File photo of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed in November 2017 in Ottawa. Photo by Alex Tétreault
The national Inuit organization in Canada says the Trudeau government’s new Indigenous languages bill has failed to address Inuit rights.
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) expressed “disappointment” Tuesday in Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez’s new legislation, Bill C-91, the Indigenous Languages Act, calling it a “symbolic gesture.”
The statement has put ITK at odds with both Ottawa and another major Indigenous organization, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), which welcomed the tabling in Parliament of the bill and said it “deserves the support of all Parliamentarians and all Canadians.”
Inuit express disappointment with national Indigenous languages bill and lament the missed opportunity to end discriminatory language policies in Canada
February 5, 2019, Ottawa, ON – The national indigenous languages bill that was introduced by the Minister of Canadian Heritage in the House of Commons today is a symbolic gesture that does not address Inuit rights to speak our language, nor does it include provisions that are necessary to support its revitalization, maintenance, and promotion.
“Despite being characterized as a reconciliation and co-development initiative, the Government of Canada engaged Inuit in bad faith throughout this legislative initiative,” said Natan Obed, president of ITK. “The absence of any Inuit-specific content suggests this bill is yet another legislative initiative developed behind closed doors by a colonial system and then imposed on Inuit.”
Eighty four percent of Inuit within the 51 communities that make up Inuit Nunangat report the ability to speak our language – Inuktut – making it the most resilient indigenous language spoken in Canada. Inuktut has official language status in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, and is an official language of the Nunatsiavut Government, whose jurisdiction encompasses northern Labrador.
ITK initially welcomed this legislative initiative when it was launched in July 2017 as an opportunity to build on existing rights for Inuktut and to close the longstanding legislative gap that enables continued discrimination against Inuktut speakers.
“Our efforts to revitalize, maintain, and promote Inuktut are often blunted by inequitable federal funding policies that task us with doing much more with far fewer resources than what French and English speakers receive,” said Natan Obed. “At the same time, our people do not have the right to access federal services in Inuktut, relegating it to a status beneath English and French,” he said. MORE