Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut June 05, 2018 - 9:30 am

We’ll double spending on employee language courses, Nunavut premier says

“Our ultimate goal is to have Inuktut as the working language of the Nunavut government"

Premier Paul Quassa said his government has doubled the amount of money available for GN employee language training. The money flows from the federal government and through Nunavut's Department of Culture and Heritage. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)
Premier Paul Quassa said his government has doubled the amount of money available for GN employee language training. The money flows from the federal government and through Nunavut's Department of Culture and Heritage. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)

Government of Nunavut employees will get more opportunities to work on their Inuktut language skills, thanks to a recent doubling of funds for Inuit language training, Nunavut Premier Paul Quassa announced May 30.

That’s in line with a priority in the government’s mandate document, Turaaqtavut, to “promote the Inuit language as the working language of the Nunavut public service,” Quassa said in a minister’s statement.

“Our ultimate goal is to have Inuktut as the working language of the Nunavut government,” Quassa told Nunatsiaq News, adding that this is not a new goal.

“That vision was made back in 1999 when Nunavut was being created,” he said. “This doubling of the funding, it enhances that vision.”

In the last fiscal year, 159 GN employees took 21 Inuktut courses run through the Department of Executive and Intergovernmental Affairs.

That was in Iqaluit, Arviat, Cambridge Bay, Gjoa Haven, Igloolik, Pangnirtung and Rankin Inlet.

“We have to ensure that we have training funds available to make sure the ultimate goal will be met,” he said.

Of those courses from 2017-18, three were advanced courses led by elders.

There was also a keyboarding and computing course, along with beginner and intermediate courses in Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun, said Quassa, who described the range of courses as running from “foundational” to “professional.”

He called the funding increase a step towards reaching language requirements outlined in both Nunavut’s Inuit Language Protection Act and Official Languages Act. The new 2018-19 money comes from the federal government, but flows through the Department of Culture and Heritage.

The courses are not only for people who can’t speak Inuktut. It’s also for Inuktut speakers who want to improve their skills.

“It’s not just focused on those who can’t speak. We also want to enhance their ability to speak more, even if they can,” he said.

Outside of Iqaluit, it’s more common to have Inuktut used in Nunavut government offices, Quassa said.

“A higher percentage is being spoken in Inuktitut at the community level, in the other communities,” he said.

Baker Lake MLA Simeon Mikkungwak asked May 31 if the new funding means people in the other 18 Nunavut communities will get more language training.

Quassa replied that training will be made available in all communities, and for all GN staff who want it. Some of that could be through online learning, he said.

“The reasoning is that the majority of the population in the territory speak primarily in Inuktitut. We have to remember who our clientele is, so this is our goal here,” he said.

Training will include a program for employees who “don’t understand a word of Inuktitut,” while other courses will focus on increasing fluency for both spoken and written Inuktut.

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(53) Comments:

#1. Posted by boris pasternak on June 05, 2018

mr premier, forget it, Inuktitut language is so inferior that gn staff will not take the courses. iqaluit, rankin and cambay inuit kids don’t want it let alone baker kids can’t speak it at all is appalling. it’s all up hill battle even nunavut deas think it’s a bum deal for their own kids. is there any inuktitut speaking communities/children out there?

#2. Posted by Bbff on June 05, 2018

Focus on the kids! They’re the keepers of the language not the GN employees!

#3. Posted by Inukie on June 05, 2018

You blind fool, you can spend a trillion dollars, but if the courses don’t exist, you are flushing it down the toilet. Arctic college Inuktitut classes are a joke, and Pirurvik started out well, but they have stopped short and dropped the ball. They also charge individuals $500, and charge the GN $1500 for employees. So whatever you spend, they will take. They’ve also condensed their courses, which is no way to learn a language. They got greedy. And good for them! The government has shown themselves to be incapable of finding a way of breaking down the language and teaching it. If you’re just throwing more money at the resources that already exist, you might as well flush it down the toilet.

