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

Nunavut judge Paul Bychok will decide at a later, unspecified, date whether to throw out a lawsuit Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. has filed against the Government of Nunavut. NTI has sued the Nunavut government over access to Inuktut language education in the territory’s schools. (File photo)

By Nunatsiaq News

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.


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(49) Comments:

  1. Posted by Consistency on

    You can’t legislate inuktitut education into existence. If Inuktitut speakers don’t choose to become teachers and remain as teachers, you can’t have Inuktitut education.

    If the people of Nunavut actually wanted everything to be in Inuktitut, they would have it. It would take a LOT of work and dedication on their part, though. It hasn’t happened, there’s no sign that people in general want to put in the consistent effort to make it happen, and no lawsuit will make it happen, even if the activist group wins.

    • Posted by oh ima on

      typical colonial attitude, if people wanted things to be in Inuktitut they would have it. The system that is set up has been adopted and imposed on Inuit. Nunavut was created for Inuit and Inuit leaders were kind enough to make it a public government meaning non-Inuit can participate in the governance of Inuit a small 15% of the population has hijacked the process and made it their own. While the rest of us are not benefiting from the creation of Nunavut which was intended.

      • Posted by Unmuted on

        Oh ima, I kind of agree with you that the first post doesn’t say much and has little serious explanatory power, but then yours is just as ‘typical’ in banging out cliches and stereotypes; neither tells us much or explains a damn thing.

      • Posted by Uma unga on

        Lol the public government of all Inuit, all Inuit cabinet, a ton of Inuit DMs is a hijacked government? What planet are you on? If people in Nunavut cannot speak English it is game over, it’s the business language of the world. This is nothing but an NTI cash grab. They are used to government rolling over to settle with them but here’s hoping the judge, who knows about as much about language rights and the charter as a first year law student, can get this right without us having to see the court of appeal fix it.

  2. Posted by Tax Payer on

    why don’t they team up, put in all the money into teacher’s and fix the solution? easy as that, NTI, help the GN and put in money.

    • Posted by How come? on

      Is money the silver bullet here?

    • Posted by oh ima on

      GN is refusing to work with NTI and how easily they forget that the Nunavut Agreement created Nunavut and GN. So in theory the GN is supposed to represent Inuit interests and listen and cooperate with NTI.

      • Posted by John K on

        I would refuse to work with them too.

        I’ve never worked with an organization so eager to stifle growth to push a narrative.

        • Posted by Johnny b on

          I guess the Nunavut Agreement is just a narrative now ?

          • Posted by The Narrative on

            What sections of the land claim requires government conjure out of thin air a bunch of university educated teachers fluent in inuktitut? What part of the land claim requires government to give anyone social housing?
            NTI complains about these issues more than any based on a narrative that government is supposed to solve what are basically social issues that Inuit alone are responsible for.

            • Posted by Deep Perceptions on

              None of these are in the NLCA, however they are deeply embedded in the imagination of many beneficiaries who take their identity as a ‘beneficiary’ very seriously. The term animates a deep sense of entitlement that will, in my opinion, forever hold Nunavut back.

  3. Posted by Former teacher on

    I have very little faith in the GN, there’s absolutely no interest from the GN to build Inuktitut into the education system, once you become a teacher there is no real teaching materials to use for Inuktitut, you have to create that on your own, working into the evenings and night, no curriculum to use and absolutely no support from the department of education.
    After a few years of this, working extra long hours you get burnt out, with so little support from the department from our own government you start looking at taking another job that pays more for working less hours.
    You can produce all the teachers you want but internally the department has no interest and it’s too dysfunctional and incompetent to incorporate Inuktitut into the school system, it’s really unfortunate it continues down this road as we have seen other jurisdictions where the homeland language is used and taught but not here in Nunavut.

    • Posted by STANDARDIZE on

      STANDARDIZE- Like Greenland did; millions of dollars have been spent on creating materials that sit on shelves ( visit Arviat), much of which is very good but there is always the constant bickering about dialect; until there is standard Inuktuk language- how can you develop standard materials and assessment tools??????

