MLA committee wants more from Nunavut language commissioner

MLAs seek more detail, more information


In an assessment of the office of the Nunavut language commissioner, a committee of Nunavut MLAs proposed six recommendations May 29 at the Legislative assembly.

The Official Languages Act and the Inuit Language Protection Act, passed in 2008, are still not completely in force.

“The status of the various pieces of legislation has led to some confusion with respect to the current mandate of the Languages Commissioner and the extent to which she is able to pursue certain activities,” said Quttiktuq MLA Ron Elliot, chair of the standing committee on operations.

Alexina Kublu, the language commissioner since 2009, is half way through her mandate. Her main responsibilities, as described by Elliot, include investigating complaints, providing guidance for institutions, and managing her office.

The language commissioner is an officer of the legislative assembly, and reports directly to MLAs, not the government.

But Elliot said that to understand Kublu’s role, “a significantly greater level of detail regarding the activities undertaken by the language commissioner’s office should be included in [her] annual report.”

Among the recommendations: to improve recording of documents and statistics, details that the committee feels were not covered in her previous 2010-2011 annual report.

Elliot said “certain statements made in the annual report were broad generalizations that did not appear to be substantiated by factual information or specific analysis.”

The committee also wants to see objectives and goals, detailed summaries of complaints, explanations of investigations and more addressing of issues related to delivery of services within the territory by the federal government.

“In the reporting that she’s done so far, I think what we’re trying to do is gently help her do her job better,” said Elliot after the committee meeting finished, adding “which is also what we try to do with the government too, to make sure that everyone is on side.”

Although Elliot is hopeful that the language laws will, in time, come into force, he lays a lot of the blame on the Government of Nunavut rather than on the office of the language commissioner, which is not a government body but receives government money, and could use more.

“The language issue is important,” said Elliot. “But if I was forced to choose between priorities, I think for me, from what I hear from my constituents, they would rather have government money and resources that would put food on the table.”

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