#4. Posted by Transients on June 05, 2018

It makes no sense to spend that kind of money on employees who are only here to make some money and then head back south.

What percentage of GN employees will actually spend their retirement in Nunavut?

Put the money back in to our education system, teach Inuktut in schools and the home.

Don’t throw our money away on temporary things.

#5. Posted by "Has been hunter" on June 05, 2018

We have many unemployed youth who have graduated from Nunavut’s “High Schools” who are unable to enter college level entry assessments and the best jobs they find are as stock clerks or sewage /water delivery assistants. Transients that come are for employment, learning the culture and language is not part of their overall mission. Colossal waste of expenditure and time on the GN. Best to revive the education system and put our youth to employment instead of them clogging up the welfare lines.

#6. Posted by where to turn to on June 05, 2018

Inuktitut is a long term learning, and most GN employees who learns it, will leave NU by that time. Why waste the money on it. Put your act together and put the money where it’s most needed by the real beneficiaries. It getting clear that inuit are just being used for their status and the money they generate is going to different ethnic population, like adults who just arrive from Asia, Central America that are filling the GN jobs!!

#7. Posted by Ms.Tupak on June 05, 2018

I think Camping courses would be great for employees. They would be living with families during camping season.Most families now have cabins outside the communities where they go dry meat and hunt. It would be a great opportunity for an immersion course. The families would also get paid for having a government employee live with them for that time.

#8. Posted by School Level on June 05, 2018

Why waste money teaching GN employees who will leave. Why don’t we overhaul the Education system to first produce graduates who will be able to fill upper management/Executive positions in the GN, and get the language programs at a school level. Waste of money for GN staff.

Also Mr. Premier if a GN employee from Baker Lake wants to learn Inuinnaqtun do they get sent to Cambridge Bay with pay and accommodations to learn it? If they want to learn Inuktitut do they get sent to Iqaluit with pay and accommodations to learn it?

#9. Posted by Bingo on June 05, 2018

#2 Nailed it.


#10. Posted by Sickened on June 05, 2018

Really !???......the same pot is being stirred up by beauracratic bs as always , and doubling the efferts of trying it again? Looking back it will never happen in my lifetime and I am ashamed to be a beneficiary of such ignorant government….. I want out

#11. Posted by Piitaqanngi on June 05, 2018

This will most likely further erode Inuktitut. The level of comprehension coming out of school aged kids and graduates is so low that real Inuktitut speakers have to use baby language to be understood.
I wonder if elders will be able to converse comfortably with “professional” “Inuktut” speakers without having to explain what they meant or said.

#12. Posted by Math is fun! on June 05, 2018

Okay so with their current budget 159 GN employees got training last year. Double the budget, double the capacity lets assume. So this year 300 GN employees get training.

There are roughly 5,000 government employees currently and we are roughly at 75% capacity. We have an Inuit employment of 50% as of May 2018 report. So that is 2,500 people that MOST likely do not speak Inuktitut. It would take almost 10 years just to cycle the existing staff through training, not including any Inuit workers who are not fluent.

This does not take into account staff turn over, casual staff or becoming fully staffed or contract workers (nurses) or front line staff outside of GN(RCMP).

Relying on Government Employees to preserve language is a fools errand, entrench it in the education system for real change.

#13. Posted by Ms.T on June 05, 2018

Start Mentorship programs and hire the graduates from schools. Go to the High schools before graduation and do career counselling. Focus on the children in schools as some of these kablunaaq’s should be replaced sometimes. Invest in the schools.

#14. Posted by Good Government Means accountability on June 05, 2018

12 and 13 - I totally agree. This government should invest in young people.They need to be trained well so that when there are openings they can compete for jobs and be effective in their jobs.

A big reason why many southerners get the jobs is because they often come with the experience, training and education. If this government was serious about beneficiary employment they would use their resources to improve education and have beneficiaries empowered to be the best candidate for the job—though I think they realize that the more educated people are, the more they will hold their government accountable.

