Judge reserves decision on GN’s motion to throw out Inuktut-education lawsuit
NTI launched lawsuit against the government over Inuktut education rights in October
A Nunavut judge will reserve his decision over whether to throw out a lawsuit launched by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. against the Government of Nunavut.
Lawyers for the GN and NTI laid out their arguments Tuesday and Wednesday before judge Paul Bychok at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit.
At the end of proceedings Wednesday, Bychok told the court he will need time to consider the submissions made by each party.
NTI filed a lawsuit against the GN in October, claiming the government has failed its legal obligation to ensure Inuktut language education is available throughout the territory’s public school system.
The claim calls for a court order to compel the GN to come up with a five-year plan to deliver Inuit language education from kindergarten to Grade 12. Currently, Inuktut education is available only up to Grade 4.
The lawsuit also comes after Bill 25, An Act to Amend the Education Act and Inuit Language Protection Act, passed in the Nunavut legislature in 2020.
The bill sets a phased schedule for Inuktut language arts courses to be taught to students by 2039.
The previous Education Act, in place since 2008, aimed to have teachers using Inuktut as the language of instruction by 2020.
The lawsuit raises a constitutional challenge, claiming the GN’s alleged failure to meet its legal obligation to Inuit language education in Nunavut violates Inuit rights under section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Section 15 discusses equality rights. In its suit, NTI alleges the GN is discriminating against Inuit by not providing Inuktut education despite Inuktut being the dominant language in Nunavut.
In April, the GN filed a motion to strike the lawsuit, claiming it tries to expand on other rights set out in the Charter, which it says is not allowed.
The GN’s main argument is that section 15 does not apply to language rights, while NTI argues the section applies to race and discrimination, and therefore also to language rights.
At the heart of the lawsuit are its two plaintiffs, Bernice Clarke and Lily Maniapik, who both have children in Nunavut’s education system.
Clarke, who watched from the courtroom’s gallery Wednesday alongside NTI president Aluki Kotierk, wiped tears from her eyes as lawyers for NTI told the court about her worries that her 10-year-old daughter wouldn’t be fluent in Inuktut.
The GN has not yet filed a statement of defence to the lawsuit.
Bychok did not set a date for when his decision will be made.