DEA group opposes new Nunavut education proposals
“The government is making us into complainers”
The Coalition of Nunavut District Education Authorities says it will likely reject the Government of Nunavut’s recently released Education Act amendment proposals.
The coalition said in a release on Thursday, Sept. 6, that it was “completely taken by surprise” by Education Minister David Joanasie’s announcement this past Tuesday, when Joanasie said his department would launch an eight-week consultation tour of Nunavut communities.
“For months, the CNDEA has attempted without success to meet with his department on the structure, timing and a better method for a collaborative approach to amend the Education Act,” the news release said.
The current version of the Education Act, passed in 2008, states that the GN must create a fully bilingual Inuktut-English school system by 2019-20, with Inuktut as a language of instruction from kindergarten to Grade 12. In 2013, it became clear that the GN had no hope of meeting that goal, due to a shortage of Inuktut teachers.
Last year’s legislation, called Bill 37, was intended to amend the Education Act and Inuit Language Protection Act to reflect that situation.
Following extensive consultations in 2016, it received first reading in March 2017, but in May 2017, regular MLAs refused to send it to committee of the whole for debate and it later died on the order paper.
The upcoming Department of Education discussions are set to begin Sept. 17 in Rankin Inlet and finish Nov. 27 in Iqaluit.
They’ll focus on educational approaches, the responsibilities of district education authorities and a timetable for introducing the Inuit language as a language of instruction.
The GN’s proposals released on Tuesday, intended to be a starting point for the public discussions, are similar to those contained in the bill that died last year.
The coalition, which for years has sought more power for DEAs, said they don’t like those proposals.
“We are not enthusiastic about revisiting Bill 37. Too much time has been spent trying to centralize authorities. We need to focus our resources on children, language and learning—and stop trying to impose on communities,” said Jedidah Merkosak, the coalition’s chairperson.
The Department of Education had sent a letter to the coalition during the summer, at a time when DEAs do not typically meet, the coalition said.
“The coalition had expressed concerns about the poor timing of the consultations over the summer and what appears to continue roll backs of DEA authorities and reduced commitments to Inuktitut language education,” Merkosak said.
Merkosak says this is not an effective way to consult with communities, but that the coalition would be happy to work with the government based on its Turaaqtavut mandate.
“The government is making us into complainers by constantly trying to consult with us on proposals they clearly know we object to,” Merkosak said.