Nunavut MP to pressure government to give bilingual bonus to Indigenous speakers

Some federal employees get $800 per year extra for knowing English and French

Nunavut MP Lori Idlout, seen here in the House of Commons in June, said she plans to put pressure on the federal government to extend the $800 bilingualism bonus it gives to employees who speak French and English to employees that speak an Indigenous language. The government announced earlier this week it would not extend the bonus to Indigenous-language speakers. (Screenshot from ParlVU)

By Madalyn Howitt

Nunavut MP Lori Idlout says she plans to pressure the federal government to extend a bilingualism bonus to federal employees who speak an Indigenous language.

The bilingualism bonus, first introduced in 1977, gives employees an extra $800 a year if they work in a position designated as requiring proficiency in Canada’s two official languages, English and French. The amount of the bonus has stayed the same since its inception.

The Canadian Press recently reported that the Treasury Board has no plans to expand the bonus to Indigenous language speakers, in light of information contained in a briefing note released through Canada’s access to information law. The briefing note, written by senior public servants, suggests expanding the bonus as a way to address concerns held by some Indigenous public-sector employees.

“I’m definitely going to be applying pressure,” Idlout said in an interview with Nunatsiaq News, in response to the story.

“This Liberal government has been saying that reconciliation is important to them. Providing valuable bonuses to Indigenous workers, I think, would be another act of reconciliation that will help improve services that are provided to Inuit, First Nations and Metis that speak those languages.”

According to the most recent diversity and inclusion statistics listed on the Government of Canada’s website, 11,977 federal service employees self-identify as Indigenous, with 357 of those identifying as Inuit. 

In an email to Nunatsiaq News, spokesperson Martin Potvin said that the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat does not collect data on the Indigenous languages spoken by federal employees.

Idlout said she’s been told the number of Indigenous-language speakers in the federal service is around 460 people. 

“That’s not a lot given the whole federal public service,” she said. “I don’t see why they don’t see this initiative as a way to promote, protect and revitalize Indigenous languages.”

Idlout said she’s not in favour of scrapping the bonus entirely as some have called for, citing the high cost of living and rising inflation. 

“With so many challenges that people are already experiencing? I don’t see that as an alternative at all,” she said. 

“What I want to see is the discrimination stop against Inuit, First Nations and Metis people who speak their languages … They’re not allowed to have the benefits because they don’t speak a second language that’s a colonial language, so that discrimination needs to stop.” 

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(41) Comments:

  1. Posted by Not just a given on

    This bonus is for individuals in bilingual positions. It is not simply for people that are bilingual. Are there any positions in the government that require indigenous speakers as per their job descriptions?

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    • Posted by sealmeat on

      In Iqaluit, Service Canada and other federal dep’ts, agencies, including the RCMP, have Inuit staff, in part because they can communicate in Inuktitut; it is part of being a ‘public servant’. Believe it or not, Nunavut still has a lot of unilingual-Inuktitut speaking population; know your country

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      • Posted by Southern Observier on

        Right on! These federal agencies depend on Inuktitut speakers to interpret or communicate on their behalf. If these positions are not identified as bilingual they should be. The government should recognized the essential service being provided and compensate their employees accordingly.

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        • Posted by Or, Here’s A Thought.. on

          Or, and it is just a thought, we should expect every Canadian to know at least one of our official languages, in addition to any local language.

          Any Nunavummiut under the age of 40 who can’t communicate in one of our official languages is an embarrassment and a burden on the country.

          Common sense 101.

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        • Posted by Today in Ignorance on

          My God, what country are you in in?

          You don’t even know what ‘bilingual’ means in a Canadian context.

          I will support this for indigenous languages when I see ”bilingual’ bonus for all the other non-official languages.

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  2. Posted by Gwad on

    All I see is another politician lobbying for something they don’t understand. Not every bilingual person is compensated. If the position makes being bilingual a requirement, I can see the value in the bonus but giving people money just because they speak Inuktitut is ridiculous.

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    • Posted by Psycho-politico on

      To understand oneself as a beneficiary the world becomes a garden of benefits

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  3. Posted by Northern Guy on

    I would support giving Indigenous workers a bilingual bonus if the indigenous language was regularly used either in the workplace or in interactions with clients otherwise…nope.

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    • Posted by Umingmak on

      Except that it is. Have you ever been to the Qikiqtaaluk? Everyone speaks Inuktitut – many as a first language.

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      • Posted by Follow it Through on

        Ever been to Vancouver – lots of folks being served in Mandarin or Hindi too? Far more than their are served in any indigenous language.

        Will they qualify for a bilingual position bonus?

        They should, if Idlout’s thinking is followed to its natural conclusion.

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        • Posted by Danielle Leury on

          Indigenous People were in Canada BEFORE any settlers. It only makes sense the use of their language in a federal office be compensated.

          As for other languages than English or French, I don’t believe they should be compensated unless they are hired to interpret/translate that specific language. In fact, it should be a requirement that they learn either English or French before being allowed to immigrate to Canada. We need to preserve our Canadian official languages.

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          • Posted by Today, in Problematic Microaggressions on

            Indigenous languages don’t deserve any more privileges than any other minority language. They are not different than Urdu or Hindi. There are two official languages, end of conversation.

