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
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.