NTI Inuit language rights lawsuit survives GN motion to strike it down

Lawsuit to proceed to trial, government has 30 days to file its statement of defence

A Nunavut judge has dismissed an application from the Government of Nunavut to strike Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.’s lawsuit against the territorial government. (File photo)

By Emma Tranter

A Nunavut judge has dismissed an application to strike Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.’s lawsuit against the government over Inuit language rights.

NTI filed a lawsuit against the Nunavut government in October 2021, claiming the government has failed its legal obligation to ensure Inuktut language education is available throughout the territory’s public school system.

The lawsuit raises a constitutional challenge, claiming Inuktut language rights are protected under section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

NTI argued the section applies to race and discrimination, and therefore also to language 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.

The lawsuit 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 claim also comes after Bill 25, An Act to Amend the Education Act and Inuit Language Protection Act, was created in 2019 and 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 GN filed a motion to strike the lawsuit in April 2022, arguing section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which discusses equality rights, does not apply to language rights.

In a decision released Friday, Judge Paul Bychok said the law hasn’t been settled on whether section 15 applies to Inuit language rights.

“It is not plain and obvious that the respondents’ claim would fail, however it is characterized. The action must proceed to trial,” Bychok wrote.

“Taken at face value, the 2019 amendments applies explicitly to, and will have a direct impact upon, Inuit children and their ability to study in their mother tongue or the language of their immediate ancestors,” he wrote.

Bychok also said Bill 25 may contribute to Inuit youth losing their language and their connection to Inuit culture. He said the effect of the amendments, “may be to perpetuate the undeniable historical disadvantages experienced by Inuit from colonialism.”

The government now has 30 days to file its statement of defence in the lawsuit.


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(49) Comments:

  1. Posted by John K on

    Virtue signaling.

    Has NTI got many Inuktitut teachers lined up?

    Of course they don’t. Nor has the GN been hiding or denying Inuktitut teachers. So what exactly do they expect to come of this except more impotent rage and frustration.

    I want Inuktitut offered more than it is … but this tactic tells me that it won’t happen because NTI doesn’t seem interested in tackling the actual issues. Though that tracks with their typical MO.

  2. Posted by Question period on

    “The lawsuit… [claims] Inuktut language rights are protected under section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedomes (sic)”

    The section in question can be found here:

    I don’t see language rights mentioned here, only in section 16. Can anyone offer an interpretation of section 15 that suggests, convincingly that it does?

    • Posted by No Idea on

      Only seems to work if you equate race/ethnicity with language.

  3. Posted by Another win by the B league on

    Can the governments of canada or nunavut please for the love of efficiency and education and general sanity please appoint a judge with actual civil litigation experience. I know criminal law is important but here is one of many examples where the taxpayer needs to go on to throw a frivolous case out the long and expensive way.

    • Posted by art thompson on

      there lawyers all over the place. the law school pumped out a bunch. No? the gn even took over the hotel to house them. my goodness all that aspiring talent gone to waste. lol.

      • Posted by Ya No on

        you can’t really have much experience to suggest this. A career as a small town practitioner and more than half of it as a clerk appointwe reflects the low quality of the decisions put our and the lack of efficiency applying even the most basic civil procedure. The NCJ is itself the reason there is so little litigation in the territory and so much injustice: the court cannot cope and as a result Nunavummuit don’t bother as the cost and effort to even advance a things like a basic child support case or a summary justice motion takes months when they take minutes in the south.

  4. Posted by Inuktitut on

    Inuktut shouldn’t have been implemented. Inuktitut should be implemented

    • Posted by Inuuvunga suli on

      Inuktut should be implemented but first we need more Inuit teacher who can implement this. We need teachers in all 25 communities. Kitikmeot is a great concern as there their mother tongues is no longer in their language. How are they going to create teachers that can fully implement their language with parental support. This is a huge task that will require a commitment from that entire region. It takes people inuit to make that shift. How else can the government support this. Instead of hiring expensive lawyers from the south, nti should be spending their money in the kitikmiut region and work with KIA and GN on problem solving. As nunavut inuit we didn’t even have a say in this lawsuit that will most likely take many year. Maybe we will get a billion out of this but realistically, we need teachers right now. My children don’t speak my language because our bilingual education structure is not working due to lack of inuktut speaking teachers. In iqaluit we don’t even have any all inuktut events to go to. We are failing our community here.

