Nunavut senator decries lack of Inuktut signage at voting stations

‘We all know there’s unilingual Inuit who have every same right as anyone else to vote,’ says Dennis Patterson

Voters line up at a polling station in Iqaluit on Monday. Senator Dennis Patterson says several Inuit elders have complained about the lack of Inuktitut signage at voting stations for the requirement that you wear a mask. (File photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

By David Lochead

Senator Dennis Patterson is demanding action on Inuit voting rights in the immediate aftermath of Monday’s federal election.

The Nunavut senator said several Inuit elders have raised concerns over how polling stations, which required voters to wear masks, did not post signs explaining the rule in Inuktut.

“We all know there’s unilingual Inuit who have every same right as anyone else to vote,” Patterson said in a statement released Wednesday.

“If Elections Canada is going to truly ‘[respond] to the needs of Canadians involved in the electoral process’ as they state on their website, then they need to ensure that unilingual Inuit don’t have language barriers at the polls.”

Elections Canada was not immediately available for comment.

In 2016, Statistics Canada reported that 65 per cent of Nunavummiut state Inuktut as their mother tongue. In the same study, Statistics Canada reported over 2,000 Nunavummiut did not speak either English or French.

Under Nunavut’s Inuit Language Act, organizations in the territory are required to provide proper space for Inuktut in their signage.

Nunavut’s official languages commissioner, Karliin Aariak, said that increased concern about Inuktut being on signage shows that more Nunavummiut are recognizing their language rights.

If Nunavummiut have concerns about their language, Aariak said she encourages them to contact her office.

In 2019, Patterson said he secured an amendment to the Indigenous Languages Act that would have required federal departments to provide translation to Indigenous languages where the population numbers warrant a translation. But that amendment did not pass in the House of Commons.

Earlier this year, former Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq tabled an Indigenous languages bill that would have put Inuktut on federal ballots in Nunavut, but the bill also did not pass in the House of Commons before it was dissolved in August.

While putting new languages on a ballot may be challenging, Patterson said, an act as simple as putting Inuktut on a sign is easy to fix.

“My main concern is that we don’t have this happen again,” Patterson said.

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(32) Comments:

  1. Posted by It’s always someone else on

    Always reactive to issues. Why not ensure that information will be provided for unilingual speaking people. Be proactive not reactive.

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  2. Posted by Seriously. on

    The Bills didn’t pass for a reason. Out of the 38,0000 people in Nunavut, even if 40% were unilingual. And we all know that is not the case, that would be 15,000 people. Then, you have to put every dialect. The government just blew $600,00o on the election, you want them to spend another $25-$50 k for the translations. Never going to happen. Never. If Nunavut wants this to happen they will have to do it themselves. I’m sorry, this is an absolutely ridiculous ask, when there are far more pressing issues here.

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    • Posted by Dude Town on

      It is not a ridiculous ask. I do not think there are more important things than our language being represented. Language is part of the foundation of a healthy culture and ties into many other social issues that we have. I love you. Open up your heart.

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      • Posted by Both So Right on

        Nothing you say is wrong, but at the same time the previous poster is also perfectly correct. If Nunavut wants the translations, then get ’em done, the feds shouldn’t get into that can of worms and are right to limit themselves to their obligations.

        If we go down this path, then every minority language in the country will want such translations.

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        • Posted by Uvanga on

          It’s an official language of the territory and federal institution have to abide within Nunavut . Other languages can not go that route unless they pass legislation to make their language official.

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    • Posted by John WP Murphy on

      Perhaps you and the GC should recognize and accepte thar it is the LAW in Munavut. It is people and organizations that discourage the use of the language that is causing it to be lost within the young people. I thought that attitude disappeared when the residential schools closed.

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      • Posted by John WP Murphy on

        Hate typing on the phone.My previous comment mispellled Nunavut along with other typos. I hope you understood the message

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  3. Posted by Crystal Clarity on

    Most polling stations had masks and sanitizers available at the door. Maybe the signage should be in Inuktut only then we can listen to all the unilingual English and French people complain about that and tell us how important it is to respect everyone’s language rights.

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  4. Posted by hermann kliest on

    Too little too late Senator, this what you have to show for after 23 yrs at your post? lack of signage? How much Inuktitut signs do you need in BC? Stay out of our affairs….

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    • Posted by Kenn Harper on

      You should treat Nunavut’s hardest-working politician ever with considerably more respect. Patterson has been a tireless advocate for Nunavut, Nunavummiut, Inuit, and Inuktitut for his entire political career.

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      • Posted by No shrill for you on

        Again, another non Inuk defending and propping up another non Inukfor their white saviour/white supremacy exploits.

