Nunavut’s new education, language bill does not reflect the needs of Inuit: NTI

NTI says the Government of Nunavut did not sufficiently consult with it during the bill’s development

A display of Inuktut learning materials from a language conference in Iqaluit in 2019. (File photo by Jane George)

By Sarah Rogers

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. says the Government of Nunavut’s plans to amend the Education Act and Inuit Language Protections Act fall short of responding to what Inuit have asked for.

Bill 25, “An Act to Amend the Education Act and the Inuit Language Protection Act,” was tabled in the Nunavut legislature on June 5.

The GN did not sufficiently engage NTI in the development of those new amendments, the Inuit birthright organization said, resulting in legislation that does not reflect Inuit objectives.

While the legislation offered “a couple of modest improvements” over the GN’s last attempt to amend its Education Act—the failed Bill 37—”it was not a significant improvement,” NTI said in a June 5 release.

Bill 37, which was tabled by Nunavut’s previous government, would have delayed the implementation of Inuktut instruction in Grades 4 through Grade 9 from its originally planned deadline of 2020 until 2030.

The newly proposed Bill 25 would set back the full implementation of Inuktut even longer, until 2039, in recognition of teacher shortages and a lack of teaching materials.

“The government must be held accountable for the failure of Bill 25 to address NTI’s most important proposals on behalf of Nunavut Inuit in a meaningful way,” said NTI President Aluki Kotierk in the release.

“On this slow a schedule, a child born today—who will be 20 years old in 2039—will still not be able to receive Grades 9-12 instruction in Inuktut.”

Since the territorial government first began work on amending its education and language legislation, NTI has pressed for an Inuit employment plan for educators, which would deliver on-the-job training to Inuktut-speaking teachers.

NTI says Inuit want to see Inuktut as the main language taught in daycares and elementary and secondary schools in Nunavut, along with a stronger focus on Inuit Qaujimajatutangit.

The birthright organization has also criticized the new legislation for reducing the role of district education authorities in Nunavut.

Kotierk said NTI only saw the latest version of the bill the same day it was tabled.

“Nunavut Inuit have been clear in their expectations for the Education Act,” she said.

“Despite years of constructive contributions by NTI and other Nunavummiut, the Government of Nunavut appears to be offering very much the same repackaged amendments.”

A recent report prepared by NTI asserted that the Nunavut’s education system, and its lack of Inuktut-language curriculum, may be “criminally inadequate” and “constitutes cultural genocide.”

For its part, the GN said its latest amendments were based on consultations with hundreds of Nunavummiut, including NTI, the Coalition of Nunavut DEAs, the Commission scolaire francophone du Nunavut, the Nunavut Teachers Association, the Office of the Languages Commissioner and four student groups.

Bill 25 is expected to receive its second reading in the legislature on Thursday, June 6, before it goes to the standing committee of MLAs.

With the legislature adjourning its spring sitting that day, further discussion on the proposed bill will happen in the fall sitting, set to start on Oct. 17.

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(21) Comments:

  1. Posted by Nauk? on

    Don’t see Inuinnaqtun material.

  2. Posted by Raymond Kaslak on

    As the picture above shows, syllabics should remain part of the preservation of language, instead of Roman-Orthography. One of the arguments against syllabics was that it’s not part of Inuit culture, so is English alphabet which Roman Orthography is written in. It’s harder to read 16-letter Roman Orthography words than it would be in 5 or 6 syllabics. Good luck in trying to get kids to read 16-letter words, and anyways most of our historical stories were written in syllabics.

    • Posted by Jay Arnakak on

      It’s actually easier to learn how to sight-read roman orthography than even the shorter syllabics because the patterning of phrases is easier to see and the letters are all the same size.

      Think on this: is language loss/extinction more acceptable than switching writing systems?

    • Posted by If Greenland can do it… on

      Greenland has always used roman orthography for Greenlandic Inuktitut, as well as a standardized version of the language. Greenlandic kids do not have trouble reading words in Inuktitut roman orthography.

      It is the kids in Canada who are slowly going to lose the language unless Inuktitut is standardized.

    • Posted by Observer on

      It’s not harder, it’s just different. Lots of cultures around the world use the Roman alphabet and have long words and do just fine.

    • Posted by Inuk on

      Damn right Raymond. Our mleaders and linguists wants Inuit to use one writing system. They are wrong because we can use more than one system like any other cultures like Qablunaat have several writing system with alphabets, short hand, scientific etc. Why can’t we Inuit used the one we have been using for 120 years?
      We are continuing to improve syllabic and is easiest to use even by school children.
      Let other Inuit learn it

      • Posted by Fraser Hope on

        Quire right we have used syllabics for 120 tears or so. We have only been able to read other syllabic writers letters, the New Testament , Federal Government Missives for most of that time while our Greenlandic neighbours have been able to read all the literature , fiction and non fiction that has used the alphabet in its various forms. Can you imagine a typesetter’s dilemma trying to set up the printing press for report of The Fifth Thule Expedition, all 10 volumes into syllabics. Remember before digital printing techniques typesetting was metal based characters that had to be in reverse order to come out correctly on the printed page. A typesetter did not need to know the language to set up the printing press so Inuit lagged behind everyone in developing understanding and knowledge of almost all matters.

        Jose Kusugak was a great supporter of Orthography but unfortunately we are still arguing today over a writing system.


