Nunavut government will work with Inuit orgs on changes to Indigenous languages bill
“We want Inuktitut incorporated into the legislation”
The Government of Nunavut says it will work with Inuit organizations to press Ottawa for amendments to the federal Indigenous Languages Act.
The federal Liberal government has introduced its long-awaited Bill C-91 on Feb. 5, which it has touted as being co-developed with Indigenous groups.
But Inuit groups say the new legislation ignored the issues they identified; namely, a standalone section that dealt with Inuktut and recognition of Inuktut as the official language within Inuit Nunangat.
The GN had not weighed in with its position on the new legislation, until Aggu MLA Paul Quassa inquired on Wednesday, Feb. 27, during question period.
“We have tried to keep on track as to how it will affect us,” Languages Minister David Joanasie told the legislature on Wednesday.
“We’ve been using Nunavut’s laws about languages as an example to the federal government when they are working on the law for indigenous languages,” he said.
“We want Inuktitut incorporated into the legislation and anticipate partnering with the Inuit organizations to ensure that the Inuktitut language receives more legal recognition within the federal government.”
Joanasie said the GN intends to partner with Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. on any further review of the bill.
In a position paper put out by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the national Inuit organization had called on the federal government to have the bill include an obligation for Ottawa to fund Inuktut programming within Inuit Nunangat, via multi-year funding agreements managed by regional Inuit organizations.
ITK hoped Inuktut could receive the same funding and designation as federally recognized official languages in minority settings, like English in Quebec or French in communities outside Quebec.
Federal Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez has committed to working with Inuit groups to resolve their concerns about the Indigenous languages bill.
For its part, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage held hearings last week on the new legislation.
Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. president Aluki Kotierk addressed the hearings on Tuesday, Feb. 26, highlighting funding discrepancies between the French and Inuktut languages in Nunavut.
Across the territory, French-language programming is funded at a rate 40 times greater per capita than Inuktut, Kotierk said.
“I came here with a warning bell—Inuktut is being lost. One per cent per year in Nunavut,” she told the hearing.
“It is absolutely necessary that Inuit languages are supported and funded in an equitable and comparable fashion in Inuit Nunangat.”