revitalization of Indigenous languages. 

Part 2 of Call to Action: Aboriginal language rights are reinforced by the Treaties.

Treaty rights are not explicitly addressed

Part 3 of Call to Action: The federal government has a responsibility to provide sufficient funds for Aboriginal-language revitalization and preservation.

Budget 201617

  • Language and Culture: $55M per year for 5 years
  • Aboriginal Languages Initiative: $5M for 2016 – 2017

Budget 2017 – 18

  • Aboriginal Languages Initiative: $23M per year for 3 years
  • Library and Archives Canada: $14.9M over 3 years to digitize
  • National Research Council: $6M to preserve oral histories

Budget 20191 – 20

Support Implementation of Bill C-91: $333.7 over 5 years

Federal Budget 2019 to support implementation of Bill C-91

2019-202020-212021-222022-232023-24
$15M$44$72$87$116M
4.4%13.2%21.6%26.1%34.8%

Budget to support implementation is heavily back-ended to after the next election

Part 4 of Call to Action: The preservation, revitalization, and strengthening of Aboriginal languages and cultures are best managed by Aboriginal people and communities.

Aug. 27, 2017 – Minister Joly and the three National Indigenous leaders met and agreed to move forward on a distinction-based process with AFN, ITK and Métis Nation leading up to the adoption of the Indigenous Languages Act by Parliament next year.

June, 2018 – Launch of the intensive community-based engagement sessions that will be held across Canada this summer to support the co-development of First Nations, Inuit and Métis languages legislation.

Feb. 5, 2019 – A collaborative approach was adopted with Indigenous Peoples to develop the legislation, which included:

  • 12 fundamental principles, co-developed to inform the basis of the legislation;
  • more than 50 intensive and collaborative engagement sessions held across the country to collect elements of importance to be included in the legislation. These sessions were attended by over 1,200 individuals. Canadian Heritage also received approximately 200 electronic submissions from the online questionnaire.

Oct. 28, 2020 – “Qaumajuq” [HOW-ma-yourq], meaning ‘It is bright, it is lit,” which celebrates the light that flows into the new building connected ti the Winnipeg Art Gallery. The circle of language keepers representing Indigenous communities across Inuit Nunangat and Treaty 1 territory endowed the WAG building with an Anishinaabemowin name: Biindigin Biwaasaeyaah {BEEN-deh-gen Bi-WAH-say-yah}, meaning “Come on in, the dawn of light is here” or “the dawn of light is coming.”

Part 5 of Call to Action: Funding for Aboriginal language initiatives must reflect the diversity of Aboriginal languages.

Bill C-91 “The Indigenous Languages Act” will among other provisions:

  • contributes to the objectives of the declaration
  • supports the reclamation, revitalization, strengthening and maintenance of Indigenous languages in Canada
  • supports and promotes the use of Indigenous languages
  • commits to working with provinces, territories, Indigenous representative organizations and Indigenous governments to create effective support for Indigenous languages in Canada through a variety of mechanisms
  • establishes an Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages
Provincial Responses to TRC Call to Action # 14 for an “Aboriginal Languages Act

BC

August 2, 2018 – B.C. First Nations Languages Report Shows Increase in Language Learners, Urges Action. The report gathered information from more than 137,653 First Nations people in B.C. Across the province, 34 unique First Nations languages and 93 dialects are spoken, more than any other province or territory in Canada. In 2018, only three per cent (3%) of Indigenous people in B.C. (fewer than 4,200 people) identified themselves as being fluent in their mother tongue language, a decrease since the 2014 report. While just over half (52%) of fluent speakers are aged 65 and over, the vast majority (78%) of all language learners are young (between the ages of 0 and 24). There are also a considerable number of adult learners, including young adults and elders. The report attributes these positive findings to the growth of community-based language revitalization projects across the province.

Feb. 27, 2018 – BC Government has committed $50M in funding toward preserving and revitalizing Indigenous languages throughout the province. Finance Minister Carole James pointed out that Indigenous languages in the province are under threat, emphasizing that B.C. is home to 60 per cent of First Nations languages in the country.

Sept. 6, 2017 – The B.C. Cabinet and First Nations Leaders’ Gathering made it a priority to provide support to Indigenous communities seeking to revitalize connections to their languages. The revitalization of language is a human right as asserted within the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

  • Programs and projects that will turn new speakers into fluent speakers
  • Projects for documentation of the languages
  • Language planning across communities

The money will go to three priority areas

Alberta

Jan. 23, 2019 – The Alberta government is investing $1 million into Calgary’s first ever Indigenous Languages Resource Centre at the Calgary Central Library. The funding will support the acquisition of language resources, as well as programming that preserves Indigenous culture and heritage.

