Inuktitut should be official language: Makivik president

Pita Aatami makes call during Northern Lights keynote

Makivik Corp. president Pita Aatami is seen here speaking at the Northern Lights conference and trade show in Ottawa on Friday afternoon. (Photo by Jeff Pelletier)

By Jeff Pelletier - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Inuktitut should be an official language of Canada, according to Pita Aatami, president of Makivik Corp.

Aatami made the call during a wide-ranging keynote speech Friday as part of the Northern Lights conference and trade show in Ottawa.

“There are two official languages in Canada, French and English, as we all know,” he said.

“Why not make Inuktitut an official language? If I do get my own government one day, that will be our official language.”

Aatami’s remark was followed by a round of applause across the room. In the audience were several Inuit organization and business leaders.

Aatami compared the struggle to protect Inuktitut to provincial measures implemented in Quebec to preserve the French language.

Rather than pin one cause against the other, he said both Inuit and Quebecois should work together.

“Like the French, we don’t want to lose our language,” he said.

“If you don’t want to lose your language, we’re the same.”

Aatami wants Ottawa to work with Makivik on the move.

Ian Lafrenière, Quebec’s minister responsible for relations with the First Nations and Inuit, said last month he plans on tabling an Indigenous language protection bill later this year.

Lafrenière travelled to Nunavik and Nunavut in January to begin discussions on the topic, ahead of further consultations to come later.

“I can see that we’ve got so much in common in terms of protecting language, culture, in terms of building issues, construction issues; I see that as promising for a partnership,” Lafrenière said, about building a new partnership with the Government of Nunavut.

Aatami’s keynote speech touched on several other topics, including mining consultations, the state of the two Makivik-owned airlines Canadian North and Air Inuit, and improving Inuit rights under the James Bay Northern Quebec Agreement.

He called Nunavik an open door for investors from the south; however, he wants to see those investments go back to improve communities and support the people of the region.

Above all, respecting Inuit as equal partners is key, Aatami said.

“I might have a brown face but I still cry and laugh like you, so let’s be equal,” he said.

“I don’t want to be controlled anymore. As a people, we want to start controlling our own destiny, our own future.”


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(39) Comments:

  1. Posted by 867 on

    No it should not be an official language of canada. Canada should just do what the US does and not have any official languages and recognize that we are a very diverse nation.

    • Posted by 613 on

      US is the absolute worst example to follow, no way we should be looking at the US on what to do with language, too many in southern Canada already do this and look at how that is going.
      Better examples out there.

      • Posted by Exactly on

        Exactly! Just look at Alaska and how the natives there are struggling to keep their language and a lot of them have lost it, US don’t care as long as it’s only English.

  2. Posted by Forever Amazed on

    Why isn’t inuktitut an official language of Quebec?
    We already have one too many official languages in Canada.

  3. Posted by Southerner on

    Nunavut has to do better at retaining their language, instead of asking Canada to do it. As far as I am concerned Nunavut isn’t doing enough to retain their language in Nunavut, never mind the rest of Canada.  

    When I moved to Nunavut, I enrolled in an Inuktitut language course and was soon able to write, speak and understand basic words and sentences.  
    No effort was made outside the classroom, however, to foster the language.  I was unable to use my new language and quickly lost it.  
    The politician and leaders should focus on retaining the Inuktitut language in Nunavut first and foremost.  If the language cannot be readily spoken and taught in Nunavut, ie, it’s place of origin, than they have failed. Never mind grandstanding abroad.  Get working at home and improve Inuktitut in Nunavut. 

    • Posted by Northerner on

      Unfortunately our GN has not made Inuktitut a priority, it’s a token language for our government, we see this in the language act, education act, in their policies.
      A shift needs to be done in our GN before we can actually start to implement Inuktitut in Nunavut.

  4. Posted by Look at me! on

    Comments like this are just so unserious. I picture a guy in a room with maybe 100 people or less saying whatever he thinks will get him into the papers.

  5. Posted by Art Thompson on

    Nunavut could have all that and more. Just withdraw from being a part of the confederation. Tear up the NULC agreement. Put all the kabulnaks on a boat. Stop recieving federal transfer payments. Hire only Inuit at the GN. What a bunch of far off drivel. Way off.