            Watch how you use the word settler. It is widely considered an offensive word. Your choice to use it tells me all that I need to know about you. It is no different than ‘Eskimo’, if the population themselves don’t use it to describe themselves it has no place. Microaggressions such as this lower the tone of conversation. If you used it in my presence your problematic behaviour would be called out. If you were in my home you would be instructed leave for such insensitivity.

            French is dying in Canada outside of Quebec and parts of New Brunswick. This is lamentable, but perfectly normal.

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            • Posted by alex on

              Look at another Settler trying to enforce their thinking and only their thinking alone…..end of conversation

            • Posted by Read again there end of conversation on

              Read the comment again, the line was “Indigenous People were in Canada BEFORE any settlers.” Whoever said that, said that in a factual way…..they weren’t even calling you a settler, but the truth of the matter is Canada was built by English and french settlers……were they not? again for someone with such a high opinion on languages, you figured you know the difference between talking about a group of people, or directed at you……

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  4. Posted by Bert Rose on

    if they work in a position designated as requiring proficiency

    That is a mighty big If Ms Idlout

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    • Posted by Southerner in the North on

      Ummmm, like the Service Canada offices in Nunavut?

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      • Posted by That Bucket Is Leaking on

        A requirement yes, but not a requirement for an official language – or what qualifies as bilingual in this country.

        It is a good argument, but it doesn’t hold water in how things work in this country.

  5. Posted by Southerner in the North on

    It would be nice if there were classes, incentives and bonuses for RCMP officers and dispatchers to learn the Indigenous languages in their area of operation.

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    • Posted by enosamm on

      Why? This decision proves there is no interest in providing compensation to people who would make the effort to serve the local population in the local language. Inuit members and public servants should advise the higher ups they will need to outsource any requests for translations that they are asked to do off the side of their desks going forward. It will cost them more then the $800/per person in no time.

      This is a dumb decision, the cost to government is minimal, it will cost them more in translation services and bad press.

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  6. Posted by Ahiarmi on

    Work on two sided mlas to give proper leadership to the right communities instead of same communities representing where they do not even live where they represent

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  7. Posted by Umingmak on

    There is no justification for this decision by the Trudeau Regime outside of straight-up racism.

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  8. Posted by Jimmy on

    OMG. She has an international audience now. I listened to her interview with the BBC on shortwave yesterday.

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  9. Posted by Nunavummiutaq on

    Iqaluit airport greatly needs Inuktitut speaking employees, there are hardly anyone who can help the elderly and unilingual inuit.

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    • Posted by 867 on

      New hotel too. It is Inuit owned but seems to be only southerners working there. Even their website shows that they are excited to provide for Inuit employement. Come-on, QIA.

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      • Posted by Reality Check, 1 2 1 2 on

        You can’t make people work you know…

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        • Posted by Reality Check, 1 3 1 3 on

          Actually you can make people work, you just can force them to work

  10. Posted by John W Paul Murphy on

    How about having your Liberal/NDP government respect the Languages Act in Nunavut that requires them to provide Inuktitut/Inuinnaqtun services in their offices in Nunavut?

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    • Posted by John W Paul Murphy on

      Perhaps a bit to clear up in my post for those of you with the thumbs down.

      The federal government does not accept nor agree with our languages act that requires inuktitut/Inuinnaqtion services in any public office.

      That does not mean it isn’t available. Because of the graciousness of the Inuit staff filling the public positions, an Inuk or Inuinnaq can find services in their own language.
      As far as the federal government is concerned there are ONLY two official languages.
      The pay of a bilingual bonus is a union or contractual item in the work agreement, Not a federal responsibility,

      Our MP needs to check the facts and if she does anything, get her Liberal/NDP partners to recognize and follow our Nunavut Languages Act.

  11. Posted by Better Than on

    This just opens a can of worms.
    Some people and languages just have more rights.
    It just gives advantages and priveleges to some people but not to all citizens. It is systematic discrimination.

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  12. Posted by Name Withheld on

    It’s just plain simple. Don’t agree to interpret or translate if Feds do not provide bilingual bonus to beneficiary within Nunavut.

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    • Posted by Fire Them on

      It is just simple then – fire any employees who do that.

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  13. Posted by Language matters on

    The Federal Indigenous Languages Act (2019) in section 6 states “The Government of Canada recognizes that the rights of Indigenous peoples recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 include rights related to Indigenous languages.”
    The Treasury Board of Canada has identified 460 positions that require the use of an Indigenous language as a part of the job. The incumbents of these positions should not be discriminated against. The Federal Governments refusal is the epitome of colonialization and systemic racism in the federal governments treatment of it’s indigenous employees.

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    • Posted by Constituent on

      Hey Lori, are you planning in doing anything for your constituents, or are you going battle dragons for the entirely of your term?

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    • Posted by Idlout Can Do Better – We Deserve Better on

      Pretty typical arrogance – indigenous languages should be given any more value than any other non-official language.

      To so is the epitome of ethnic bigotry, assigning higher value to one non-official language than another.

      Our MLA should know this.

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    • Posted by Create A Different Name and Pay Away on

      This is all well and good, but that is not ‘bilingual’ as the word is used in Canadian government.

      Create a bonus for the extra skill of another language is required certainly, but it can’t be considered ‘bilingual’.

      This would be more equitable and would not unduly privilege indigenous languages (which are already massively privileged and supported) and would recognize all minority languages.

  14. Posted by Quel Surprise! on

    Our glorious MP fighting hard…for something that benefits her personally.

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