  4. Posted by Another Concern Parent on

    My son while attending Nakashuk School 2 years ago had a teacher from Europe who spoke absolutely no Inuktitut!! I was shocked when he had told me this. I ask how is she teaching you Inuktitut and he mention she was using a book with translation but it was bad due to her heavy accent… The school wasn’t able to have any substitute who spoke fluently. Go Figure especially for a huge place like Iqaluit!!! Where everything is suppose to be in essentially organize aside from other smaller communities in Nunavut

    • Posted by Colin on

      Iqaluit is no way organized and the GN heads being in Iqaluit is far from being organized.
      We are just supposed to accept how things are here in Iqaluit/Nunavut and just assimilate to the southern Canadian/European ways. That’s the GN practice with some token Inuit ways here and there far in between.

      • Posted by RU KIDDING? on

        There are fewer and fewer Inuit teachers and/or those willing to enter the profession….

  5. Posted by Eyes dont lie on

    You don’t see Inuktitut speakers lining up to get Teaching degrees now do you? You don’t see Inuktitut speakers lining up to get Advanced Degrees in Curriculum development do you? As with everything else in Nunavut, does NTI expect the GN to hire southern consultants to fulfill these tasks? Is NTI proposing the GN force people to become Nurses, Teachers, Doctors and Lawyers?

    • Posted by Observer on

      Not merely forcing them to become nurses, teachers, doctors, and lawyers, but then forcing them to remain in Nunavut and not be allowed to go elsewhere to practice. Which would immediately result in a lawsuit because Section 6(2) of the Charter states that people have the right to move to and work in any province or territory.

    • Posted by You must be new here on

      Wow, you sound like a unhappy camper, did you just move up here a few years ago and work for the GN? It has been a steady decline with our government for a couple of decades now, department of education and the GN has had about 20 years to figure some things out and when it was the NWT days yes we were producing more teachers and even in the early Nunavut days, but with how things have degraded over the years with the GN that number has gone down dramatically.
      We have a rotating door of transient workers in key positions getting their work experience and moving on back afterwards that are deciding the direction where our government is headed.

  6. Posted by confused on

    I’d fix it as grades 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 for Inuktitut education.

    • Posted by John W Paul Murphy on

      In all due respect, and I agree Inuktitut needs to be the language of instruction,
      BUT and this is the big but, where do we find the teachers?
      It isn’t going to be some southern teacher teaching in Inuktitut.
      We need Inuktitut-speaking teachers teaching an approved curriculum.
      I sure don’t see a lot of available Inuit willing to do that. And the longer we wait, the fewer Inuktitut speakers there will be to teach.
      It’s a vicious cycle and it will end with the language gone.
      UNLESS Inuit adults get the desire to become specialized teachers.
      Othersise, this rhetoric will go on and on.
      Not the Government of Canada’s fault, Not the Government of Nunavut’s fault, nor in fact is it NTIs fault.
      Parents need to become teachers and get themselves to school with sufficient financial support from the leaders. That means housing and living expenses. THAT along with the curriculum is where the Government steps in.
      Want Inuktitut education? It may be too late unless YOU take on the role..
      Won’t be easy at all, but that must be the priority.

  7. Posted by Retired on

    There was so much work into a Inuktitut curriculum about 15 years ago, years of hard work, with key elders that are no longer with us, education specialist, Inuit teachers, building teaching materials, standards to use, curriculum standards.
    All that work has been stored away and the last time I looked into this about 8 years ago the department of education heads, DM and so on had no plans of using all that was put together for Inuktitut to be taught in our schools.
    It’s very heart breaking knowing all the work that was put in, thinking of our future generations to learn in their language and to continue in our language has been thrown away.
    I really wish we can change the attitude of this department, there is really no support for Inuktitut for our schools.

  8. Posted by Groan on

    Until there are qualified inuktitut teachers and curriculum, this will be a pipe dream. Sometimes I feel Aluki is so out of touch of inuit reality! And typical, always blaming on colonization. Look at most of the Asian countries who were also colonized. They are mainly trilingual! This victim mentality of nunavumiut is exhausting!