      • Posted by Another Perspective on

        Really? I would have said that your children don’t speak your language because of you.

      • Posted by starts at home on

        Parents should be teaching their children more inuktitut at home.

  5. Posted by Get Real on

    It’s time to wake up and to face reality. No Inuktuk qualified teachers, 55% attendance in schools, a poor rate of graduation which is only kept high because of the schools in Iqaluit, Rankin and CamBay, extremely bad work ethic and lazy parents who cannot keep the language alive in their own home. Face it or not, English is the business language in most of the world, even though not loosing your mother tongue is a benefit, but this should be done by families. Basically, NTI is a bullshit organization

    • Posted by Big time on

      The GN has failed pretty badly, they have a lot of work to do to see what is wrong here and how to make improvements.

      With $300 Billion annual budget they should be doing much better for our small population.

      • Posted by Budget on

        300 billion annual budget? You’re talking cents not dollars right?

        • Posted by Larry on

          That’s the GN annual budget, just over 300 billion for the GN. Crazy amount of money.

          • Posted by Larry on

            lol I did it too, it was supposed to be 3.06 Billion, there corrected. Still a lot of funds for one year for a small population.

  6. Posted by How it looks from here on

    “Paul Bychok said the law hasn’t been settled on whether section 15 applies to Inuit language rights.”

    “It is not plain and obvious that the respondents’ claim would fail, however it is characterized. The action must proceed to trial,” Bychok wrote.

    Simply put, Justice Bychok has ruled that it is not his place to interpret the constitution on this matter, and will pass that duty off to a higher court.

    Regardless of where you stand on the issue, this is the appropriate thing for him to do.

    • Posted by Make Iqaluit Great Again on

      One thing I think we can all agree on is that it’s nice to see a decision of Judge Bychok that sticks with dispassionate legal analysis and avoids scathing criticism of others. Very nice to see!!

  7. Posted by Tulugaq on

    Language and culture are essential for an ethnic group to survive as a group and Quebec understands that with its language laws. The same applies to Inuit and Inuktut that is essential for the Inuit to continue as an ethnic group with its own language, culture and traditions. Yet, it’s interesting to see that the fate of Inuit is dealt with in a court of law that functions only in a foreign, colonial language, including the decision by the judge. What is even more interesting is that the negative comments about the capacity of Inuit to protect and use their own language in the education system are all in a colonial language, English, including my comments…

    • Posted by iWonder on

      The court might rule one way or the other, but it can never be the agent of change or the arbiter of fate you imply. The court is not preventing, nor will it ever prevent any policies or plans aimed at Inuktitut instruction. Whether it can enforce their implementation is the real question here. I suppose we will see, but I’m doubtful.

      On the other hand, nearly every MLA, including the Minister of Education and the Premier are Inuit. Would you agree that at present these are the best, if not only people positioned to implement any kind of plan to preserve Inuktitut through the education system?

      What do you think is stopping them? Colonialism? I’d love to hear more.

      • Posted by Come on now on

        Come on now! MLAs, Premier are politicians, they don’t do the actual work in the government.
        The day to day work, the actual work to get done is not done by politicians.
        The MLAs can do a lot better in getting results, having the DM, ADMs, Directors and managers accountable, make the changes needed to get to where we want to go, at all falls down on who is or isn’t doing the actual work here.

        • Posted by iWonder on

          If the Premier and the Executive council can not develop and implement a larger vision for Nunavummiut, then we are electing representatives who are too weak and incompetent for the demanding tasks given them.

          Either way are our expectations the problem?

          • Posted by The problem on

            The problem is the revolving door of government transient workers, always changing every few years and the work stops and gets started over again. Nothing gets completed.
            Look at the deep water port, it’s been completed for over a year now and for some reason they did not work on who would be running and managing this port.
            More delays and money, hopefully it will be ready this summer.
            That’s just one example, each department has the same, education, no Inuktut curriculum, health, CG&S, the list goes on.
            That’s the problem here, gonna take a long time to get it fixed as our government is really not doing a whole lot to making any improvements.

            • Posted by Get Ready for the Long Haul on

              It will be multiple lifetimes before Nunavut produces enough local labour to meet demand, even if such a thing were desirable.