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      • Posted by Frodo’s Parka on

        I agree. Mr. Patterson has had to make some big decisions, like what colour of SUV should I buy next year? All on the tax payer’s dime, of course.

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      • Posted by hermann kliest on

        Perhaps yes, but you should know, he serves the elite, the rich and the powerful at the time.. you old dinosaurs; stay out of today’s Nunavut politics. When will you know old boys clubs are finished and your two minutes are up.

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  5. Posted by Manapik on

    We are all aware that masks are required daily for the last two years, our elders are more perceptive than most bilingual persons… Dennis just ensure that new elders care homes are built.

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  6. Posted by Fred on

    Mask wearing was already mandated across Nunavut before the federal election by the CPHO, so no matter where a person went they had to wear a mask. And, there is no need to translate pictograph signs, like the wear a mask sign, as they are in a “universal language” just like the signs on the front of bathroom doors.

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    • Posted by hermann kliest on

      Minimum signs…we have been doing this for years, cadet hall is there on election days, no big deal, do Polish population need a sign at Iqaluit elections centers? Ppl, don’t get fooled, many elders understand lot of English, they just don’t show it, just like a long time new Manitoban who has been in Nunavut for years, understand Inuktitut, just don’t show it..,.No big deal.

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  7. Posted by Manapik on

    Dennis is a conservative, I wonder what his remarks would be if the PC got elected? Unilingual Elders in Nunavut are more perceptive than bilingual people. Dennis please just concentrate on ensuring elder care homes are being built and maintained .

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    • Posted by monty sling on

      Nunavut Senator and other red crew has no teeth, they cannot make policies, all they do is give a royal yea or nea on behalf of her majesty, a formality, expensive one at that. The red room is just a billion dollar red elephant. A billion, this amount can build10 % of Canada s housing shortage instant of wages for old guys and their staff, office expenses and travel, ahhh the per diems…so good, NU Premier recommend me to be appointed….

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  8. Posted by Would be nice on

    It would be nice to see Denis step down and give an Inuk an opportunity to be Senator.

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    • Posted by Kenn Harper on

      Dennis will step down – when he’s 75. Good luck in finding anyone of any ethnicity who works as hard as he does for the benefit of Nunavummiut.

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      • Posted by You can’t fool me on

        Kenn….you and Dennis should do the right thing and retire now. Dennis is no competent Senator at all. He’s merely an opportunistic selfish conservative that spews rhetoric that Inuit like yet betrays his original master, Stephen Harper.

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      • Posted by hermann kliest on

        Kenn H. that’s because he served your old boys club well and the one who was Minister, nothing else and nobody. He is nothing to use regular folks (never was), we were just his stepping stones to serve the few and the elite (elite; that a dicey word for AHs). Where you’re living; they don’t treat you like the old boys? Attitude and status gone? waaahhh. This sitting guy at the red room is most useless to today’s Nunavut. Period.

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  9. Posted by JOHN ELL on

    Very good point Senator. The feds need to be reminded about our language up here. SUKAIMA INUUP UKAUSIA ATUQTAVUT NUNAPTINNI.

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  10. Posted by SHOOFLY COMER on

    Yes, good point Senator. Now please, make way for a new senator as your term limit has been exceeded. NAKURMIIK.

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    • Posted by John WP Murphy on

      His term limit has expired?? Perhaps you should educate yourself about the terms of a Senatorial appointment

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    • Posted by Kenn Harper on

      There is no term limit. You know that.

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  11. Posted by iThink on

    While I agree that Mr. Patterson should consider stepping aside and making room for an Inuk to represent Nunavut in the Senate, I don’t expect he will do so until there is a Conservative Prime Minister to replace him.

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  12. Posted by S on

    “My main concern is that we don’t have this happen again,” Patterson said.”

    Squire, if THAT is your main concern, then you are virtually unconscious.

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  13. Posted by Aputi on

    If you don’t understand, don’t vote, if they want our votes please translate.

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  14. Posted by Cold island bear on

    Iqaluit probably and embarrassingly has more an easier access to French speaking stuff and Classes. LOL. Nunavut should make inuktitut first taught language in schools before english like the french do. Inuk and Inuit first , jobs and language and culture, before it’s way too late.

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    • Posted by iThink on

      If you want to say something interesting and worth consideration, ask why Nunavut has been unable to implement those things. The idea that we “should” prioritize teaching Inuktitut in schools etc. has been raked over almost endlessly… we all know it is not happening, to say it ‘should happen’ has become a predictable, banal recitation of a liturgy.

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    • Posted by Warm Island Bear on

      Even if you could do this, which it cannot be done because no one will teach it, ask yourself how children educated entirely in a language spoken by less than one hundred thousand people will compete against children educated in English, the universal language. The answer is they won’t, and they won’t stand a chance in the world.

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Comments are closed.