  6. Posted by Colin on

    Inuit leaders induced the accelerating demise of Inuktitut, which didn’t have to happen. Inuit control of education failed to raise next generations to be doctors, dentists and other professionals and managers in Inuit lands. That’s why Baffinland, even after 90 Inuit new-hires, will still only represent 14 percent of the labour force.

    Many minority languages thrive because people in the entire structure of society speak them. The creoles in the Caribbean, Swiss German, Romansh—the list goes on. Along with parents not talking to their children, feeble delivery of education has made Inuktitut the language of second class citizenship. Its retention is now a lost cause. It’s now too late. No point bothering any more. Too bad.

    • Posted by Nunavuumiu on

      Yes, it is the case only in the capital of Nunavut, the Government too scared to exclude the other citizens of Nunavut. Too bad Southerners think they know Nunavut after visiting just Iqaluit and living “The Dream”.

      • Posted by Too bad on

        I would say “It’s too bad people like you generalize southerners like that.” But rereading your comment and I have no idea what you’re trying to say’. So I can’t be offended:)

        • Posted by Consistency on

          Your right not all southerners are like that, but a Southerner who lives in Iqaluit and thinks they understand Nunavut IS one of them, it does not matter if they lived in Iqaluit or Rankin for a “Long time” of 5-10 years. It has been a true LONG time since Iqaluit or Rankin has been primarily Inuktitut speaking.

    • Posted by Sean French on

      It’s pretty amazing how someone can live in Nunavut and not realize that over 90% of the people outside Iqaluit are fluent in Inuktut, despite the disastrous effects of the residential schools.

      But then again, the comments section of Nunatsiaq News has always been plagued with conservative southern trolls, so I really shouldn’t be surprised. Take your white supremacist colonizing agenda elsewhere, and stop gaslighting Inuit for having the guts to stand up for themselves and demand equality.

      I challenge you to use your real names when posting, like I do. Nunatsiaq News really needs to stop allowing anonymous commenting, it has turned the comment section into a cesspool of racism.

      • Posted by Wrong again on

        Inuit don’t take significance from cesspool comments, to feel bias in any sort of way. It’s cesspool comments after all, just like you say. You’re wrong in thinking that Inuit are offended by such low level words. That’s not a good judgement of Inuit, even if you think you’re doing a great service and using your name among an otherwise anonymous forum, brave one in the audience speaking up. Just saying.

  7. Posted by How it looks from here on

    There’s nothing wrong with the idea of regionally languages gaining status and legal protections, this is the case in Nunavut today, does anyone think that needs to change? Of course not. On the other hand creating the same kind of protections at a national level is not feasible, realistic, or even necessary.

  8. Posted by Puzzled on

    Inutituut classes available to newcomers to the regions would go a long way to increasing the use of the language. From my experience it is non existent, nurses, doctors, social workers, teachers who are here for a few years have an interest in having a working vocabulary. I have approached several Inuit to ask if they would be available to teach small groups the basics, start with learning the syllabics, etc, there is good money which can be accessed for to pay their time. I do not understand why fluent Inuit are not taking up the offer, I am stunned by their lack of interest in promoting their own language.

    • Posted by It Is A Taught Skill on

      Speaking a language doesn’t equal the ability to teach it. I’ve had some well-meaning but complete crap Inuktitut teachers over the years.

      It is a skill that needs to be taught, like anything else.

      • Posted by And bewildered on

        not referring to university level linguistics here, conversational inutituut is better than nothing at all, the downward trend of use in due course would leave but a few speakers, it’s what is happening elsewhere (and that would be much sooner than we imagine). Build on the remaining strength asap (it is diminishing year after year.)

  9. Posted by Brian on

    I wonder why this guy thinks Inuktitut is more important than the language of the Cree, Dene and all other Indigenous groups in Canada? Seems kind of arrogant that he thinks his language should be made official over all these other groups.

    • Posted by Steve on

      Correction needed -The Makivik president did not speak of or about any other indigenous languages at that event, Some people live to complain.

    • Posted by It Is Simple on

      Exactly. Make them all official, or none. It is a simple matter of equity.

      • Posted by Aye on

        Exactly, why not. It need not be required on cereal boxes, just recognition and gov services where applicable would be fine.

