Nunavut groups submit concerns, propose alternatives ahead of Education Act hearing

“Huge inequality between language groups” in Nunavut, coalition of DEAs says

Nunavut Education Minister David Joanasie speaks in the legislative assembly in June 2019, when Bill 25 was introduced. (Photo by John Thompson)

By Emma Tranter

Through written submissions to the government’s standing committee on legislation, several Nunavut groups have expressed their disappointment with Bill 25, An Act to Amend the Education Act and the Inuit Language Protection Act.

And some of those groups, like Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and the Coalition of Nunavut District Education Authorities, have proposed amendments to the bill.

Those submissions will be discussed at an upcoming televised hearing of the standing committee on legislation.

The public was invited to make submissions to the committee after Bill 25 was introduced during the legislative assembly’s spring sitting in June.

In a letter to the legislative assembly, Aluki Kotierk, president of NTI, urged the government to withdraw Bill 25.

“Bill 25’s stunning approach to Inuktut Language of Instruction in Nunavut schools is to remove Inuktut Language of Instruction timeline requirements all together, and instead insert that an Inuktut Language Arts program or course be delivered in all grades by 2039,” Kotierk writes.

In its submission, NTI proposes a new draft bill to replace Bill 25, called the Nunavut Inuit Education Fundamental Reform Act.

“We are willing, and keen, to work in partnership with the government and legislative assembly to refine the draft bill as may be needed,” Kotierk writes.

“Alternatively, if the government chooses not to respond positively to the draft NIEFRA, we urge other members of the legislative assembly to join together to bring about the tabling and review of the draft NIEFRA as a private member’s bill.”

The draft bill gives more power to district education authorities and tasks the minister of education with ensuring that all DEAs receive the “training and support required to enhance their capacity over time to take on increasing powers and duties.”

It also proposes that NTI and the minister work together to make Inuktut the working language of instruction from early childhood programs and kindergarten to Grade 12.

“The Minister shall, in partnership with Nunavut Tunngavik Inc, develop and implement a new timetable for phasing in Inuktut Language of Instruction from kindergarten to Grade 12,” the draft bill states.

Bill 25 calls for a phased implementation of Inuit-language instruction over a 20-year period. This means it will take until July 1, 2039, for Grade 12 students to have Inuit Language Arts taught as a first language.

NTI’s submission also calls on the minister to develop and implement a Department of Education Inuit employment plan and pre-employment training plan.

Coalition of Nunavut DEAs “beyond disappointed” with Bill 25

In a letter to the standing committee, Jedidah Merkosak, chair of the Coalition of Nunavut DEAs, calls on the committee to reject Bill 25.

“We have never been invited to an open conversation about legislation that would address our member DEA concerns, goals and priorities, or the possibilities we see in the Nunavut schools and community,” Merkosak writes.

“We are beyond disappointed. Bill 25 is basically a carbon copy of Bill 37.”

Bill 37, the previous bill to amend Nunavut’s education and language protection acts, was rejected by the legislative assembly in 2017.

In its submission, the coalition contrasts the rights and responsibilities invested in Inuit communities and the Inuktut language with those invested in the territory’s francophone community.

Merkosak writes there is a “huge inequality between language groups” in Nunavut.

The submission also proposes amendments to Bill 25 that mirror French-language legislation in Nunavut.

“For Inuktut and English language learners the governance system is complicated, centralized and comparatively underfunded, with minimal community or Inuit control. For francophone language learners the system is simple, direct and community driven,” Merkosak writes.

“Our approach is founded on confirming for Inuktut/English students, parents and communities rights equal to those available to the francophones in law in Nunavut.”

The submissions to the standing committee also include letters from the Representative for Children and Youth’s Office, district education authorities throughout Nunavut, parents and more.

Those submissions can be found here.

According to the standing committee, invitations to appear at the hearing have been extended to the following:

  • Minister of Education
  • Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated
  • Coalition of Nunavut District Education Authorities
  • Qikiqtani Inuit Association
  • Kivalliq Inuit Association
  • Kitikmeot Inuit Association
  • Iqaluit District Education Authority
  • Arviat District Education Authority
  • Gjoa Haven District Education Authority
  • Nunavut Teachers’ Association
  • Office of the Languages Commissioner of Nunavut
  • Office of the Representative for Children and Youth

The televised hearing on Bill 25 is set to begin in Iqaluit next week on Monday, Nov. 25.

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(14) Comments:

  1. Posted by iWonder on

    The idea of emulating the French system is good one (though I am not familiar with it). I’m glad to see a recognition that we should look beyond our own intuitions and also beyond the bubble where made in Nunavut fantasies often prevail. Granted I also wonder if the idea the DEAs can somehow be brought up to capacity by on the job type training or education is not a bit of a fantasy in and of itself. I don’t know, but I’m suspicious at these homegrown solutions that pretend they can substitute for a real education on the part of board members.

  2. Posted by Colin on

    There are serious questions not even asked.

    1. What is the objective of education in Nunavut?
    2. Has anyone asked young people what their career objectives are?
    3. What will education actually do for children who want to participate in the modern high-tech economy?

    From what I’ve seen of education in Nunavut, the practical effect is to guarantee that next generations do NOT become the engineers, geologists, accountants and skilled employees in their own lands.

    Instead, it’s to guarantee that too many young people perpetuate the newfound culture of multigenerational welfare dependency, unemployment and unemployability.

    When a parent in Ottawa tells me that her son’s Grade 7 in Rankin Inlet equates to Grade 3 in the South, it’s no wonder that young adults tell me their schooling was torture by boredom.

