Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Around the Arctic July 06, 2018 - 8:30 am

Federal legislation should recognize Inuktut as official language in Inuit Nunangat: ITK

"The idea is to close the gap"

Inuit representatives take part in language consultations led by the Department of Canadian Heritage in Ottawa on June 15. The federal government plans to introduce new Indigenous languages legislation this fall. (PHOTO COURTESY OF ITK)
Inuit representatives take part in language consultations led by the Department of Canadian Heritage in Ottawa on June 15. The federal government plans to introduce new Indigenous languages legislation this fall. (PHOTO COURTESY OF ITK)

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami hopes that new federal legislation will put Inuktut speakers and learners across the country on more equal footing with each other, as well as with Canada’s other official-language speakers.

The federal Department of Canadian Heritage is hosting the last few months of consultation with groups before officials sit down to draft its Indigenous Language Act, which Ottawa says should be introduced this fall.

The legislation was first announced in December 2016 by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who pledged to table a bill within his government’s mandate.

As Indigenous leadership move into their final consultations over the summer, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami is pushing for Ottawa to ensure Inuktut is treated as culturally and politically distinct.

“In order for First Nations, Métis and Inuit legislation to have any impact, it should have sections to reflect the regional and cultural realities of these groups,” said Tim Argetsinger, executive political advisor at ITK.

He sits on its national Inuit language legislation working group, which is made up of two representatives from each of the four regions of Inuit Nunangat.

“That reality in Inuit Nunangat is obviously quite different from the linguistic reality in other Indigenous regions. We were fearful of dampening those needs.”

The main points the working group has asked to see in the federal legislation:

• recognition of Inuktut as an official language within Inuit Nunangat

• the right for Inuktut speakers to access federal services in their own language

• streamlined access and eliminated gaps to language funding for different Inuit regions, particularly to give Nunavik and Nunatsiavut better access to those funds

One of the goals is to see Inuktut funded in the North at the same level as Canada’s other official languages, English and French.

“It only makes sense that people can carry out their business and access services at the same level as other official language speakers,” Argetsinger said.

“In Nunavut and Nunavik, where Inuktut speakers are a majority, there is still a discrepancy in equity,” he said. “The idea is to close that gap.”

Argetsinger said it’s too early to try and put a price tag on the federal investment required to make those changes.

He noted that the working group has seen “a fair amount of openness” on the part of federal officials they are in talks with, though the group hasn’t yet entered a formal negotiation process on some of its main issues.

“It’s a live process,” Argetsinger said, calling the government’s fall deadline “ambitious.”

In the coming weeks, the department will be hosting sessions in the following cities or communities:

• Montreal on July 16

• Iqaluit on July 18

• Kuujjuaq on July 24

• Winnipeg on Aug. 29

The sessions are full-day events that run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Registration and more information is available on the Canadian Heritage website.

Email this story to a friend... Print this page... Bookmark and Share Comment on this story...

(14) Comments:

#1. Posted by Oopik on July 06, 2018

Inuit leaders should consider affordable living costs as a valid concern over culture in my opinion. Inuktut/inuktitut/innuinaqtun has been in a free fall with no regulation or standardization and gives frontline workers even more to worry about.

#2. Posted by Observer on July 06, 2018

What a complete waste of time and money that could be spent elsewhere. So little of the population speak these languages and they will never get the same order of I,portal ep as French and English as official languages. Another make work project initiated by the Feds when we could be focusing on areas that require immediate attention

#3. Posted by B. Russell on July 06, 2018

#1 In logic we would call your argument a ‘red herring’.

Look it up.

#4. Posted by Trinkets Love on July 06, 2018

That is a big request but it still small.  Inuit will one day insist they are sovereigns of Inuit Nunangit.  A nation like Iceland, which has a population of just 350,710. 

That day is not today.  These leaders the ones.  The leaders will have big ideas.

#5. Posted by Think about it on July 06, 2018

Standard of living concerns and dealing with real problems would force people in these organizations to stay in the office a face reality.  Sitting on working groups and attending months of consultations, is easier and Southern travel is a benefit as well.  One question; which version of Inuktut/Inuktitut/Innuinaqtun will be the “official language”.

