Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut October 19, 2012 - 8:04 am

Nunavut language office praises CamBay compliance efforts

Hamlet must develop language plan, language commission said

The hamlet office in Cambridge Bay — set to be replaced soon — features Inuinnaqtun and English signage.  (FILE PHOTO)
The hamlet office in Cambridge Bay — set to be replaced soon — features Inuinnaqtun and English signage. (FILE PHOTO)

The Office of the Languages Commissioner of Nunavut says it “commends” Richard Ekpakohak of Cambridge Bay for raising awareness about language rights at an Oct. 10 hamlet council meeting.

The language commission also praises the Cambridge Bay hamlet’s “great efforts” to comply with their new language obligations under the Inuit Language Protection Act by, for example, by making sure all new signs are produced in English and Inuinnaqtun.

However, Ekpakohak came to the Oct. 10 hamlet council meeting to complain about the council’s lack of interpretation services during council meetings.

Ekpakohak also had a letter from the language commission that reminds public officials of the language services they are to provide by 2012.

The release spelled out the responsibilities of Nunavut hamlets under the Inuit Language Protection Act “to provide, regardless of the volume or level of demand, if any, communications and services in the Inuit Language.”

For the hamlet of Cambridge Bay, this means Inuinnaqtun street signs, traffic signs, hamlet notices to the public, by-law enforcement and ticketing, interpretation at public meetings, and municipal council meetings with Inuinnaqtun translations.

The language commission said in a statement to Nunatsiaq News that it recognizes “the significant challenges that some municipalities might be facing along the road” to providing those services.

But the language commission can advise municipalities like Cambridge Bay about their language obligations, “assisting and working collaboratively with all parties to achieve compliance with the languages acts,” said Maude Bertrand, the commission’s director of strategic planning and policy.

At the same time, the language commission will “monitor and examine the progress of territorial institutions in meeting their obligations under Nunavut’s language legislation,” she said.

The Hamlet of Cambridge Bay needs a plan to meet its responsibilities under the law, which could involve language training for its employees.

But Bertrand could not say where the money to pay for that training would come from.

In Cambridge Bay, providing language training may be difficult.

Only about five per cent of its 1,500 residents, or about 77 people, speak Inunnuinaqtun, a figure supplied by Bertrand.

The problem of finding interpreters for hamlet is not new: Keith Peterson, now the MLA for Cambridge Bay, who served as mayor and on hamlet council, recalls experiencing the same problems in the 1980s and 1990s.

Later, the hamlet council room’s interpretation equipment broke down and was removed, although the new hamlet council building under construction will contain a new interpretation booth.

“Signs around town, stop signs, new municipal dump signs in English and Inuinnaqtun, and an interpretation booth for the new hamlet building are great steps forward,” Bertrand said.

“By making a language visible to the public, it stimulates a demand for services and communications in these languages and therefore contributes to the vitality of languages.”

Ekpakohak’s call for more Inuinnaqtun services at the hamlet is a “first step” in the right direction towards establishing a plan that will do that, she said.

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