  9. Posted by Colin on

    English is the international language of business and commerce. Period. (Except for Chinese, Russian and Portuguese and to a lesser extent French.)

    Absent the vocabulary, grammar and syntax, the whole idea of teaching calculus or chemistry in Inuktitut is ludicrous. Consider Singapore, quite recently a Third World country and now far surpassing Canada. They have four official languages. But the ONLY language of instruction, from the earliest years in school, is English.

    How is it that so many Inuit need an interpreter even to tell a doctor what’s ailing them? One answer is you can’t find Inuit doctors. Why not? That’s the key issue that NTI should be confronting.

    Education in Inuktitut is education for next generations of second-class citizens and multi-generational welfare recipients.

    • Posted by Peter on

      I find this kind of comment to be so narrow and short sighted, there is no threat to English and with having Inuktitut will not diminish English, in fact when you learn about other countries that use their language in schools have a strong foundation in language and can learn other languages.
      Greenland, Iceland, the Scandinavian countries and most of Europe.

      The problem in Canada is a system that has always been in us a UK and US way towards learning languages, very limited and no interest in actually learning another language, very limited.

      Compared to other countries where people learn multiple languages, here it is so limited to just one. Even with Canada supposed to be a bilingual country most people here are limited to just one language.
      Try a broader vision and learn more about how successful other countries are at using their language and able to learn English, French, Spanish, German and so on.

  10. Posted by Copperinuk on

    NTI, lawsuit after lawsuit… no progress in terms of better living for inuit except lawyers cashing in on us on behalf of the NTI, lawsuits are what Aloki will be remembered for!

    • Posted by Inuk on

      NTI has to take that action as the GN keeps failing to do anything or follow the NLCA, if the GN could actually do some work NTI would not have to fight for it.

      • Posted by What if I told you…. on

        Inuktitut instruction is not in the NLCA

  11. Posted by Northern Guy on

    Even if there was an Inuktut stream through grade 12 how many parents would enroll their kids in it? What is a high school diploma like that worth? Would it make it easier for the kid to go on amd succed at any kind of post secondary education? Absolutely not! Would it make it easier for that kid to enter a certified trades program or obtain a trade through an employer like a mining company? Nope! So what is the value and benefit of pushing for this?

    • Posted by 867 on

      In the mind of Aluki, we will one day have a state-of-the-art Inuktut University in Iqaluit offering Masters degrees and PhD’s. Oh, what a time to be alive!

      But first, we need to hire more expensive lawyers.

  12. Posted by John K on

    I would love for my kids to learn our language; I never did …

    But I want them to be learn skills that will allow them to thrive wherever they may end up FIRST.

    • Posted by Ken on

      And having Inuktitut in schools would help that, having a strong foundation in your own language and not a broken English language, works very well in other places where they are taught in their language and they go onto universities anywhere in the world.

  13. Posted by Curious Jane on

    What is the Languages Commissioner’s position/part on this matter? Have the plaintiffs submitted their complaints to her office? Was the matter investigated? What were the results?

    Under the territorial language law, that office is the first resource for complainants.

    There’s no recent updates on their website. Last news release or event date back to 2017 / 2019.

    • Posted by John W Paul Murphy on

      The LC COULD be taking them to Court BUT I suspect have the funding to do that.

  14. Posted by Iqalummiut on

    Teachers chose a career dedicated to showing others how to learn. So why don’t teacher learn how to speak our language? No curriculum in Inuktitut? Make one.

  15. Posted by Reality Check on

    This isn’t to come across as cruel, but someone needs to bring NTI back to reality.

    Having children learn fully in Inuktitut is setting children up for failure. The vast majority of all commerce, in Canada, is done in english. The vast majority of Canada’s trade partners do business in english.

    Nunavut does not have commerce, the majority of its GDP is the Government, who does their work in english. Why? Because the majority of consultants the GN uses are in english because those agencies do not exist in Nunavut and they likely never will. The majority of work performed in Nunavut it tendered like most governments and the companies bidding on tenders speak english. Take as in when contracts, building contracts, professional services, the list goes on. The majority of the GN’s professional staff are hired from out of territory, again because Nunavut can’t staff within and its certainly not going to change anytime soon with a high school completion rate of 50% and many jobs taking credentials beyond a 4 year university degree now. Frankly looking at southern professional postings a four-year degree at a university now is the old high school equivalent. Its an expectation and becoming an expectation that you have more years beyond that four year in further education.