Nov. 15, 2018 – The Indigenous Languages in Education grant program invests $6 million to increase Indigenous language teacher capacity and expand resource development for early childhood education, as well as kindergarten to Grade 12 Indigenous languages. The grant program will provide funding through two streams. The instructor development stream will provide $4 million in funding over two years to First Nations colleges and universities and Indigenous organizations that have a primary mandate to train early childhood education and kindergarten to Grade 12 language instructors in Indigenous languages.

The resource development stream will provide $2 million over two years to organizations that have expertise in developing Indigenous language resources. This will include First Nations and Métis communities, Indigenous organizations and provincial school jurisdictions and post-secondary institutions that partner with First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities and organizations.

April 27, 2018 – Aboriginal Languages Initiative (ALI) has distributed approximately $1.5M to Southern Alberta to support various initiatives. This includes:

  • Almost $200,000 for the Tsuut’ina Nation’s Tsuut’ina Gunaha School Language Incorporation Strategy
  • approximately $141,000 for Opokaa’sin Early Intervention Society’s Blackfoot Language Keepers,
  • $358,000 for Peigan Board of Education Society’s Piikani Language Revitalization Project,
  • $80,000 for the Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary,
  • approximately $124,000 for Pathways Community Services Association’s Indigenous Languages and Literacy Program: Cree Language, and
  • $98,500 for Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary: Alberta’s Indigenous Languages and Literacy Program.
Saskatchewan

Jan. 21, 2021 – Podcast, a new online series exploring the rich Métis culture and Michif language. ‘Paykiiwikay’, will address the very real need to preserve heritage, tradition and Métis identity. “Everything Métis people do is tied to our value systems, beliefs, and respect,” said MN-S Minister of Language, Culture & Heritage, Sherry McLennan, “this podcast series will help teach others about the rich Métis history that is an integral part of the makeup of this province.”

Jan. 22, 2020 – The Métis Nation – Saskatchewan (MN-S) announced “The Future of Michif Program“, a multi-faceted educational initiative designed to get more Métis speaking their traditional language. The MN-S is partnering with Canadian Geographic on “The Future of Michif Program“, a multiplatform engagement program that will celebrate Michif and Métis culture, while building national capacity to educate and inspire the next generation of Métis youth to learn their heritage language.

Through this program, Canadian Geographic will leverage its expertise and reach to elevate the MN-S’ important work within the national consciousness. Elements of the project will include:

  • a Michif Language Speakers Bureau to promote and teach Michif;
  • an online Michif language conversation forum on the MN-S website;
  • a free, summer camp-style program for Métis youth focusing on Michif language learning during the 2020 Batoche Days celebration,
  • as well a Michif language training program for educators.
  • The Canadian Geographic magazine will also feature a story on the Michif language with an associated poster map to reach millions of Canadians.

April 16, 2019 – Ministry of Education announced courses at the 10, 20 and 30 level in Dene, Nakawe and Michif starting next year. High school courses in Cree (nehiwawewin) are already offered. (Prince Albert Daily Herald)

Manitoba

Sept. 21, 2015 – Manitoba Aboriginal Languages Strategy to improve teacher training and develop a system for sharing and expertise related to “protect and promote” aboriginal languages.

Ontario

July 12, 2018 – The Métis Nation of Ontario maintains a Michif language speaker group that has developed resources for schools and online to help preserve the Ontario dialect of Michif and teach young Métis their language. Supports the transition of students between First Nation schools and provincially-funded schools. Supports 790 K-12 First Nation students from five First Nations.

March 9, 2018 – Investments of $10M over 2 years in 40 community-led programs that promote the revitalization of Indigenous languages. These projects will include language camps, Indigenous language immersion programming, and the creation of curriculum, games and apps to support language learning.

