Nunavut bill to temporarily suspend Inuit language instruction rules
Bill 20 would give MLAs time to amend Education Act, Inuit Language Protection Act
A bill to temporarily suspend the Inuit-language instruction sections of Nunavut’s Education Act and Inuit Language Protection Act, as they apply to Grade 4 to Grade 12, received second reading at the legislative assembly today.
Bill 20, or the Interim Language of Instruction Act, aims to suspend the coming into force of Section 8 of the Inuit Language Protection Act and the application of Part 4 of the Education.
Those provisions guarantee Inuktut as a language of instruction from kindergarten to Grade 12 in Nunavut schools as of July 2019.
The bill is being introduced to give the government time to continue planning an overhaul to its Education Act.
“There are, at the present time, insufficient numbers of certified teachers available to provide Inuit Language instruction in grades 4 to 12,” a preamble to the bill states.
Additionally, it says, the Government of Nunavut “does not have the ability to provide Inuit language instruction” in those grades starting this coming July.
The bill does not apply to kindergarten to Grade 3 classes.
Now that community consultations have wrapped up, Education Minister David Joanasie has said he plans to use the feedback they’ve collected to amend the Education Act and the Inuit Language Protection Act.
The government hopes to introduce amendments during the spring sitting to both of those acts as they relate to Inuktut-language instruction.
Since these amendments may not be given assent by July, Bill 20 helps ensure that the Department of Education won’t be breaking its own rules by not having enough Inuktitut teachers to deliver bilingual education in all grades.
The 2018-19 school year started with a significant teacher shortage all across the territory.
While many positions have been filled since then, at an Iqaluit District Education Authority meeting last month, the principals at the middle school and high school spoke in detail to the DEA about their ongoing and growing difficulties with hiring teachers—both general education instructors and the specific challenges in finding and keeping Inuit-language instructors.
Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. wants partnership on teacher training
In a statement, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. said they want to form a partnership with the GN to build a plan that would allow the territorial government to do the teacher training and curriculum development needed to extend Inuktut language instruction past Grade 3.
“The Government of Nunavut must show leadership and partner with us now to develop a realistic plan which would inform new timelines for Inuktut language of instruction,” NTI President Aluki Kotierk said in a statement.
It’s expected that any amendments to the Education Act and Inuit Language Protection Act would be tied to the GN’s ability to find Inuit language instructors.
To help do that, NTI said it supports using up to $34 million, from funds created in a lawsuit settlement in 2015, to pay for educator training, and also support federal spending on a “Nunavut Teacher Training Breakout Initiative” to train substitute teachers as certified language specialists.
“Inuit commit to working together to implement the rights of our children recognized under the Inuit Language Protection Act as envisioned by our leaders,” Kotierk said.
NTI also said the federal government has a constitutional and legislative obligations to put more money into Inuit language education in Nunavut.
“Under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, the Government of Canada has jurisdiction for Inuit education and language programs and services,” NTI said.
“Inuit too must benefit from Indigenous rights, specifically [the Government of Canada’s] jurisdiction over Indigenous peoples under section 91 (24), and parliamentary responsibility for the territory of Nunavut through the Nunavut Act.”