    Limiting your child to work in Nunavut where they can be a government employee is botching their future. Being fully educated in english gives them the most opportunity across Canada and abroad. Yes they will likely grow up knowing some english as well but perhaps not proficient enough if they go through grade 1-12 in Inuktitut.

    If you delve into the immediate problems you have to even wonder what NTI is thinking. There’s already 90 vacant teaching positions across Nunavut that cant seem to be filled and that’s with southern staff filling the mass majority of ranks. Clearly there’s a major capacity issue here and very clearly you’re not going to have technical courses in Inuktitut when you cant even fill the very basic positions with anything at all!

    Just getting children to school would be a great start. Attendance rates after all are by far the worst in the country.

  16. Posted by Hans on

    It’s so weird that a lot of comments on here portray the Inuktitut language as if it is a lesser language, even some Inuit talk about their own language as if it is not good enough to be taught in schools and think their kids would be disadvantaged for being able to be taught in their own language.
    I am not a fan of over portrayal of colonialism but this for me is a very colonized way of thinking, I know that term is not very popular but it fits so well.
    We see Europeans, Asians and others move here and do very well, educated in their language and still very accomplished and able to get great jobs in English. There’s no difference with Inuktitut, the problem is having Inuktitut on the same level as English, the same priority y the government by the education dept. having the same level of teaching materials, curriculum and so on. If it’s not it will not be organized and the standard will differ from the level of education being received.

    • Posted by Work in reality on

      It would be fantastic if we were all trilingual but we work within the confines that we have.

      The education system is already riddled with vacancies. The last Nunatsiaq said 90 I believe that haven’t been filled for this upcoming school year. The teachers that are here are vastly engligh native speaking. This is not because the GN in racist and only hires english speaking.

      The fact of the matter is priority is given to Inuit when hiring. It would be the bees knees if there was qualified Inuit to actually fill in positions but there isnt and there isn’t going to be anytime soon. That’s reality. Its backed by Statistics Canada every census. Really you just need to walk around and involve yourself in the community to see its true.

      Look at NTI’s staff listing. Its riddled with vacancies. They cant even begin to staff themselves and they’re one of the highest paying organizations in the entire Territory by a significant margin and offer employee housing as well as a highly competitive benefits package.

      Its not because its not a priority in government. There just is not capacity, it does not exist and people don’t just pop up from the ground highly educated ready to deliver 1-12 curriculum in inuktitut. Nor do they just spring out of no where to start filling government positions that actually require a skill set. Because if those people did exist they would have the world wrapped around their finger. They would be a priority hire in both the public and private sector, but for the most part they dont. Yes, obviously there’s a few, but its few and far between so naturally the gap is filled with those that are not native inuktitut speaking. It will never be on the same level when a tiny fraction of a workforce speaks it. Until that gap is filled its a pipe dream.

    • Posted by AnonYmouse on

      This is a good comment and I agree with you. ‘Colonial’ is a term often misused and thrown around a lot in derision, but it does still mean something and I think you’ve hit it on the head.

      In principle the goal should be to create proficiency in both languages. With that in mind the real issue seems to be implementing a workable plan to get there, in other words how can we make this happen?

      No one seems to have an answer to that, even worse it seems (though I could be mistaken) that barely any effort is being made by the GN.

      • Posted by Jim on

        Maybe looking outside of Canada as it seems to be too limited with having more than one language in use, yes we are supposed to be a bilingual country but in reality it’s really either your speak English or not.
        How about a place like Greenland or Iceland, those two places seemed to be well educated in their language but also able to learn multiple languages.
        Maybe working with another northern country that has shown to be successful in implementing their own language in schools and government and learning and using other languages.
        They seem to be very structured and organized and I’m sure they would be happy to help.