Feb. 27, 2017 – The Federal Govt. and the province have signed a tripartite MOU on Education with the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians (A.I.A.I.),

  • Language & Culture
    Assist First Nations in developing a community-based language strategy.  Support the development of localized language and culture curriculum along with research on traditional learning ways.  Provide opportunities for the integration of community based culture and language resources to support the provincial curriculum and other initiatives identified. 
  • Relationship Building
    Enhance and share professional development and training opportunities for educators in First Nation and provincially funded schools for the purpose of sharing classroom resources, and teaching strategies, including strategies to assist students to improve their education outcomes.  Collaborate with provincial school boards on the sharing of data and resources.
  • Transitions
    Develop strategies to support the transition of students between First Nation and provincially funded schools. Collaborate with school boards to develop an effective communication strategy and support mechanisms to enhance parent/family/community engagement. 

https://www.sac-isc.gc.ca/eng/1491319436940/1531400422686

Québec

April 3, 2019 – Launch of the Aboriginal Cultures and Languages Initiative 

Newfoundland and Labrador

March 2, 2021 – The Nunatsiavut Government has approved a five-year strategy aimed at preserving, promoting and enhancing Labrador Inuttitut. The 2021-2026 Nunatsiavut Language Strategy sets forth the vision, mission and values that will provide a framework for prioritizing projects and necessary investments into language initiatives that align with years of work and input gathered from the Nunatsiavut Government and Beneficiaries of the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement.

“The preservation and promotion of our language is very important for our society as a whole, as well as for each and every Labrador Inuk. It helps define us as a people, interwoven in a cultural fabric that has been passed on since time immemorial,” says Minister Lyall. “However, our language, as part of our cultural heritage, is very vulnerable. It is in danger of being lost, in part because it is no longer learned by many of our children. That’s why it is critically important to do what we can now to save it before it’s too late.”

Northwest Territories

1990 – The Official Languages Act of the NWT recognizes 11 official languages, including 9 Aboriginal languages, 3 of them Inuit that have equality of status in the Legislative Assembly and NWT government institutions. The territorial government has created the Aboriginal Languages Secretariat. The NWT also has an Official Languages PolicyAboriginal Languages Revitalization Board Regulations, and an Aboriginal Languages Plan. The territory also appointed a Languages Commissioner to ensure respect for linguistic rights and protection of official languages.

March 13, 2019 – The law governing official languages in the Northwest Territories is ill-suited for the territory and ready for an overhaul during its upcoming review, the territory’s languages commissioner says. “We’re at that point,” said Shannon Gullberg, the languages commissioner. “We’ve been operating under a model that really mimics the federal model for a long time. “The federal legislation doesn’t work when you’re dealing with rural, small, Indigenous communities with dying languages,” Gullberg said. “It doesn’t work. It does nothing to promote those languages.” CBC

Nunavut

1999 – When it was created in 1999, Nunavut established the position of Languages Commissioner

2008 – Nunavut adopted the Official Languages Act for Nunavut, which recognizes Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun, English and French as the official languages of the territory. In 2013, it adopted the Inuit Language Protection Act, the first legislative instrument in Canada devoted to protecting and revitalizing an Aboriginal language.

Sept. 9, 2019 – The Government of Canada, the Government of Nunavut, and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated are collaborating toward an agreement that will support, revitalize and strengthen Inuktut in Nunavut. In accordance with section 9 of the Indigenous Languages Act, the pathfinder agreement seeks to support:

  • increasing access to Inuktut-language instruction in Nunavut;
  • increasing and maintaining the number of proficient Inuktut-speaking Inuit educators;
  • increasing the number of fluent Inuktut speakers in Nunavut; and
  • establishing the Nunavut Partnership Table on Language and Education.

Subject to the details of an agreement to be finalized by the Nunavut Partnership Table on Language and Education, the Government of Canada is pleased to announce it would commit up to $42 million dollars over a five-year period to support this work. Over the same period, the Government of Nunavut will invest a total of $25 million to introduce a new laddered approach to the Nunavut Teacher Education Program where students can work towards various levels of certification: a Nunavummi Inuktut Uqariuqsatittijiunirmut Ilinniarniq certificate, a language specialist diploma or a bachelor of education degree

Indigenous response to passage of Bill C-91

Inuit Tapariit Kanatami: Natan Obed, President

ITK regrets that that Bill C-91, An Act respecting Indigenous languages, passed into law without inclusion of any Inuit-specific priorities. In its current format, this law does not affirm Inuit language rights or close the legal and policy gaps that contribute to the erosion of Inuktut as the first, only or preferred language spoken by Inuit in Inuit Nunangat, and does not create any new legal obligations for the Government of Canada. ITK and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc raised the following objections:

  • Bill does not recognize Inuktut as an official language within the 4 regions of Inuit Nunangat and requires Inuit to use English or French to access federal services
  • Federal departments and agencies do not have to offer services in Inuit language
  • Inequitable federal funding policies that favor English and French vs Inuit
  • Inuit in provinces must use English or French to access language services
  • Nunavut’s territorial language legislation does not apply to federal government departments.