#15. Posted by Not Teachers on June 05, 2018

Teachers can’t participate in this training.

#16. Posted by Pissed off on June 05, 2018

#4 it’s not your money. It is money for Nunavut and this includes the southerners. These are the same people who come up here to make money. Yes, that’s true, to make money. What are you doing for living? Do you work for free? Stop blaming all issues in Nunavut on the southerners, or the past. It is time to grow up. Attend school, continue with your education at a college, university or trades. That’s not that complicated, is it? Would you go and work in a mine? Why? Only to take your money and go home. People always need someone to blame their failures on. Get up and do something about it, start encouraging kids to go to school and to actually learn and to do their homework. Ensure that employees show up for work, every day and do their job. Not very complicated either, is it?Ensure that kids have a safe home to go to , give them respect and parental care. Basically, stop bitching at the southerners and try to blame other people. There is a reason why Nunavut is where it is! Mirror!

#17. Posted by More than a decade on June 05, 2018

#12 (Math is fun!), your 10 year estimate is quite rosy. It assumes that a non-native speaker could speak Inuktitut with the first level course. However, Pirurvik has 4 levels for non-native speakers, and even the top level doesn’t get you professionally proficient.
So even with doubling the funding, you’d need more than four decades to teach everyone to be professionally proficient in Inuktitut. And that’s not accounting for turnover etc. which would make it take even longer.

#18. Posted by court_jester on June 05, 2018

must be hard for people of Nunavut it seems that its for a few it must be some club out there that gives a hand shake when they welcome their own because none of the people in Nunavut are in that club the people they represent

#19. Posted by Smoke and Mirrors on June 05, 2018

#12 The 50% Inuk employment is just smoke and mirrors. The numbers are fake reporting as this report only count full time filled positions and not casual positions. That’s why GN is staffing all their vacant positions with casuals so they can report the fake numbers. If they include the casuals the real number would be closer to 20%. I’m surprised Adam or George haven’t asked for the real numbers to be published.

#20. Posted by really? on June 05, 2018

Really? the focus of the legislative assembly is this!?!?!?! WHAT? your people are dying left, right, and center and this Is what you are choosing to focus on?

how about focus on providing food, shelter, and clothes to people (basic needs)....once people have their basic needs they will begin to flourish and focus on preserving their culture!

you want people to preserve the Inuktitut Language but your people are starving?

wake up

#21. Posted by Jobi on June 05, 2018

It is good GN is still trying promote Inuit language in the workplace. But really it is Inuit language use at home by parents with their children that is going keep the language going.

#22. Posted by yeahitstrue on June 05, 2018

500 a person for general public 1500 a GN office worker someone is really trying to push this through so someone can gain and its not Nunavut

#23. Posted by ask what you can do on June 05, 2018

To #18 In every way my heart goes out to you.

More smoke and mirrors by ruthless oppressors to sustain power over you and your family and con the rest of us. Paul Quassa and his cronies have been instrumental in propagating these rude methods of control with impunity for decades. Makes me wonder about their covert practices.

Never mind about the 10% high school graduation rate. Never mind about 80% unemployment rates. Never mind about 50% addiction rates. The people don’t need more funding for those. Better to cut funding by half!

Never even mind about 30% productivity on top of 70% attendance for those inuks and southerners employed in lifelong patronage positions. Look instead at the 100% multi-generational collusion in the legislature. Anyone who thinks that the system in Nunavut is anything beyond organized crime against its own citizens is delusional or is part of the delusion.

#24. Posted by george on June 05, 2018

Okay, give the course. Make taking the courses mandatory. Then what? Penalize staff who are unable to communicate in the mandated language. Monitor its usage? Write on staffs performance reviews that someone was unable to communicate in this language? Or maybe write it into the collective agreement. Sounds like a recipe thats going to cost the GN a lot more than money.

#25. Posted by Okuk, Cambridge Bay. on June 05, 2018

What type of people do we have in the GN ?
In Western Nunavut we should rejoin the NWT who have reality.