#6. Posted by Young Inuk on July 06, 2018

#4, I don’t understand what you’re trying to say. Inuit world population is roughly 150,000. #5, Just to clarify, doesn’t Inuktut Inuit language, like not any specific dialect. I for one would like to see more teachings in school. I grew up with non Inuktitut speakers. School didn’t help cause all we did was word searches and coloring. I understand that there are more pressing issues, but those issues are for the GN to solve if it considers Nunavut. ITK speaks for all Inuit in Canada. So they can’t really fight for things that are already supposed to be taken care of by our Government. Again, I speak as Nunavumuit, so I am not aware of how things work in the other Inuit regions in the other territories/provinces. My opinion, not attacking anyone.

#7. Posted by Thomas on July 06, 2018

I think # 4 may be a little off track….soverign nation? Where did that come from? Ignorance or misinformation. and this is not the FED this is ITK. First step in distinct society clauses. Good luck. the cat is out of the bag. Lots of us white devils here.

#8. Posted by West Nunavut Youth on July 07, 2018

This sounds like more money down the drain to keep useless people
who are supposed to be teaching Inuktitut to Inuk children.
Give the money to the people of Nunavut, to do as they please!

#9. Posted by Monica Connolly on July 08, 2018

The French, British, and later Canada as a nation-state have all taken Indigenous land and distributed much of it to others. Very little of that will be, in reality, reversed.
But Canada as a nation is beginning to realize that we owe Indigenous people a lot that we haven’t paid yet. That includes amenities that the rest of us enjoy, such as clean water, housing, good medical care, etc.
It also includes the right to keep their identities.
If you look at groups of people who have maintained an identity over generations of being surrounded by different cultures, you find that the most successful have been able to attach that identity to some of location, religion and language (or very distinct dialect). Jews had lost their location nearly 2000 years ago, but retained their identity with religion and language.
We owe the Indigenous peoples the right to their identities, and therefore to their languages. This is not trivial.

#10. Posted by Go on then on July 09, 2018


I’m not sure if you noticed but today is Nunavut Day. The people of Nunavut have their own territory and their own government which is almost entirely funded by the rest of Canada (to address your “we owe, we owe…” comment).

As for saving the language, the ball is in Nunavut’s court, no one else can save it but the people of Nunavut. Not us.

#11. Posted by Pay up, Pay up! ( Iqaluit ) on July 09, 2018

# 9,
I feel many cultures on Earth are owed by colonizers and invaders !!
  Some of my ancestors were Brits, who over the years were invaded
by Romans, Angles, Jutes, Saxons, Vikings and Normans from France.
  We are not the only ones, all over the world people should be
honestly compensated, not just First Nations and Inuit.
All people have the right to their identities and languages, but they
should pay for it themselves., as the Jews have done.
  My Inuit friend from Kitikmeot said that Inuktitut has went downhill
ever since Inuit people were put in charge of it.

#12. Posted by Reality Elder ( Cambridge Bay ) on July 09, 2018

# 10 & 11, I really agree with your statements, good for your honesty.

I remember the ” good old days ” only too well!
If we lived like that now 80 % of Inuit would be dead in a year.
Theft, incest, early death, and starvation. Great life.
Our Inuit language has been funded by Canada for many years, and
if our present day Inuktitut teachers ( big money Inuit ) don’t care about
it why should anyone else ?  Some language freeloaders have been
paid for over 30 years for nothing. We need proper language experts.

#13. Posted by Monica Connolly on July 09, 2018

#10 & 11: Back in the 1970s, I ran Nunatsiaq News and deliberately tried to keep it bilingual, because I believed then as I do now about the importance of the language to the culture. Nonetheless, the GNWT frequently ordered ads in English only, cutting our revenue in half on those ads. They were usually ads for jobs or contracts, and the rationale was that to do the job or get the contract you’d have to read English, so why publish in Inuktitut? Eventually I wrote to Commissioner Stuart Hodgson, who agreed with me that the GNWT ads were undermining Inuktitut publishing as well as carrying the subtle message to students and parents that these were not opportunities for Inuit; he directed his departments to advertise bilingually. This is the sort of issue that official-language laws will help prevent.

#14. Posted by Okuk ( Cambridge Bay ) on July 10, 2018

I agree with you,  It is up to us Inuit to save our own language!
Need proper teaching methods, before it is too late.
#11, A very interesting and thoughtful comment, we are all linked by
our humanity, and inhumanity.

Remember my personal information

Notify me of follow-up comments?