Inuit language service at the Frobisher Inn: do they comply?
Iqaluit hotel owner and landlord replies to complaint
The following is a letter of complaint to Nunastar Properties Inc., owner of the Frobisher Inn and many rental properties in Iqaluit, that Iqaluit resident Jordan Ipirq Bens shared with Nunatsiaq News and various government officials late last month.
It’s followed by a letter of reply from Nunastar President Ed Romanowski that was copied to us shortly afterward.
I am writing this complaint letter because in 2017 I had to interpret for unilingual Inuit who were in need of assistance in making collect calls from your establishment, the Frobisher Inn.
I have discussed this issue with other people and they are angered that they are not able to receive any services in Inuktitut, even when your automated answering service has the option to utilize services in Inuktitut.
Furthermore, there is a similar problem with the Nunastar office, in which there is no option to access services in Inuktitut. I really feel like this is a significant disservice to Inuit, and as such, this is a major problem that needs to be addressed as soon as humanly possible in my view.
I understand that between the Frobisher Inn and Nunastar Properties, millions of dollars in revenue is earned annually.
Inuit who stay at your hotel and the Inuit tenants who rent apartments with Nunastar are the major contributors to your profit margins. However, you do not ensure that our language rights as Inuit are respected, despite there being laws that require you to provide services in Inuktitut.
I wanted to find out for myself the extent to which Inuit are subjected to the challenges of your “all English (or French)” operation, so I took the time to contact Nunastar and requested to speak with somebody in Inuktitut using Inuktitut.
Of course, I was told to call back and discuss the matter in English or French.
Inuit have the right to access services in Inuktitut. As a corporate community member, you have an obligation to protect and promote our language and culture.
It is my view that it would only give your corporation some credibility. It would undoubtedly be a bold statement to your fellow corporate colleagues and would seek to improve your operations for the user immensely.
Again, a feasible response to this issue is to hire people who can provide services in Inuktitut at both the Frobisher Inn front desk, and the Nunastar Properties main office. As it stands now, you are discriminating against Inuit by not offering services in Inuktut.
I am led to believe that previous attempts at complaining about the lack of Inuktitut services have fallen on deaf ears.
Accordingly, this letter is being copied to the minister responsible for medical travel (Health), the minister responsible for income support (Family Services,) the Office of the Language Commissioner of Nunavut, Nunatsiaq News, CBC News North and the MLA responsible for my constituency.
I strongly feel that the Frobisher Inn and Nunastar Properties owe the Inuit who have been forced to speak and seek interpretation in English an apology, or at the very least, an admission of wrongdoing and a plan on how you will address the issues noted above.
I look forward to your response.
Jordan Ipirq Bens
* * *
Here is a reply from Ed Romanowski, the president and chief operating officer of Nunastar Properties Inc.
Mr. Jordan Ipirq Bens,
Thank you for taking the time to provide your comments and observations regarding the use of Inuit languages at The Frobisher Inn and at Astro Hill (Nunastar).
I can assure you that we fully understand and support that the Inuit of Nunavut have an inherent right to the use of the Inuit languages, and that positive action is necessary to protect and promote Inuit languages in Nunavut.
Our organization has a proud history of serving Nunavut and the Iqaluit community for nearly 50 years. We are also proud to share that we started the process of improving our Inuit language services to our guests and patrons several years before the legislation.
Long before the application of the Inuit Language Protection Act to the private sector, we incorporated the language into signage, printed materials, and more. We also maintain a large complement of our staff who are Inuit—16 at this time.
As such, we received special recognition in the legislative assembly for these early efforts. We take pride in being a community leader in everything we do.
We have also been recognized by many agencies and organizations for our efforts.
Last month, we were recognized for our support of Inuktitut Language Month for the Nunavut authors’ event as well as our work throughout year after year in supporting Nunavut’s children, a large number of community causes and organizations, social services, education and more. And we continue to do more.
On July 9, 2017, Section 3 of the Inuit Language Protection Act became applicable to private sector organizations in Nunavut.
In September of 2017, the new Languages Commissioner of Nunavut contacted the private sector organizations and provided some guidance as to how organizations are expected to start planning the implementation of their linguistic obligations.
We are committed to action and to compliance with the Act. Like most organizations, it will take some time to implement all the measures to be in full compliance with the act. We are demonstrating our commitment to our linguistic obligations through actions that we have taken and have in progress.
I want to share with you some of the actions to date as we move towards better serving our guests and patrons in Inuktitut.
• We appointed a group of our most senior managers to conduct an internal review of our operations to identify and to make all changes that may be required to ensure that we meet or exceed our obligations under the Act.
• We were amongst the very first private sector organizations to submit an Inuit Languages Plan for both the Frobisher Inn and Astro Hill (Nunastar) to the Offices of the Languages Commissioner of Nunavut. The plans have been in their hands since January.
Preparing and submitting a plan is not mandatory, but we did take the initiative to demonstrate our commitment to make changes and improvements in providing services to our valued guests, tenants and patrons. In preparing the plans, we utilized the template and guidelines available from the Office of the Language Commissioner.
• We have consulted with the Office of the Language Commissioner several times on translations and making changes in our operations to improve our Inuit languages services.
We are making good progress in the implementation of our plans including:
• Our signage is being translated throughout our properties and in our guest rooms, emergency exit instructions and parking signage. Some signs have already been installed.
• The translation of posters and commercial advertising including the translation of digital and print advertisements in the Nunatsiaq News for Astro Hill.
• We do have Inuit language speakers in the operation and as we continue to work with organizations such as Arctic College, we’ll continue to hire more trained and qualified hospitality and maintenance personnel who speak Inuktitut. Thankfully, the number of people available and interested in the hospitality and real estate services industry in Nunavut is growing.
• We have translated much of our service material such as menus and most of our restaurant and food services signage.
• In April 2018, we are launching a dedicated “Speaking the Inuktitut Language” page on our new Frobisher Inn website which covers several must-know Inuktitut words.
• We have changed and translated our signature blocks on our emails.
• We are translating notices, instructions and agreements.
• We have arranged for languages training for all of our staff so that basic greetings and salutations can be provided in Inuktitut to our guests, patrons and the larger community.
• We are looking forward to receiving feedback from the language commissioner on our plans while, in the meantime, we are proceeding as we have over the years to implement actions to improve our Inuit language services for our guests and patrons.
We can always improve and we’ll make adjustments to do things better along the way. If we’ve offended anyone, we sincerely apologize.
While we take issue with many of the specific assertions you have made, the point of this response is not to debate them. It’s important for us to continue to make changes and progress in the implementation of Inuit languages.
As I am sure you will agree, most organizations in Nunavut—territorial, federal, municipal and private sector—have more work to do to protect and promote the Inuit languages. We are fully committed to doing our part.
Should you have any questions regarding the implementation of our plans, I would be happy to speak with or get together with you.
President and Chief Operating Officer
Nunastar Properties Inc.
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