        • Posted by Plastic Tree on

          I appreciate this way of thinking about the problem, but am concerned that there are too many confounding variables to make a direct analogy between Greenland / Iceland, etc and Nunavut a useful one.

    • Posted by Or actually on

      Is it a colonial way of thinking or is it just speaking facts? No one seriously thinks a kid graduating high school without high school level English is ever going to have an opportunity outside of their home community? They won’t be equipped for university or college. English is the language of commerce, get over it.

      • Posted by Yes on

        Yes it’s a colonial way of thinking when the original language is thought of a lesser language by the original people.
        Also why would a high school graduate not complete English in high school, it is already a course that has to be taken.
        It’s putting English and Inuktitut on the same level, not taking anything away from English.
        Works very well in other countries where English is not their first language, I wonder why it doesn’t work in Nunavut?

      • Posted by iThink on

        to ‘Or actually’

        It is right to point out the importance of learning English, without it there is no possibility of attending University or College. No one here is denying that, nor should they.

        On the other hand, what is ‘colonial’ is the dismissive attitude toward learning and preserving Inuktitut. As an outsider the importance of this might not be apparent by comparison. If so, we need to learn to think outside our own box for a moment.

        I think most people here would agree, at least in principle, that both languages can be learned and mastered. Some have brought up Iceland or Greenland for comparison, these are great examples of places where an indigenous language as well as English and Danish, respectively, are mastered. Why shouldn’t that be our goal too?

        Here’s the clinch: this is not a zero sum game. No one needs to lose anything here.

        • Posted by Or actually on

          Call it colonial. I in truth do not value learning inuktitut. I don’t believe in stopping people speaking the language if they want. I believe all people are equal, but ideas are not equal. Languages are also not equal. Not all languages can or should be preserved. Languages die. Who is speaking Latin today? I get people self identify with languages but if that is so powerful an inclination then speak it on your own time, teach your kids, live your life in it, take classes if you want, get a teaching degree. I understand this won’t take English away, that would be illegal under the Constitution. I’m saying the focus should be on graduating kids in English to set them for success. You can master many languages but in my experience bilingual or multilingual people are often the master of none, and mediocre in many.
          Making inuktitut the language of instruction in institutions who are graduating less than 50% of people in English, where they have teachers and textbooks, is never going to work. Compound existing failure by introducing this and see how successful it is. I don’t care about Greenland or Iceland, they are not based in the North American economy. We may as well compare to African countries where they work in English and learn English in school but carry on traditional languages at home.

  17. Posted by Dave on

    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.
    Completely ignoring the fact that people involved in curriculum development have Graduate degrees in Curriculum Development and that is by no way a teacher’s job, nor is the average teacher remotely capable.

    When provinces/territories change curriculum, that is really the easy part. Where do the resources come from ? For example, Alberta is changing their curriculum presently. When complete, Alberta can then depend on the largest Canadian companies to develop resources and texts for them in English or French. Albertans don’t build the resources, they outsource it and these companies recycle a lot of the resources from already existing resources from other province’s curriculum.

    Begs the question: How will Nunavut pull this off? If they can’t buy it from Greenland, there is no hope.

    Translating one gr 7-12 textbook in a STEM topic, would take one highly educated person many years and would be a horrible job . The people capable, can do a lot better than this and have their choice of jobs.

    How does NTI not see this?

    • Posted by Tim on

      I’m curious what has the GN done since 1999 on a Inuktitut curriculum? Is there any information on this?
      It has been a few years since Nunavut was created and it seems the department of Education has not made much progress.

      • Posted by Tracy on

        The GN over the years has amended the education act to weaken and delay Inuktitut and have done very little if anything to work on having Inuktitut in the schools.
        Having gone against the recommendations by NTI over the last decade it has forced NTI to take legal action.
        The department of education cannot work with anyone even within its department, toxic work environment that the heads of the department has no interests with Inuktitut whatsoever.

  18. Posted by Truestory on

    I’m a tax payer. Can I get my tax dollars that are wasted to useless lawsuits? I lost count on how many lawsuits were instigated in Nunavut.


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