NIC conference will ponder Nunavut language policy

About 60 people will gather in Iqaluit March 24-26 to talk about Nunavut language issues.


Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT — The job of developing a language policy for Nunavut will begin next week, at a three-day conference inside Iqaluit’s cadet call.

Organized by the Nunavut Implementation Commission, the conference will bring together about 60 participants and observers from Nunavut, Nunavik, Labrador and the Northwest Territories.

“I think the big question will be what kind of language policies do we want the Nunavut government to look at,” said Simon Awa, the NIC’s executive director.

Awa said the commission can afford to pay the costs of bringing only 15 people to the conference. Other participants are sponosred by their own organizations.

Awa explained that the commission, in its Footprints 2 report, recommended holding a Nunavut language conference some time in the second half of 1997.

But he said the three parties to the Nunavut accord were slow to react to that recommendation, so the NIC decided to go ahead and organize the conference on their own.

NIC chief commissioner John Amagoalik, and Peter Ernerk, another NIC commissioner, will co-chair the conference. Ernerk has recently been appointed as the Nunavut government’s deputy minister of elders, culture and youth.

NTI President Jose Kusugak will provide a historical look back at the work of the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada’s language commission, which Kusugak chaired in the late 1970s.

ITC’s language commission created the “new” system of syllabic orthography that replaced the old syllabic orthography introduced by the Anglican church in the 19th century.

Syllabics and Roman orthography

Awa said participants will also talk about the syllabic and Roman systems for writing Inuktitut, and whether Nunavut should promote Roman orthography instead of syllabics.

In Footprints 2, the commission had recommended that leaders adopt a standard writing system for the Inuit language before Nunavut’s laws are translated.

Awa also said adopting Roman orthography — used in Greenland, Labrador, and the Western Kitikmeot — would make it easier to develop a literature in the Inuit language.

But he also said the people of Nunavik — who also use syllabics — would be affected by any movement away from syllabics and towards Roman orthography. Because of that, the NIC has invited two observers from Nunavik’s Avataq Cultural Institute.

Another issue that delegates will deal with is how to make the Nunavut government friendlier to elders, Awa said.

“The OIC [office of the interim commissioner] has been talking a lot about creating a user-friendly government,” Awa said. “We have to talk about how exactly to do that.”

Other participants will include Judy Tutcho, the NWT’s commissioner of official languages, Nunavut MP Nancy Karetak-Lindell, Elijah Erkloo of the Nunavut Social Development Council, numerous elders from a wide variety of communities, along with consultants, youth representaves and education officials, Awa said.

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