Inuktut training won’t yet be mandatory for GN jobs, Nunavut premier says
“We should focus on filling the positions first”
Citing the chronic shortages of teachers and nurses in Nunavut, Premier Joe Savikataaq says that his government is not yet ready to declare that Inuktut training be a mandatory requirement for Government of Nunavut jobs.
“At this time I don’t wish to state that if you don’t take Inuktitut training, that you will lose your position or you will be terminated,” Savikataaq said in the legislature on Monday, Nov. 5, in response to questions from Aggu MLA Paul Quassa.
Quassa, who has portrayed himself as a champion of the Inuit language, had complained in questions that employees like teachers and nurses are not learning the Inuit language.
“We hear about teachers, nurses … and other employees who are not even taking any Inuktitut training according to residents,” Quassa said.
Instead, the Inuit language should enjoy the same status in Nunavut that French enjoys in Quebec, and become a compulsory language for territorial government jobs, Quassa said.
“This too should apply in Nunavut, where it [knowledge of the Inuit language] becomes a requirement,” he said.
Under a “plan” dating to 1999, Inuktitut was supposed to have become the working language of the territorial government by 2020, which is “almost upon us,” Quassa said.
Savikataaq replied that the GN paid for Inuktitut training for 159 GN workers in the 2017-18 fiscal year, and will spend $400,000 more this year to expand Inuit language training.
He also said Nunavut suffers from serious shortages of nurses and teachers, and filling those unfilled jobs remains a priority.
“Now, all weekend we have heard about the shortages of nurses within Nunavut. We have a shortage of teachers within Nunavut. This is what we continue to hear,” Savikataaq said.
The GN’s latest public service statistics appear to bear this out.
They show that as of September 2018, there are staggering numbers of unfilled jobs in Nunavut’s Health Department.
Out of 1,204 positions in the department, 552 full-time equivalent jobs are unfilled and only 652 jobs are filled: a vacancy rate of 46 per cent.
The Education Department suffered from 198 vacancies as of September 2018, for a vacancy rate of 15 per cent, the same report shows.
Savikataaq also reminded Quassa that in the previous week Quassa himself had asked about a shortage of teachers in Igloolik, the member’s home community.
“We should focus on filling the positions first, and I am in full support of any government employees who wish to take the conversational Inuktitut language training,” Savikataaq said.