David Joanasie, Nunavut’s education minister, has introduced a bill to temporarliy suspend the Inuit-language instruction sections of Nunavut’s Education Act and the Inuit Language Protection Act. (File photo)

Nunavut bill to temporarily suspend Inuit language instruction rules

Bill 20 would give MLAs time to amend Education Act, Inuit Language Protection Act

By Courtney Edgar

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.”

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(4) Comments:

  1. Posted by Community effort? on

    I don’t see much effort in my community to pass on the Inuit language to the public. Why doesn’t NAC offer night courses in Inuktitut? Beginner to more advanced courses for example. So much talk about this issue, yet so little collective effort. Just sit back and complain about the GN, as if you could legislate your dreams into reality. Far too simple an approach.

  2. Posted by Michelle on

    First a good house is built on a solid foundation. Teaching in elementary school is a joke. Most children are considered to be reading well in grade 6 when they master a grade 1or 2 leveled book. When will they be at grade level? Please note that a high school graduate has little more than a grade 6 education. How are these students going to become effective and efficient teachers when they have limited math, science and reading skills. The NTEP needs to stop immediately and the students be treated with respect and fairness in their education. The training cannot be watered down anymore. The teachers in training need to get a good four year degree that can take them elsewhere in Canada and around the world. A transcript from NTEP is nothing. It is a disgrace and mockery of teacher training. Think about this one third year group said they were never taught how to write a paragraph, had no idea what is a subject and a predicate, no clue of the figures or parts of speech. In math they do not know how to square a number or to find the square root of a mumber. These are basic elementary learning. In the high school there is no physics, chemistry or biology as required for those going into the health field. What kind of education system is that where the students are just taught some thing to keep them occupied?
    Minister you need to know more of what is going on in the elementary school so that the quality of education in the high school will be better ,then you can talk about teacher training etc.
    The entire system is a mess and who suffer? the children.

  3. Posted by Uncle Bob on

    Thankfully we are starting to see a concerted effort from this new Government to make a positive step forward to clean up the mess left by previous amateur educationists.
    To see that all the schools have now been visited regarding the new direction language will be taught in the future and to have the school’s comments noted is heart-warming.
    Lets now see how the Department is going to work through the problem of a shortfall in qualified Language teachers, by utilising local Inuktitut speakers who could be put through a three month course in how to teach language to students using a prepared daily curriculum for all grades.

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