Nunavut government will work with Inuit orgs on changes to Indigenous languages bill

“We want Inuktitut incorporated into the legislation”

“We want Inuktitut incorporated into the legislation and anticipate partnering with the Inuit organizations to ensure that the Inuktitut language receives more legal recognition,” said Language Minister David Joanasie. (Photo by Beth Brown)

By Sarah Rogers

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.”

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(19) Comments:

  1. Posted by Rob M Adams on

    “Across the territory, French-language programming is funded at a rate 40 times greater per capita than Inuktut”, Kotierk (Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. president Aluki Kotierk) said.

    It’s just not true! Nearly $20M is spent annually in Nunavut just for salaries to those whose work is DIRECTLY related to Inuktut language services – in Education or Translation/Documentation departments. At 40 x, that’s almost $800M – nearly 50% of the TOTAL operating spending budget of GN for the year. Add in language services in other departments such as Health, Family and Social Services, …..

    That’s just a single sample of the type of sham statistics that Kotierk and her elitist cohort spread. Why would she make such a mis-statement? In light of such a blatant mis-statement, what other doctrine does Kotierk hold and disseminate that might be flagrantly askew of the truth? Who is the audience for her mis-statements? Who benefits from such mis-statements? What are the consequences of such mis-statements?

    We need to start looking under the hood of the cloak to see what can be done to ferret those silver spoon-fed Nunavimiut so that real work can to done to assist the marginalized and oppressed citizens of Nunavut.

    • Posted by gag on

      If you surround yourself with sycophants you’ll always be “right” in your own little bubble.

    • Posted by Math Winner on

      Except, smart man, it says “per capita”.

      You just went and 40x the number like a duntz.

      • Posted by Rob M Adams on

        Ehhhhh. MW, same math, regardless of demographic … or language

        • Posted by Jay Arnakak on

          math winner is right. on a per capita basis the 27,000+ Inuit get roughly the same funding as the approximately 500 Francophone ($15.8M for Inuit; $14.25 for the Francophone).

          we are not resentful or jealous as shown by the Inuit willingness to negotiate these public policies issues with all parties concerned contrary to the thinly-veiled and overt racist trope that gets spewed in Nunatsiaq posts regularly.

          • Posted by Rob M Adams on

            With the ADDITION of $5M +/- of federal funding for Inuktut in 2019, the direct amount spent of language through the Education and language (Heritage and Culture) is well in excess of $20M in 2019. The direct funding is the tip of the iceberg that is spent by GN.

            NTI and the regional associations get and spend another chunk. No amount of money is going to determine whether the Inuktuk language is used or preserved. That decision and action will come from within or it won’t come at all. It will not come from without.

            Direct federal funding per capita on health, social services, education, infrastructure and language in NU is five times higher than the national average. Social inequality is determined by how the funding is spent and by who benefits by the spending. Have a look around your own NU hamlet to see inputs and outcomes.

            • Posted by Tommy on

              That “5 times the national average” will always determine who should be in their place. Per Capita definition for the arctic sends a message to Canada in a twisted calculating manner. Putting monetary value on a people sounds very barbaric. Assimilation at its’ work.

    • Posted by Arnaujaq on

      This is referring to the provisions of the Canada-Nunavut General Agreement on the Promotion of French Services and Inuit Languages ($8,189 allocated for each French speaker vs. $186 per Inuktitut speaker per year) for Grants and Contributions program. If you do the math, it is actually more than 40 times more.

      • Posted by Rob M Adams on

        Regardless that well in excess of $40M is spent annually on Inuit languages (Inuktitut and Inuanaqtan) within NU, what would you have?

        That the amount spent on French be less. The amount per capita is a red herring as are many calls for funding. Sometimes the absolute number is most practical. Like life, it depends. French is a language of Canada, not just in Quebec, New Brunswick and NU. French speaking stakeholders from outside of NU do business in NU.

        Would you have $8,189 spent for each Inuit language “speaker”? Twenty-five thousand times $8,189 ($205M)?

        If you’d like to spend something, spend some energy on a bit of self-examination and to speak Inuktitut during your next visit with your nephew.

        $8,189 allocated for each French speaker vs. $186 per Inuktitut

  2. Posted by Nunavut has a strong argument on

    Nunavut has a strong argument that the bill should be changed to incorporate Inuktitut-specific provisions, because Inuktitut is the majority mother tongue of the territory. Is there any other jurisdiction in a first-world country where critical services (education, healthcare, justice system) are not available in the mother tongue of the majority?

