Nunavut languages act now official

Inuktitut on equal footing in territory with English and French


Nunavut’s Official Languages Act came into force on April 1, establishing the Inuktitut, English and French as the territory’s official languages.

“This level of statutory protection for an aboriginal language is unprecedented in Canada,” said the Government of Nunavut’s department of Culture and Heritage announced in an April 2 news release.

The passage of the act as law comes almost five years after its approval by the Legislative Assembly, and four years after approval by federal parliament.

The act takes the place of the Northwest Territories Official Languages Act, which was in place when Nunavut was created in 1999, and kept binding until the new territory drafted its own language laws.

The older act, which covered the entire Northwest Territories as it existed before Nunavut emerged as a separate territory, recognized English and French as official languages and “a lesser set of rights to seven Aboriginal languages, including Inuktitut,” according to Uqausivut, a policy-planning document.

“I am proud that Inuit in Nunavut now have a clear statement of their inherent right to the use of the Inuit Language in full equality with English and French,” James Arreak, Nunavut’s languages minister, said in the April 2 release.

The act “affirms our commitment to deliver programs in and services to the public in all three official languages,” he stated.

MLAs approved the act in June 2008, and since that time Arreak has been charged with coordinating and planning its implementation.

The plan known Uqausivut, tabled in the Legislative Assembly last fall, provides a “roadmap” for GN departments and agencies to follow on language policy, according to Arreak.

The Department of Culture and Heritage will provide funding to help public agencies follow the language laws, the news release said.

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