            • Posted by In NUnavut… on

              How are transient workers responsible for the lack of Inuktitut curriculum? Surely there are people who permanently live in Nunavut?

              • Posted by Revolving door on

                Because they have the jobs at the GN tasked to do this work, which never gets done. New staff every few years, nothing gets completed.

    • Posted by The First Step of Any Journey on

      Here’s a reality check – English is not a ‘foreign’ language in Canada.

      Starting by acknowledging that will help you on your journey.

    • Posted by Raven on

      Kinausurivi, tulukkiisurivi. The no Inuktut education problem is that Inuit don’t have the capacity to deliver yet. What we need is someone who can tell the population that 40% Nunavummiut on welfare isn’t sustainable and figure out how to motivate everyone else to get educated, sacrifice, and contribute to society.

  8. Posted by 867 on

    Imagine NTI put as much effort into ensuring the next generation of nunavummiut are trained teachers instead of focusing on lawsuits and going after football teams. Irony is that NTI is funded by OUR tax dollars, same that funds the GNU.

    • Posted by Quit your hate of Inuit in Nunavut on

      ITK president went after a football team. The NTI is funded by Inuit not by tax dollars. Inuit are tax payers as well! We thank NTI for trying to protect us and safeguard our culture and language.

      • Posted by Safeguard on

        Also because of the gas vouchers. Love the gas vouchers, Thank you NTI

    • Posted by 979 on

      Better yet, imagine the GN doing more with their $300 Billion plus annual budget and actually doing things without poor management and wasting 100s million per year,

      With a proper functioning and managed government we could be doing so much better on so many levels, one being education and building capacity.

      No a reactive government, with no accountability.

      • Posted by One too many zeros on

        It’s actually just over 3 billion annual budget for the GN.

      • Posted by 867 on

        300 Billion is an unthinkable amount of money. You may wish to double-check that.

  9. Posted by $300 BILLION Gov on

    GN will not win this one too, we have seen far too many times how the GN mismanages and waste funds, on so many levels!

    2023 and we have moved backwards with our government, the priorities are all wrong with our government, no accountability, the list goes on.

    GN does not have a leg to stand on in this lawsuit and a desperate move to strike it down failed.

    We deserve much better from our own government, not the gong show we have been getting with all the wastage and terrible management and leadership we have been getting.

    Unfortunately with little to no improvements by the GN lawsuits will happen and with the way it has been going more lawsuits are coming.

    Put that $300 BILLION to better use GN, get some things done properly, stop wasting our money and time.

  10. Posted by G-man Choi on

    NTI is a joke, it should be disbanded and the Federal money they receive should be stopped immediately. Parents should be teaching their kids “their” language, not expecting someone else to do their work of parenting.

    • Posted by Inuk on

      I guess you teach your kids at home? Or do they learn at school?

      Do you see the privilege here? Probably not, Having barriers such as not having you language taught in schools is a huge barrier, our government has done a terrible job for two long decades with education, no Inuktut curriculum, very little teaching resources, not enough Inuktut teachers.
      With such a huge annual budget to boot. We deserve better from our government.

      • Posted by Don’t Follow Your Argument on

        Don’t buy it at all. So many minority language families send their children to school English or French and effectively maintain their home language. Just look at the GTA, BC’s southern mainland, Montreal, etc.

        What are parents in NU doing differently that they can’t be as successful?

        • Posted by Let’s see here on

          Let’s see, in the last 50 years or so, the government along with the churches tried to assimilate indigenous people through forced residential schools, tried to eliminate our culture, traditions and language, how’s that for a start?
          Now today by not having our language taught in the school system in our own territory the government is effectively continuing the policies to assimilate Inuit.

          If you really don’t think it’s the governments problem in making sure Inuktut is on par with English and French then you are one of the reason why it’s failing so terribly in Nunavut, you need a little bit more of a history lesson and some education on this issue to truly understand the issues here, instead of the garbage you are spewing.

          • Posted by Observer on

            Too true. None of this answers the question that NTI refuses the answer: where are the teachers going to come from? Where are they?

            • Posted by Answer on

              It was answered, the GN has done a terrible job in producing teachers, the program is outdated and not supported, the GN prefers to have lawyers over teachers.
              GN needs to do a much better job in building capacity instead of the current system that’s been in place for over two decades now.