  3. Posted by Will NTI spearhead a standardized language? on

    Will NTI spearhead an initiative to establish a standardized language and help create needed resources? Or, is all the they can do is complain and belittle everyone else…..?

  4. Posted by Supercalifragilistic on

    There’s that word ‘genocide’ again… you would almost think it meant something, at one time.

    • Posted by Nunavumiut on

      Genocide is becoming an over used term. In terms of our language, words like destruction, obstruction or inadequate would suffice. We are free to use our language, and the majority of us do so. Shift the focus from pointing fingers and waiting for another department to take the lead, and start identifying what the issues are AND how to resolve them. Work together to create solutions.

      • Posted by Look out not always in on

        I agree with everything you are saying. I would also offer that the GN should look to in depth case studies of best practices in other parts of the world where similar situations have been faced. Go there, see it for yourself, maybe there’s something to learn.

  5. Posted by Good plan on

    Great Idea kick that can down the road…kick it so far…maybe we will forget what we were trying to do. Common man grow some balls and do something, rather than wait.

  6. Posted by Putuguk on

    There needs to be way more communication and consultation around what is happening with the Inuit writing system.

    The ITK Atausiq Inuktut Titirausiq work has been going on for years and they are getting close to a unified language system for Canadian Inuit. It is going to be in roman orthography. This has already been settled. As far as I know, NTI is on board with this.

    There have been no plebiscites, no public meetings -just our elected officials going along with what our non-elected representatives and their appointed experts have said ought to happen.

    This may be all well and good, but the way this has been decided stands in stark contrast to the public legislative process on education.

    If there are many syllabics users that do not know this is happening, ad would strongly oppose this change, perhaps it is not only the GN that has been insufficient in its engagement.

    The way this is going, we are headed for strife and division that is going to really hurt especially elders in the east.

    • Posted by Raymond Kaslak on

      You hit the nail on the head. Back in 70’s the kids I taught never had any problems with learning syllabics. Put yourself in a kid’s shoes trying to read Roman Orthography, for long words it will appear like “Supercalifragilistiexpialidocious”. I hardly ever read anything from Kalaatliit Nunaat so I’m not sure what role it will play for unity, most of the preferred type of communications is verbal.

  7. Posted by Huvaguuq on

    Nunavut was set up with a public government; which is the right way. Just because Inuit are the majority does not mean Inuit should have special status.
    Therefore GN is subject to lobbying by any group or individual.
    Want Inuit majority in government jobs? Get the education, training, management skills and change the system. Don’t expect whites and other nationalities working for our own government to change things for us. They are not Inuit. They do not think like Inuit.
    They only see GN as a public government, not an Inuit government.

    • Posted by 82 Toyota Supra on

      Whites and “other nationalities” think like human beings just like you do.

  8. Posted by ’round and ’round we go… on

    20 years ago when Nunavut became, I said that the goal of having Inuktut education system by 2020, was a great idea. But I had questions of how this ambitious goal was going to be reached: think of the material that has to be produced for each grade, passed by law, etc… then there is the staffing issue of having trained teachers to implement the said materials. Now this issue is postponed until 2030. From experience having worked in the schools, arctic colleges, there is a very shortage of staff that will be able to implement the said education system: most capable Inuktut speakers/writers/teachers are few and far between now and most of them are employed elsewhere or are retired. By 2030, there will be even fewer. Keep dreaming…

  9. Posted by all in on

    is language of instruction really the hill needing to be died upon here? Is mandatory Inuktitut going to help graduate students on par with southern grade 12 diploma recipients?? prep them for college or technical/trade school?? Ready them for the workforce?? Let’s think about what goals of education should be prioritized, in the larger scheme. I’m sorry to those that would disagree, but language preservation may not be the most critical of them. Language and culture learning begin at home, and yes, have a place in the classroom, but learning to speak Inuktitut, I would argue, and having Inuktitut curriculum and teachers isn’t what’s holding Inuit back in the modern world.

  10. Posted by suuq? why? on

    The Dept of Educ does not work with language experts and not just ones who speak Inuktitut. Just because you speak it, it doesn’t mean you are an expert. Their decision makers in program and curriculum are run by English only speakers or ones who have taught in Inuk. for years but are not knowledgeable about ‘language’ as a whole (this includes policy advisors or directors who advise the top bureaucrats). The educational leaders are transient and often do not speak 2 languages, and if they do it may be French which is a totally different language from Inuktitut. Meanwhile the top brass try to appease the leg. assembly with quick answers and say yes to their ‘experts’ advice. This has been going on for 15+ years. The system may be well oiled to answer the political questions but the system and it’s content has been fumbling for years. NTI is right to be demanding answers and finding ways that are going to strengthen the language.

    • Posted by Yeah okay on

      Hahahahah. Love your comment.

      You either work for NTI, work for NTI, or work for NTI. Which is it?

      Dept of Educ. Who says that! Lol

      Yes, it’s the experts advice that is the problem. How dare the education folks rely on experts!

      Of course we should rely on the NTI brain trust to guide our education system. They are the real armchair experts who can tell us how to do things better

    • Posted by Qanurli? on

      So the take away from your post is that unilingual English speakers aren’t going to save Inuktitut. Okay, so now what? Who is? When are they going to do it?

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