    Also, it is worth pointing out that Nunavut already has a Language Commissioner whose main focus is Inuktitut. And unlike the proposed Indigenous Languages Commissioner, the Nunavut Language Commissioner actually conducts investigations into language rights violations.

    Thus, the proposed Indigenous Languages Commissioner would be weaker than and redundant to the existing Nunavut Language Commissioner.

    • Posted by Brian Eno on

      Inuktitut is an official language in Nunavut, that Nunavut can’t deliver services in it’s main language is Nunavut’s problem, not the Government of Canada’s.

      What’s this “strong argument” again?

  3. Posted by iWonder on

    “multi-year funding agreements managed by regional Inuit organizations”

    Now we’re getting to the gist of it; cash for the Orgs. It seems reasonable to ask what work these organizations have done in the past that would warrant an allocation of funds for language preservation toward them?

    Is Inuktitut education not the purview of the Department of Education and the GN?

    If so, why funnel it to NTI? Will they be accountable for these funds? What does their history of accountability look like?

  4. Posted by Philanthropist on

    Enclosed is my cheque for $5,000,000,000.

    Tell me, please, who is going to do the teaching in each and every classroom in Nunavut in September, 2019 in Inuktitut?

    • Posted by Rob M Adams on

      Thank you for the generous donation Phil.

      I sat in many community meetings in Nunavut where the speaker delivered an address to over 100 people in the native tongue. The audience usually includes locals from all age groups and occupations. Fortunately I had the benefit of audio-translator.

      Either the speaker and audience were shamming which I think unlikely (though it is possible that the speaker was pulling the wool over the eyes of many in the audience) OR everyone was communicating in Inuktitut. Surely the language developed and evolved to be taught in the home and open society and not in the formal classroom. Is there a native word for every modern engineering, business and social concept? Does the language have all of the structural nuances of English, French, Chinese or Latin? Speak much Latin lately?

      Are we still on the “first here” tack? Maybe you were here first and maybe you weren’t, but what’s the point and show me your science.

      If the language and culture are meaningful, use it, enjoy it,.. My forefathers lived as close or closer to the land than any Inuk. They came from Europe.

      I walk into a Somalian restaurant in Kingston and many of the staff, their children and the customers are speaking Somalian. I am pleased. I doubt that the children are going to a school that is teaching the Somali or Arabic language.

      • Posted by Boxed in thinking on

        It’s common for first generation immigrants to still speak their mother tongue but it starts to change as their kids grow older and then that’s where it weakens. There’s the occasional grandchild who has the luxury of being surrounded by family who still speak it. Your perspective and outlook seems rather narrow, maybe even shallow. Of course, Inuktitut has nuances like any language. Obviously, there isn’t the built up vocabulary base on some of the scientific language however, considering that, Inuktitut is one of a few languages that creates new words quite easily because of it’s structure and rules, almost like English can. English is a bastard language, it borrows and steals. You are looking at science and language from a Western perspective as well. You’re boxed in.

        • Posted by In Reality on

          It’s true that English is a composite of other languages, and that it still incorporates words from other languages; this partly explains its strength. Much scientific language is derived from or has roots in Latin or Greek. This works. Many inuktitut speakers do this same thing by incorporating English words into their vernacular. Though there is also a trend too create inuktitut versions of English words too. The latter process is unlikely to yield much that really sticks as it is totally contrived and lacks any real connection to the symbols those words are meant to represent.

        • Posted by Karl Popper on

          Dear Mr. Boxed in thinking;

          You say “You are looking at science… from a Western perspective…”

          Can you please expand on this? What do you mean by this? It’s an odd statement to me.

          • Posted by Silence is deafening on

            This person can not explain their comment because they are probably not accustomed to reflecting on what this type of phraseology actually means. Postmodernism would have us believe that science itself is relativistic exercise. It is from this body of thought that these cliched critiques have emerged, but there are only a very few who can coherently articulate their meaning, and even less who can articulate the body of thought from which they have arisen. Though I don’t find their arguments compelling or even valid. Still, this is where we are today in public discourse. I would love to hear an answer, but I know I won’t.

  5. Posted by NorthStar on

    Good luck with the planning and talks. We have heard these talks before but until Governments (local and territorial) start using the language in the work place, I’m afraid we’ll be fighting a losing battle. A lot of colonized people have lost their mother tongue and can not teach it at home now. Difficult to find young people who can speak english and Inuktut now and I’m afraid we will loose the Inuktut language if we don’t use it now at home and in the work place. Good luck folks you have the systemic challenges against you.

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