#26. Posted by Jobi on June 05, 2018

#25. Kitikmeot much friendlier welcoming place than Baffin that for sure:) Too many short-term people here who don’t care for NU except send $$ home. Nwt days weren’t so great I remember.

#27. Posted by Richard on June 05, 2018

Hire more Inuit, problem solved. I know a number of local people with tremendous qualification who cannot even get an interview. Managers are almost all non-Inuit and are unable to understand the importance of culture and language for government positions. Get rid of the people doing the hiring and replace than with Inuit.

#28. Posted by Transients? on June 05, 2018

To #4, this is not just for those who do not speak Inuktitut, it’s also for those who want to improve already existing language skills.

#29. Posted by Impossible! on June 05, 2018

The Premier is in his own world!  Tsk,tsk,tsk…

#30. Posted by Teach Inuktut in schools! Not at work! on June 05, 2018

Commenter #2 is correct!

#31. Posted by Inuit language alive and well on June 05, 2018

You hear the Federal Government MPP’s work at speaking French and yes, the accents are off, but the French language is spoken.  Inuktitut will be spoken and be spoken in the workplace for the people; comes with the job.

#32. Posted by Great Goal on June 06, 2018

I am a GN employee from the south and think that teaching GN employees Inuktitut would be great. However my concern lies in the methodology that it’s being offered. I have spoken to colleagues in other communities who have taken introductory Inuktitut courses hearing they did not get a whole lot out of the course. If it’s offered here, I’ll definitely take the course.Just hope I’ll learn some useful communication.

#33. Posted by A being on June 06, 2018

There are a few comments that stand out to me, and I will comment on each. # 1, 2, 21 & 27.
# 1, I have to disagree with your statement that Inuktitut is so inferior, Inuktitut is a language just like any other language & despite what you or other people think, Inuktitut is the language of Inuit and is my mother tongue. Have you went to and spoken to all these communities you speak of? Have you went and spoke to each child? Don’t make generalizations and accusations without hard facts Boris..

#2 OMGOSH YES! the children are our future, we need to incorporate Inuktitut into schools and daycares for more than just a year or an option; children are the future anything.

#21 Almost everything in a person and in life begins at home, whether bad or good, parents or whoever is the child raiser is the first teacher of life- Inuktitut really begins there. Totally right.

#27 This is so sad, being an Inuk myself I know this to be very true. 00000 agree with everything you said.

#34. Posted by Young Elder on June 06, 2018

Does anyone find it odd that a group of people know for their ability to change and adapt to its environment is killing itself to save a language that has no practical use in the world (well it a nice tourist attraction I guess)?  I’ve noticed we were quick to change from a spear to a gun, a dog team to a ski-doo, and an igloo to a house but our leaders are forcing us to use a language that less than 30 thousand people (Less than can fill the Sky Dome - Rogers Center) can communicate in.  You may also notice all the contracts that are with the government of Canada that give us the money to operate in are written (and negotiated) in English.  I would suggest the GN focus on having their people being able to read and understand those very well and have better negotiation skills rather than being like their grandparents who don’t seem to be having a great time in Ottawa when they get shipped out because their old.

#35. Posted by Fake Plastic Tree on June 06, 2018

Teaching Inuktitut to GN employees is a great idea. I would love to learn.

Making Inuktitut mandatory in the workplace is an impossible, and probably illegal idea.

Let’s be clear about the difference.

#36. Posted by REALLY? on June 06, 2018

why not ask your people what they really want.. the preservation of their language or FOOD?!?!?!?!

GEEE you are only focusing on the elite few.. most people are starving and this is where you are focusing your efforts.


#37. Posted by ask what you can do on June 06, 2018

If an idea is floated by this legislature or any of their cohort in the 25 hamlets it is an attempt to maintain the Status Quo.

The Quo has 3 components. One is that the decades old group maintain their influence and sustain it by recruiting the next generation of family and friends. The second is to use all tactics possible to keep their subservients uneductaed, poor, hopeless, addicted and in fear or complacency. Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish those last two items.

