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 #13||Acknowledge Indigenous rights, include Indigenous language rights|
|Call to Action #14||Enact an Indigenous Languages Act|
|Call to Action #15||Appoint an Indigenous Language Commissioner|
|Call to Action #16||Create post-secondary degrees and diploma programs in Indigenous languages|
|Call to Action #17||Enable residential school survivors to reclaim Indigenous names|
Current and Ongoing Problems
Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated calls for rejection of Bill 25 “An Act to Amend the Education Act and the Inuit Language Protection Act“
Nov. 4, 2020 – Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (NTI) calls on Members of the Legislative Assembly to reject Bill 25, “An Act to Amend the Education Act and the Inuit Language Protection Act”. “When Inuit created the Territory of Nunavut in 1999, Inuit had high hopes of a school system based on Inuktut, and a government workforce which reflects the population in Nunavut, consisting of Inuit fluent in our own language,” said President Kotierk. “That aspiration was reaffirmed by Inuit and District Education Authorities during the consultations in 2007, 2016 and 2019.”
Bill 25 was primarily drafted to relieve the Department Education of responsibilities mandated by the Inuit Language Protection Act. The Bill sidesteps accountability for a decline in attendance and student achievement rates and its lack of services for inclusive education. The latest version of Bill 25 remains substantially the same as the first version introduced in June 2019 and does not account for feedback provided to the Standing Committee on Legislation from NTI, the Coalition of Nunavut District Education Authorities (CNDEA), the Office of the Languages Commissioner and the Nunavut Teachers’ Association.
Nov. 10, 2020: CBC – Inuktut, the umbrella term for all Inuit languages, is now to be phased in as a language of instruction over the next 20 years. That means it will take until 2039 for all students to have Inuktut taught as a first language.
In Nunavut, 65 per cent of the population speaks Inuktut as its mother tongue, says Statistics Canada. In 2016, 89 per cent of Nunavut’s Inuit population reported being able to have a conversation in Inuktut. James Eetoolook, acting president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the land-claims organization that represents the territory’s Inuit, says the legislation fails to protect Inuit language rights. He says he is concerned “that the Inuktut language and culture are being eliminated in the schools of Nunavut.” “This constitutes cultural genocide,” Eetoolook told The Canadian Press.
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.”