          • Posted by Hmmm, Let Us See Here on

            Nice try, but not persuasive. Let’s stay focused on the today’s issues, and not history, shall we?

            To the point, why can other minority language groups, many of them fleeing horrors and persecution that today’s Inuit can’t begin to imagine, keep their languages vibrant and alive when surrounded by an ocean of English or French speakers? How is it that they can send their children to school in English or French and participate in society in those languages, but keep their languages vibrant?

            Why do so many Inuit families, even with the incredible privilege of having an official language, struggle to pass on their language intergenerationally? Why can we have so many parents who are Intuktitut teachers and very active in cultural preservation who never ensured that their children are competent in the language.

            It is fair to ask what the successful language groups are doing that many Nunavut Inuit are not and see what strategies are transferrable, because whatever many of today’s families are doing doesn’t seem to be working.

            Look at how very vibrant and alive some of the minority language communities are in Iqaluit, yet the children are surrounded by a sea of Inuktitut or English speakers. What are they doing that is so successful?

            • Posted by Illusions on

              Our leaders are too inward looking, there are no answers on the outside, only fanatical devotion to the ideal that every problem can be solved by looking to the past. That illusion will slowly erode everything it pretends to preserve.

            • Posted by Why? on

              Why you ask, it’s because the system in place has no priority to have Inuktut in our schools and government, it’s a token thing our government uses, in our own land, the colonizers have made it this was since the start and used today.
              You can talk about immigrants but that is a different subject, the GN has done an incredible terrible job with our education and language, for more than two decades since Nunavut started.
              By the way Inuktut is the majority language in Nunavut, but with the current colonial system that is in place Inuktut is not on the same level as English or even French, the system that is currently being used is to decay Inuktut, it’s to diminish it and it’s working very well for our government.
              We will be like Alaska in the next generation or two, would be nice to be more like Greenland but I don’t think our southern Canadian workforce in the GN appreciates or understands the importance of our language, when people say to teach it at home, never mind having it in our schools. Of course we teach it at home, it’s why we still have our language! But we constantly are fighting to keep our language when the who day in school it’s just in English for everything.
              We really need more people that come up here to work in our government to appreciate and understand this more.

  11. Posted by Who’s Right? on

    NTI is correct in wanting the GN to implement Inuktut language options across kindergarten through to Grade 12 as the current system (stopping at Grade 4) hinders those parents who are trying to and wishing to teach their children Inuktut at home. Children need to be completely immersed in a language in order to learn and maintain it. It cannot simply just be learned at home while they are getting educated in an entirely different language all day at school. If you look at the French school for example, they only accept students whose parents (at least one) have gone to school in French and would be able to enforce the language at home as well. This should be the case with Inuktut language in the school systems in Nunavut as well.

    That all being said, NTI should also be putting their efforts and funds into helping the GN achieve this goal instead of towards lawsuits and legal fees to make a point. NTI and GN have the same goals to promote Inuit employment, language and rights in the Territory, so why don’t they just work together to meet these goals and make it a reality instead of playing the blame game with lawsuits and “he said, she said” comments.

    • Posted by We will see on

      The courts will decide who is right here and it seems to be NTI, saying that the GN and NTI should be working together and the GN needs to set its priorities better reflecting what we need here in Nunavut.
      Maybe a better approach and partnership with places like Greenland where the education system is working much better over there.
      The GN and NTI can look at these places for help.

      • Posted by How it looks from here on

        How does it “seem to be NTI”?

        This entire case rests on an extremely broad and frankly implausible interpretation of Section 15 of the Charter of Rights. Have you read the section in question?

        • Posted by Because on

          Because of how the GN has been working since Nunavut came to be, the system in place is showing us it’s working against our language and assisting in degrading our language.
          What has the GN done to help improve Inuktut in our schools? Have they designed a Inuktut curriculum? Has our government produced teaching resources and materials based on a curriculum for Inuktut? Has our GN worked to update and improve the teacher education program?
          Maybe it would be easier for you if we flipped this the other way, what if we did the same with English, take away the curriculum and teaching resources and materials, take away the English speaking teaching with something else, and tell you to just teach your kids at home, never mind at school.
          Maybe then you will have a better perspective on this issue.

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