Inuit org slams recently passed federal Indigenous languages bill

Liberal government rejects most of the Senate’s amendments

Members of the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples during a tour of the Western Arctic last year. The committee attempted to add numerous amendments to the Liberal government’s Indigenous Languages Act, largely prompted by Inuit leaders. But the federal government rejected most of those amendments, and the bill became law on June 21, when it received royal assent. (Photo courtesy of the Senate)

By Nunatsiaq News

The Liberal government’s Indigenous Languages Act, Bill C-91, which received royal assent on June 21 after completing its journey through the Senate on June 20, is merely a “symbolic gesture” that does not meet the demands of Inuit, says Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.

NTI and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami have spoken out strongly against Bill C-91 since last February, when Canadian Heritage Minster Pablo Rodriguez had it tabled in the House of Commons.

For example, last February, ITK said in a statement that “the absence of any Inuit-specific content suggests that Bill C-91 is yet another legislative initiative developed behind closed doors by a colonial system and then imposed on Inuit.”

That’s because the bill does not provide federal recognition of Inuktut as an official language within the four regions of Inuit Nunangat and requires that Inuit use English or French to gain access to federal services throughout Inuit Nunangat, even where Inuktut speakers make up the majority of the population.

Another big shortfall is that the law does not compel federal departments and agencies serving Inuit Nunangat to provide services in the Inuit language.

They also allege the federal government discriminates against Inuit through “inequitable” funding policies that favour French or English.

And NTI and ITK also complain that federal language funding policies will continue to “discriminate” against Inuit who live within provinces and requires that Inuit must use English or French to gain access to language services.

“This legislation, which is intended to help reverse the steady slide of Indigenous languages into disappearance, does not address issues of access to public services in Indigenous languages and does not reflect the needs which have been clearly communicated by Inuit,” NTI President Aluki Kotierk said in the June 24 news release.

Another complaint, made by Nunavut languages commissioner Helen Klengenberg, is that in Nunavut, the federal government takes the position that Nunavut’s territorial language legislation does not apply to federal government departments.

After Bill C-91 received third reading in the House of Commons and moved into the Senate, senators passed amendments aimed at responding to Inuit concerns.

And they also tried to add an amendment that clarified the principles under which Indigenous language funding would be allocated under the new law.

Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson had backed those amendments, but the federal government rejected most of them.

“This bill fails to assure Inuit leaders that it will meet the objective of maintaining and strengthening Inuktut,” Patterson said on June 19 in the Senate.

On the other hand, First Nations and Métis leaders have welcomed the Indigenous Languages Act.

“Today we celebrate the work of our language champions who worked with Canada to create this legislation that will help ensure our children grow strong in their language and stronger in life, confident and proud in their identities and connected to their nations,” Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said in a statement.

Another group that is highly supportive of the act is the Métis National Council.

“Bill C-91 marks an important step forward for the Métis Nation in consolidating its continued existence as a distinct Indigenous nation and culture in Western Canada,” said MNC President Clément Chartier.

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(8) Comments:

  1. Posted by Inuinnaqtun on

    NTI, what is being drafted for Inuinnaqtun?

  2. Posted by How would it be implemented on

    2016 Stats Can for Nunavut “Language most often spoken at home: 17,735 Inuit Languages 17,030 English or French” With this should the government be able to offer services in Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun yes. But the government also has a duty to ensure it does not pass legislation in cannot abide by.

    I am not defending them, but unlike the Government of Nunavut that passes legislation without any idea of implementation or how it will meet those targets for example Inuit languages in Education. Its great to say we must have it, but NTI, and ITK instead of just criticizing should layout actual objectives, and actions to achieve meeting the services requirements of providing all services in Inuit languages.

  3. Posted by Inuktitut is penalized because it’s stronger on

    When people say over and over again that “two-thirds Indigenous languages in Canada are endangered”, they forget to mention that one-third of Indigenous languages are NOT endangered.

    This bill primarily benefits Indigenous groups whose languages are endangered, and who are able to access existing public services in English or French.

    But for areas such as Nunavut where the primary mother tongue is Inuktitut, the bill should have addressed access to public services in Indigenous languages.

  4. Posted by Nunavimmiuq on

    Our way of saying INUTTITUT, the real Inuk way of pronouncing it, not INUKTITUT.

    when we see Inuktitut, it sounded like, mixed with southerner’s mix with Inuit language.

    we are original people of Kanata!

  5. Posted by Paul Murphy on

    There is a LAW in Nunavut that requires services be available to Inuit in the language of choice. If you walk into any federal government office and they don’t provide that service when requested, I suggest you immediately file a complaint with the Languages Commissioner of Nunavut.

  6. Posted by Did you not read the article PMurphy on

    Hey Paul did you not read the quote given by Helen….. Maybe you miss understand the words Federal and Territorial……

    “Another complaint, made by Nunavut languages commissioner Helen Klengenberg, is that in Nunavut, the federal government takes the position that Nunavut’s territorial language legislation does not apply to federal government departments.”

    • Posted by Paul Murphy on

      I read the article and I agree that the feds don’t think they need to comply, but the Act suggests otherwise.

    • Posted by Paul Murphy on

      And Helen Klengenberg was very clear about that when she appeared before the Senate Committee hearings in Ottawa.

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