Nunavut MLAs pass bill to suspend Inuktut instruction deadline

MLA Paul Quassa opposes: “That’s the reason we established Nunavut”

Bill 20 passed on Tuesday, March 12, but received opposition from one member—Aggu MLA Paul Quassa, left, who voted against. Education Minister David Joanasie, right, said he will table new amendments to the Education Act in the spring. (File photos)

By Sarah Rogers

All but one Nunavut MLA voted to pass Bill 20 this week, effectively eliminating the Nunavut government’s legal responsibility to provide Inuit-language instruction from Grades 4 through 12 by a previously mandated summer 2019 deadline.

The Interim Language of Instruction Act was introduced last month to suspend a section of the Inuit Language Protection Act that would have guaranteed Inuktut-language instruction in Nunavut’s schools from kindergarten through Grade 12 by July 2019.

The bill was drafted to give the government more time to table its overhaul of the Education Act, expected later this year.

Bill 20 received its third reading on Tuesday afternoon, on the final day of the legislature’s winter sitting.

But it received opposition from one member—Aggu MLA Paul Quassa, who voted against it.

“If this bill is passed, it would mean to Nunavummiut that it’s okay that the government doesn’t provide instruction in Inuktitut,” Quassa said before the vote.

“[It sends the message that] the Nunavut government doesn’t necessarily have to teach Inuktitut. That’s the reason we established Nunavut.”

The legislation itself notes the challenge the Education Department faces, citing “insufficient numbers of certified teachers available to provide Inuit-language instruction in Grades 4 to 12.”

Quassa, a former premier and past education minister, acknowledged the lack of Inuktut-speaking educators in Nunavut, but said the territory has had a decade to plan for this.

Nunavut’s Education Act first came into force in 2008.

As education minister, Quassa introduced amendments to the bill in 2017, which proposed postponing the introduction of Inuit-language instruction for all grade levels to 2030.

But that attempt failed when regular MLAs defeated the bill before it could even be debated.

In a legislative proposal obtained by Nunatsiaq News last spring, the GN shared concerns that it was at risk of non-compliance with its obligations under its education and language legislation, specifically its 2019 bilingual education deadline.

The GN said it feared litigation from Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. for violating those obligations, although NTI later said it had never made such a threat.

What the Inuit organization has proposed is using a $34-million fund won through a lawsuit to pay for educator and language specialist training to help the GN meet its Inuktut-language instruction goals.

Now, Education Minister David Joanasie has said the department has completed a new round of consultations on the Education Act and Inuit Language Protection Act and plans to introduce new amendments in the legislative assembly’s spring sitting at the end of May.

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(12) Comments:

  1. Posted by iRoll on

    “As education minister, Quassa introduced amendments to the bill in 2017, which proposed postponing the introduction of Inuit-language instruction for all grade levels to 2030”

    Okay Paul, enjoy the grandstanding, we all know you’d be doing the same.

  2. Posted by Quassa-ish on

    “As education minister, Quassa introduced amendments to the bill in 2017, which proposed postponing the introduction of Inuit-language instruction for all grade levels to 2030”

    Quassa, we can see past you. I’m glad he is no longer our premier.

    • Posted by Sandy Bottom on

      Hmmm… what did his cabinet spend on partying in Ottawa? I mean ummm showcasing Nunavut while he was Premier for a week: nearly $600k. That is 3.5 years on NS funding right there

    • Posted by Amitturmiut on

      attempt failed when regular MLAs defeated the bill before it could even be debated.

  3. Posted by Reality on

    So if Nunavut can’t offer full Inuktitut instruction in 2019, what is the point of putting it off to 2030? It will be even less capable of doing it then, if it hasn’t been able to do it by now.
    Sometimes it’s better to realize when a goal was unrealistic, and start spending energy on one that will be possible to achieve. Languages are for communication, and that is why english continues to make inroads all around the world. Don’t deny your kids english fluency. Spend the time and money making Inuktitut instruction stronger, without having an unrealistic goal of having it be the only language of education and of government.

  4. Posted by Too much! on

    Wasted time, effort and funds, will result in NOTHING ACHIEVED. So much discussion on Inuktut and no progression.

  5. Posted by Piitaqanngi on

    Quassa and his unrealistic view of how education should be offered in Nunavut. Why does our Legislature, rather the likes of Quassa, think education will be better with Inuktitut only curriculum? Earlier Legislatures increased graduating students by degrading the educational standards via social passing. Made the MLAs of the day actually cared about education because greater numbers were graduating from high school.
    Now with the prospect of an Inuktitut only curriculum, it will most definitely further degrade the already poor education our kids are receiving. Why don’t they care that these kids are not getting the quality education, not only students deserve, but what the whole Territory needs? Is it because their children aren’t in school therefore don’t need to receive sub-level education?
    We need graduates that can take on the highly technical positions that are in the government. This Inuktitut only curriculum seems to be in-conducive to the goal of a representative workforce. A lot of the positions in Government require high-level education. C’mon Quassa stop focusing on the failed Education Act of 2007 and the amendments made in 2017 and focus on real education our children desperately need.

  6. Posted by teacher 1 on

    Even though teaching in Inuktitut is no longer required by law, it is still a good thing.

    Perhaps Paul Quassa should become a teacher and teach in Inuktitut.

    Not only would he be helping students by teaching them, he would also be leading by example and perhaps inspiring others to do the same.

    Inuit need more teachers with Paul Quassa’s skills.

  7. Posted by Oracle on

    What don’t you folks grasp?

    |Paul Q is correct; that IS why we wanted Nunavut!

    An Inuit Homeland where a government was different from any other, where Inuit would be free to speak and get services in their own language.
    Where Inuit values were respected not just mouthed.
    Where the people were put first, not systems, procedures and processes.

    What is it that you cannot grasp?

  8. Posted by Tooma on

    Most kids grew up when nunavut was signed in 1993 are all now grown up, they the ones our future leaders.

  9. Posted by just a thought on

    Ok, I understand that your language is important to your culture and your homes, but, when the kids go to school in the south, the books they use are in English. It is important for them to know and use English so they can succeed and return to Nunavut.

    If the focus is on their own language, it leaves them out of a better future.

    Both languages should be available, but England will be the one they use in higher paying positions especially if they go to universities and colleges in the south.

    Nunavut is rich in culture and proud of their heritage, don’t let language stop the children from reaching their own dreams.

  10. Posted by asianik isumalik on

    A lot of the decisions made in the Legislature are made by MLA”s who do not witness the everyday struggles of Inuit go through. There is hardly any resources in Inuktitut after gr. 3 and the curriculum itself is still in the draft stages.
    There are many students who hardly understand any Inuktitut as well and no matter how hard the teachers try, the students will choose to speak English as it is the spoken language in many communitites.

    If the MLA’s want Inuktitut in the territory, try teaching to students who don’t see why they have to learn in a language that’s hardly spoken in some communities.

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