    Multi-ethnic, multilingual Singapore provides one potential template for serving children who want participate in the high-tech economy. They provide education only in English to everyone, and the home environment maintains native languages and culture.

    • Posted by Rani on

      I have a kid in grade 8, there are kids in his class who still cannot read or write. And kids who have not attended one day of school since September. There is no one solution, everyone has to be held accountable. The system here is “easier” then other provinces. Those who graduate grade 12 looking to continue to other institutions then have to spend a year or more “upgrading”. How can anyone expect to enforce this bill when they can’t even keeps kids in school.

    • Posted by Other cultures on

      What about the Japanese that advanced computer technology and nuclear energy in their own language? The East Indians who advanced space technology? The Chinese that advanced their manufacturing and trade? The Canadian French that built up all sectors in their own language

      Advocates to learn ‘language’ in the home are ridiculous. And downright racist

      • Posted by Israel MacArthur on

        Not an apt comparison , you would do better to look at the Indigenous Ainu within Japan, the Hui in China, etc. Not sure which group of “Canadian French” you’re referring to, but the situation Acadians, Franco-Ontarians or Manitobans don’t support your idea.

        If you were referring to Québécois also not a relevant comparison. The differences in educational achievement of the population, federal government support, access to trade routes and large markets are all vastly different than the Nunavut situation.

        And at least in the case of Japan and China with their historic Confucian values, formal education is extremely highly valued. That is not the case with Nunavut society.

  3. Posted by Colin on

    The submission by Jane Bates, Representative for Children and Youth’s Office, notes that Bill 25 incorporates, as a guiding principle, a commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

    Canadian courts have established that the rights of the child prevail over those of a parent or guardian when there’s a conflict. That’s why we have Children’s Aid Societies.

    Here are two key passages from the UN’s Convention:

    1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to education, and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity.

    2. The development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential.

    By definition, equal opportunity means that Nunavut is obliged to deliver education comparable with what Canadians in the South get, and to prepare students for corresponding career opportunities in the mainstream economy.

  4. Posted by Colin on

    Rani’s comment is hardly surprising given that, on the evidence, Nunavut’s legislators and administrators don’t seem to be qualified for their jobs.

    Too many teachers and administrators blame parents for the problems. That’s a cop-out. There’s plenty of evidence that schools can (and must) do the heavy lifting even in the most seemingly dysfunctional communities.

    Here are two books that every Nunavut parent, teacher and administrator needs to read:

    Rafe Esquith, There Are No Shortcuts: How an inner-city teacher–winner of the American Teacher Award–inspires his students and challenges us to rethink the way we educate our children

    Wendy Kopp, A Chance to Make History
    (She’s the Founder of Teach for America)

  5. Posted by Education Forever on

    ‘The draft bill gives more power to district education authorities and tasks the minister of education with ensuring that all DEAs receive the “training and support required to enhance their capacity over time to take on increasing powers and duties.”’
    The Minister of Education (and his Department) have proven themselves incapable of teaching most students to read. And you want them to take on this extra little task?
    Maybe get rid of the ineffective Department and let the DEAs figure it out for themselves. Many will mess things up for many years – which is what is happening now.
    But with 25 “experiments” going on at the same time, there is bound to be some successes, that can then be copied by those who like what they see.

  6. Posted by Edward Stanley on

    Finally it’s great to see some certainly need pressure to entrench the language in law. This should springboard into getting a federal act entrenching language rights for the territory. Use of the notwistanding clause should do it. Some one just needs to write the proper request to the government and table the laws. As well as the right to housing.

    • Posted by Israel MacArthur on

      Notwithstanding clause is not an option available to a territory, don’t make the error of thinking that they have same powers and abilities as provinces.

  7. Posted by Putuguk on

    Not a word of discussion on attendance. By this omission alone, this lawmaking is completely irrelevant to 3/10 to 4/10 of school aged kids in Nunavut. They could make Mandarin Chinese the official language of instruction of Nunavut and a significant minority of our school aged kids would not notice a thing.

    If the argument is that Inuktun will lead to higher attendance, the evidence does not back this up. The opposite appears to be the case. The schools in Nunavut that have the most Inuktun language instruction have some of the lowest attendance rates. The schools in Nunavut that have the least Inuktun language instruction have the highest attendance rates.

    I think most people would mainly agree that the goals are to have as many Nunavut students complete their basic education as possible, such that they possess the minimum skills necessary to act and be an adult. If these are the goals, the language issue is at least a distraction.

    The elected leaders that want to laser focus on this issue are not solving the problems, they are politically grandstanding. Show us how you will fill the classrooms and you will be on to something.

    • Posted by Israel MacArthur on

      I have nothing but applause for this comment.

      • Posted by Kangirjuaq on

        Hear! Hear! Bravo! Bang on!

    • Posted by Attenance on

      I agree. Attendance Rate of teachers is important. Seldom is there a day when all of my kid’s teachers are at school. Usually at least one of them is absent.
      It used to be standard for a teacher to leave the next day’s lesson plan on the desk before going home. If a substitute teacher was required, he or she could follow the lesson.
      For my kid, the substitute “teacher”, if there is one, is essentially a baby-sitter. As one principle recently put it, “I want a warm body.”
      Why does the Department of Education not publish attendance rates for teacher? Why does the Department of Education employ so many substitute teachers? Are they running schools, or are they running detention centers for the “crime” of being under 18 years of age?
      The kids are not dropping out because the school-work is too hard. They are dropping out because they are bored and discouraged.

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