We call upon the federal government to appoint, in consultation with Aboriginal groups, an Aboriginal Languages Commissioner. The commissioner should help promote Aboriginal languages and report on the adequacy of federal funding of Aboriginal-languages initiatives.

Indigenous Watchdog Status Update

Current StatusSept. 5, 2021ICOMPLETE
Previous StatusJune 14, 2021IN PROGRESS

Why “In Progress?”

On Monday, June 14, 2021, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage, announced the first appointees to the new Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages:

  • Ronald E. Ignace, Commissioner 
  • Robert Watt, Director 
  • Georgina Liberty, Director 
  • Joan Greyeyes, Director 

As the press release outlines, the Office of the Commissioner will operate independently from the Government of Canada. They will support and work with Indigenous peoples, their respective governments; other governing bodies, communities and organizations; the governments of Canada and the provinces and territories; and all Canadians to support the self-determined work of Indigenous peoples in reclaiming, revitalizing, maintaining and strengthening First Nations, Inuit and Métis languages.

Bill C-91, “An Act respecting Indigenous languages received Royal assent on June 21, 2019 and established an Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Language with 3 distinctions-based directors, one each for First Nations, Métis and Inuit. The Commissioner and the Directors will work with Indigenous Peoples and their respective governments; other governing bodies, communities and organizations; the governments of Canada and the provinces and territories; and all Canadians to support the self-determined work of Indigenous peoples in reclaiming, revitalizing, maintaining and strengthening First Nations, Inuit and Métis languages.

Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages

Under Bill C-91, the Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages will:

  • conduct or commission research to support Indigenous languages and to obtain information on language use and vitality in light of community language assessments
  • work with Canada and Indigenous organizations to support innovative language teaching projects
  • promote Indigenous language use
  • prepare annual reports to Parliament on the vitality of Indigenous languages
  • promote public awareness of the significance of Indigenous language rights, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action and the negative impacts of colonialism and discrimination
  • provide facilitation or mediation services upon request

The Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages will be overseen by a Commissioner of Indigenous Languages and 3 distinctions-based directors: one each for First Nations, Inuit and Métis languages. The Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism will engage with diverse Indigenous governing bodies and Indigenous organizations and recommend candidates for the positions of the Commissioner and 3 Directors to the Governor in Council.

Section 25 | Support offered by Office:
”At the request of an Indigenous community or an Indigenous government or other Indigenous governing body, the Office may provide support to the community or the Indigenous government or other Indigenous governing body in its efforts to reclaim, revitalize, maintain and strengthen an Indigenous language, including its efforts to:

(a) create permanent records of the language, including audio and video recordings and written materials such as dictionaries, lexicons and grammars of the language, for the purposes of, among other things, its maintenance and transmission;
(b) establish certification standards for translators and interpreters;
(c) conduct community assessments in respect of the use of the language;
(d) develop and implement plans for reclaiming, revitalizing, maintaining and strengthening the language; or
(e) engage with the Government of Canada or provincial governments to establish culturally appropriate methods of teaching and learning the language.

The Glendon Declaration

The Crown and Her Federal Government in enacting an Indigenous Language Act must create an Office of the Commissioners of Indigenous Languages, with three national Indigenous Language Commissioners, one for the First Nations, one for the Inuit, and one for the Métis, with an ancillary staff complement comparable to that of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, and a Commissioner’s representative located in each Indigenous Nation and/or Territory to assist with the carrying out of the intent of the Indigenous Language Act.

Official Federal Government Response: Sept. 15, 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 and the commitment to a renewed relationship with Indigenous peoples based on the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership.

Under Bill C-91, the Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages will:

  • conduct or commission research to support Indigenous languages and to obtain information on language use and vitality in light of community language assessments
  • work with Canada and Indigenous organizations to support innovative language teaching projects
  • promote Indigenous language use
  • prepare annual reports to Parliament on the vitality of Indigenous languages
  • promote public awareness of the significance of Indigenous language rights, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action and the negative impacts of colonialism and discrimination
  • provide facilitation or mediation services upon request

The Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages will be overseen by a Commissioner of Indigenous Languages and 3 distinctions-based directors: one each for First Nations, Inuit and Métis languages. The Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism will engage with diverse Indigenous governing bodies and Indigenous organizations and recommend candidates for the positions of the Commissioner and 3 Directors to the Governor in Council.

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 Indigenous Languages Act.