Current Reality

The United Nations named 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages to highlight the need to preserve, revitalize and promote the use of the world’s estimated 7,000 Indigenous languages—2,680 of which are considered to be in danger. “Languages play a crucial role in the daily lives of people, not only as a tool for communication, education, social integration and development, but also as a repository for each person’s unique identity, cultural history, traditions and memory,” the UN said in a news release.

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 over the sustained objections of national Inuit advocacy organizations (Inuit Tapariit Kanatami, Nunavut Tunngavik and others)  who feel the Act is little more than a “symbolic gesture”.

Language and Culture Calls to Action

There are five Language and Culture Calls to Action. To find out more about each Call to Action, including government responses and progress to date, visit the links below.

Call to Action #13Acknowledge Indigenous rights, include Indigenous language rights
Call to Action #14Enact an Indigenous Languages Act
Call to Action #15Appoint an Indigenous Language Commissioner
Call to Action #16Create post-secondary degrees and diploma programs in Indigenous languages
Call to Action #17Enable residential school survivors to reclaim Indigenous names

Current and Ongoing Problems

Inuit Objections to Bill C-91

June 20, 2019 – Inuit Tapariit Kanatami (ITK) regrets 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.

June 26, 2019: Nunatsiak News – 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

Funding for Inuktut language services vs funding for French

French = $8,190 per capita vs Inuit = $184 per capita

June 7, 2017: CBC – Inuktut language services in Nunavut Tunngavik receive similar funding to French services despite nearly 50 times more speakers The federal government funds $14.25M over 4 years to support 435 french-speaking people (2011 census) vs. $15.8M to support 21,515 people who speak Inuktitut or Inuinnaqtun as their mother tongues. On a per capita basis $8,190 for French vs $184 for Inuktuk languages annually. Inuktut is a term that refers to all Inuit languages, including Nunavut’s Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun dialects. 

English and French are not the only official languages of Canada, especially in the north where both languages are in the minority and do not reflect the linguistic reality.

Refusing to establish Inuktuk as an official language

Mar. 20, 2019 – Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. President Aluki Kotierk. With this budget, the Government of Canada has strengthened funding for minority language service for English and French, yet, failed to invest equitably in Indigenous languages. NTI seeks recognition that Inuktut is the majority language in Nunavut and must be the language of public services, including education, justice and health services.

July 9, 2019 – The aspiration of Nunavut is a step closer as Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (NTI) seeks guidance for self-government from Inuit Elders and commits to becoming an Inuktut language workplace announced President Aluki Kotierk from Kugluktuk today. Inuktut language assessments have been completed with NTI staff. All staff will receive on the job training and support based on their needs. New terminology in technical fields, finance and law will be developed. More than 200 hours in Inuktitut training have been delivered with Inuit staff of NTI in the past two years. “As identified in the study on the education system, ‘Nunavut has a history of cultural genocide, linguicide, econocide and historicide, and this continues,’” said Kotierk. “We can no longer wait for governments to deliver on their promises. We must take action.”

Call to Action Status Updates

For an updated summary of the TRC Calls to Action, including all Language and Culture Calls to Action, click here (PD
F 205 KB).