Finally, the outside world must be held in a state of deference and correctness to ensure it makes no demands for transparency yet continues to provide funding to demonstrate its deference and sensitivity. Its the same as giving funds to the despots of a third world country and expecting a change.

Fund only essential services (health care, utilities, food payments, ...) and let the many capable and altruistic members of each community take care of the rest. Let’s hope the revolution comes before it’s too late.

#38. Posted by iThink on June 06, 2018


Your argument is a Red Herring.

It is possible, after all, for governments to focus on more than one issue at a time. In fact, it is desirable. If they didn’t, or were incapable of doing so, we would rightfully call them incompetent.

Your comment is hysterical and ridiculous.

#39. Posted by Laid offf GN employee on June 06, 2018

Keep your Inuktitut speaking employees and hire more then you won’t need to spend money that can be used for public services.  Put more money to school programs so students will come out fluent in both languages.
Learning the language is long term commitment and hiring staff that are going to move away will not be committed to learn and will cause wasted time and money!
Think strategically and make plans for your people, Mr. Premier.

#40. Posted by annie angoyuak on June 06, 2018

No wonder I left the north at 50 years old! I had enough, and have a 7 year old boy to raise! just being human and would like to pass it on to my next generation.

#41. Posted by Question on June 06, 2018

Hi… just a quick question..

How will the diff regions and dialects communicate with each other? If the government of Nunavut wants Inuktitut as the working language then how will the west communicate with Baffin when their language is totally different?

Not to mention all the diff dialects.

Has this even been thought out?

#42. Posted by Monica Connolly on June 06, 2018

The negative commenters have a skewed view of Nunavut reality.

1) Nunavut will always hire some Southerners because a population of <50,000 will not produce an exact match of job hunters and needed skill sets. With time, though, the number of Southerners will decline.

2) You need employees to integrate with their communities. That means teach the language. It also means providing a means to slip comfortably into retirement in the North!

3) It does not take 10 years to learn a language to a conversational level. It takes two to four years plus practice.

4) No one has yet recognized how important it is for Inuktitut speakers to smile and encourage learners to try to converse in Inuktitut.

5) The Québecois have done a fine job of making French the working language in Québec.

6) Online courses are essential.

7) The dialects in Nunavut are mutually intelligible, just as a Glaswegian Scot can make himself understood to a London cockney, or a Newf can converse with a Torontonian.

#43. Posted by Inuk already using language on June 07, 2018

Lots of dollars being spent for this. Why not, increase the the benefit for those already getting Bi-lingual bonus? After all they are already using the language which is beneficial to our Elders and interpreting for those that not.

#44. Posted by Turd Bugrlar on June 07, 2018


Why? There’s no return towards language preservation in handing out higher bonuses for people who already speak the language.

It sounds like you just want more cookies out of the pot.

Would you agree?

#45. Posted by Fake Plastic Tree on June 07, 2018

#42 Monica, as usual your comments are a bit rosey eyed and a wee bit detached from reality. Amusing though, I’ll give you that. Still, not every connection you’ve made is analogous.

I won’t dispute the importance of language, and of learning it as an outsider. However, that’s not really the core issue in this discussion. What is at hand is mandatory Inuktitut learning and speaking in the public service. So you argument is, largely, a strawman.

As an aside, I would suggest that the various dialects are not all mutually intelligible.

#46. Posted by Inuktitut immersion on June 07, 2018

Every community needs Inuktitut/Innuinactun immersion school - that way each pupil has a WORKING knowledge of the language. It has to be everyday teaching and using - not once a week or one course per year.
This means teachers need to teach in the language and be fluent in it. You need a bank of teachers and pay enough money to attract them to commit to their job.
You cannot expect children to learn if you hire teachers that are uni-lingual in English. Fire them all including the principals. Start with Inuit teaching Inuit - otherwise its political dreaming. Politician have the power - use it - engage it - do something logical.
And by the way use Roman Orthography it is more accepted internationally as a way to express language along either American or British phonetics not french which makes it confusing.