Assembly of First Nations: Perry Bellegarde, National Chief

“Language is life and central to our identities and cultures. We know that when states uphold Indigenous languages their likelihood of survival increases. This is why we pushed for The Indigenous Languages Act, and it’s why I’m so proud we now have the federal government’s full support for this work. Today we celebrate the work of our language champions who worked with Canada to create this legislation that will help ensure our children grow strong in their language and stronger in life, confident and proud in their identities and connected to their nations. This is an example of reconciliation in action and a meaningful way to mark 2019, the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages.”

Métis National Council – Clément Chartier, President

“Bill C-91 marks an important step forward for the Métis Nation in consolidating its continued existence as a distinct Indigenous nation and culture in Western Canada. This legislation, co-developed with Canada, will enable the Métis Nation to revitalize, promote and practice its national language, Michif, while also enabling those of its citizens who speak other Indigenous languages such as Saulteaux, Dene and Cree to continue using those languages as well”, stated President Chartier.

The Glendon Declaration

The Crown and Her Federal government must enact an Indigenous Languages Act. In doing so, it can be guided by the Report of the 2005 Task Force on Aboriginal Languages and Cultures, which responds to each of the five principles required by the TRC Report.

National Research Council of Canada

Programs to Revitalize Indigenous Languages

Funded through Budget 2017, the National Research Council of Canada’s Indigenous Languages Technology Project collaborates closely with Indigenous experts on technologies that contribute to language revitalization. 6 projects were launched in 2018-2019 between the National Research Council of Canada and 10 collaborating organizations ranging from Indigenous communities, schools, language experts, governments, universities, and language service providers. A second set of projects was also launched in summer and fall 2019

Wordweaver: Iroquoian language

An open source code and graphical user interface to create online verb conjugation tools for Iroquoian languages. i.e. used to build a verb conjugator for Ohswé:ken, the western dialect of Mohawk, working with the Onkwawenna Kentyohkwa immersion school. The NRC is now collaborating with language experts on a version for the Kahnawà:ke (eastern) dialect.

Keyman 12: SENĆOŦEN language

A predictive text software for SENĆOŦEN, released as part of Keyman 12. Now people typing in SENĆOŦEN can benefit from the speed and ease of having predictive text at their fingertips when typing on mobile devices. The aim is to help engage young people in learning Indigenous languages and increase language use in everyday contexts.

Keyword Search of audio recordings: Inuktitut, Cree, and other languages

Using audio files from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Indigenous experts from the Pirurvik Centre are providing transcriptions of stories told by their Elders in Inuktitut.Collaborators at the Computer Research Institute of Montreal (CRIM) are using these transcriptions to index and segment the audio files. CRIM released 5 audio processing tools in 2019, and is working toward accessible keyword search in 2020.

Web-based atlases and Dictionaries: Algonquin

The NRC project team welcomed visiting scholar Dr. Marie-Odile Junker, Full Professor at Carleton University, to work on web-based Algonquian dictionaries, spell checkers, verb conjugators and a linguistic atlas.

Inuktuk Language software: Inuktuk

The NRC initiated a project with the Nunavut Legislative Assembly and the Pirurvik Centre to develop technologies for Inuktut language learners and professionals that reinforce Inuktut’s status as an official language.

Online language courses: Kwak’wala, Michif, Mi’kmaw, and Naskapi

The NRC is contributing to the creation of 4 online language courses for Kwak’wala, Michif, Mi’kmaw, and Naskapi, through 7000 Languages

Official Federal Government Response: Sept. 5, 2019

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 (UN declaration) and the commitment to a renewed relationship with Indigenous peoples based on the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership.

The legislation:

  • establishes measures for the provision of long-term, sustainable funding of Indigenous languages
  • contributes to the objectives of the UN declaration
  • supports the reclamation, revitalization, strengthening and maintenance of Indigenous languages in Canada
  • supports and promotes the use of Indigenous languages in Canada
  • commits to working with provinces, territories, Indigenous representative organizations and Indigenous governments to create effective support for Indigenous languages in Canada through a variety of mechanisms
  • establishes an Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages

The bill is intended to be a framework that is not exhaustive and allows for flexibility. An important area of flexibility is contained in provisions related to entering into agreements and arrangements. For example, sections 8, 9 and 10 allow for co-operative agreements and arrangements to be entered into to take into account unique circumstances and needs of Indigenous groups, communities and peoples.

Budget 2019 provides $333.7 million over 5 years, starting in fiscal year 2019 to 2020, for the preservation, promotion and revitalization of Indigenous languages, with $115.7 million per year ongoing to support the implementation of the proposed Indigenous Languages Act.