    • Posted by … really? on

      His job doesn’t concern them. His job concerns inuit

  10. Posted by Oh ok on

    “Like the French, we don’t want to lose our language,” he said.

    The French live in France. In Canada we have Québecois.

    • Posted by Us Too on

      Umm, and Acadians, and Franco-Ontarians, and Franco-Manitobans. Don’t forget us with a Quebecois -centric mindset.

    • Posted by Reply to Oh ok on

      you’re technically right but we understood Pita Aatami when he was speaking, that he was not referring to French from France but French from Quebec, which is actually French Canadian and not just Quebecois.

  11. Posted by Alunak on

    Oh is better you guys start learning Russia language!!! With your beautiful Trudeau.

    • Posted by John K on

      It’s pretty weird for the Prime Minister to just pop into your mind like that when reading something completely unrelated.

      Absolutely living rent free in your head.

      • Posted by Ken on

        It is pretty weird but then again those right wingers come up with some really weird conspiracy theories and things from the far right that are just plain weird.

  12. Posted by Sunaaluuvisii?! What are you?! Yes, Inuttitut must be our Priority! on

    Hey people,

    I’m Inuk, inullarik Kuujjuamiuq! from Kuujjuaq, my late Parents were very strict to stick with our Mother tongue inuttitut language, we need to bring back our real language not to be covered by southerners, if you landed to Kuujjuaq and Nunavik, you will hear just Inuttitut language in Inuit homes, when we were forced not to speak in Inuttitut in schools, when we were hit by a ruler not to speak our Mother tongue in schools. This triggers me still! I’ve seen worst too, witnesses a student being grabbed and thrown out, luckily that poor kid didn’t break his neck from being thrown on ground by a southerner Qallunaaq!

    • Posted by Funny on

      Your parents like parents today, don’t seem to comprehend that the way to keep Inuktitut is education. Your parents like todays parents misunderstand education, see it as an invasion of vulture language and everything negative. If you get that view of education, it’s hopeless. After 40 some years there’s nothing to show in progress for education. And here we are talking about language loss. Where are the teachers, and othe4 professionals made from Al good provided, funded education opportunity?

  13. Posted by G-man Choi on

    Ok people get a grip, there’s only 40,000 people in Nunavut and there over 38 million people in Canada, yeah lets make Inuktitut an official language of Canada “eyes roll”. There is a lack of common sense up here in this ‘Dream Land’ or should it be common cents.

    • Posted by Original languages of Canada on

      Original languages of Canada deserve the recognition along side with English. Just like the rest of the worlds where the indigenous languages also are recognized along side the language of business. Diversity isn’t an issue. It’s people who do not want to understand diversity that are an issue.

  14. Posted by Unrealistic on

    If inuktut became an official language, what does that mean. Is there an expectation that all signage across Canada needs to include inuktuk? Does that mean all federal and government offices need to provide services in inuktut?
    Unrealistic expectation. We don’t even have proper inuktuk classes in Nunavut. Unfortunately the language is dying. Inuit are helping the language die by teasing kids when they miss pronounce words. It’s bullying and happens all the time. People take great delight in rubbing my mistakes in my face. I don’t like speaking infront of others for fear of being made fun of.

  15. Posted by West Nunavut on

    The taxpayers ( of all races ) have been paying for Inuktitut since the 1970’s !!
    Our leaders & Inuktitut teachers have not a clue , apart from getting big wages.
    The worst thing is Inuit were put in charge of Inuktitut. Peter fools no one.

  16. Posted by common sense on

    I see all is as it should be. some guy with a big salary paid for by you makes a stupid statement in the news and people forget the real and important issues. Cant you see when your looking in the other direction these people are reaching into your wallets.
    Wake Up!

  17. Posted by Barking up wrong tree on

    The Inuit population are the ones to talk to in a full room. The Inuit are the ones that will become educated to do this job with language. It’s useless to speak to a group like this in Ottawa. This needs to become a speaking plan , made towards the target. Inuit. It’s Inuit that hold the key to this. There’s lots of money on the go, with lots of opportunities. Inuit must do this. It’s time.

  18. Posted by Mr.Miyagi on

    How is this guy even seen as a logical thinker or even an elected president of our company?

    Unrealistic to think that a population of under 50k would or should even be considered an official language. Cree isn’t even recognized.

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