#47. Posted by Monica Connolly on June 07, 2018

#45, if Quebec can make French mandatory in all workplaces, why should GN not make Inuktitut mandatory in gov’t establishments? The GN and union leaders should negotiate reasonable expectations for each job, with reasonable timelines for beginners to develop competency. The only real challenge is for a few people who may have learning disabilities that impact their ability to acquire language; there will be very few of those, and they may need exemptions.
#46, you can’t fire teachers who can’t speak Inuktitut, because teaching a classroom requires different skills from those needed to teach a few children in a family. Teachers absolutely should be required to learn Inuktitut. In the South we have lots of immigrant teachers whose first language is not English. We also need to develop “apprenticeship” programs in teaching, so that young people who work as Teaching Assistants may earn credits towards their own teaching qualifications.

#48. Posted by Older on June 07, 2018

I am Older have lost both Inuktitut and English and had relearned them both in order to function in both cultures unfortunately have not relearn the Cree language that I learned in the residential school. Lost Inuktitut when I was taken to Toronto and lost English and Cree when I was taken back into Inuit traditional lifestyle a traditional camp.

But I function in both languages English and Inuktitut. I lived in both lives in my younger years. Though I have lost able to have conversation in English in the Inuit camp however I have never lost my ability to read in English which I kept throughout the time I was would not hear any English speaking person. However at times

I had wished that my language ability would had been consistent not having to lost and regain life would have been lot easy and bit more consistent. Inuktitut is our first language at home every member of family speaks it even 3 year old’s ability is amazing.

#49. Posted by Billy, Iqaluit. on June 08, 2018

# 42, # 47,
    I do believe you mean well by what you say and it would be good
if some of your ideas were implemented.
Ever since Inuktitut instruction was taken away from families, by
experts who said taught in schools would be better, Inuktitut has rapidly
declined, especially in Western Nunavut.
Those responsible for Inuktitut are not doing much about it at all.
Hopefully you can do better.

#50. Posted by Inuk already using language on June 08, 2018

#43 not cookies in the pot that counts. Its the work and language we use. We are very proud to use our language to our colleagues but it is mind boggling to have to interpret for those who do not understand. Keep our already language going by keeping the Inuktitun speaking employees and give them the incentive to keep using the language. By the way, the binglingual bonus is peanuts.

#51. Posted by Older on June 08, 2018

Invest the youth enhance their English and Intuktitut language. Inuktitut eroded in the school where most teachers couldn’t speak Inuktitut though the student may have the Inuktitut language as a first hand. Invest in the youth they are the ones that will need jobs and income to support their growing families. They want to work or want to be given an opportunity to work. I know many people who want to work including the youth in my house. Invest in them the youth only way some social problem could be improve. Invest the youth who have made the north home and choose to have their family in the north. Invest in the Youth. I been working all my live now close to retirement. I in myself by reading lot of book and researching materials in areas of that have influence us as Inuit. In the GN I didn’t receive language bonus which was fine. But invest in the Inuit youth.

#52. Posted by JimmyJames on June 08, 2018

#12 “It would take almost 10 years just to cycle the existing staff through training, not including any Inuit workers who are not fluent.”

It’s a perfect plan; the GN doesn’t care about the non Inuit in the work place. If they make the language mandatory at a working level, then it can be justified in ‘Screening’ new hires out or getting rid of people who can’t grasp the language. The downside is that the work quality will drop, not b/c a person is Inuit, but b/c the GN will force (promote) Inuit into positions that they may not be ready for. Strengthen our Education system first, instead of spending $500k on sending people to a trade show in Ottawa.

#53. Posted by Uvanga-Urban Inuk on June 10, 2018

HIRE more interpreters and translators, it worked with the Government of Northwest Territories, do it again the same way.  Create an interpreting department, encourage your children to finish high school and pursue their education further.

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