Important Step Taken Toward Co-Development of Indigenous Languages Legislation in Meeting Between Government of Canada, Métis, Inuit and First Nations Leaders

News Release

OTTAWA, June 15, 2017

Today, the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage; Clément Chartier, President of the Métis Nation; Natan Obed, President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and National Chief Perry Bellegarde of the Assembly of First Nations, made a declaration of intent to collaborate on the co-development of legislation to ensure the preservation, protection and revitalization of Métis, Inuit and First Nations languages. The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, was also present for this meeting.

Support for Indigenous languages and cultures was identified as a critical component for reconciliation in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. Indigenous languages are an integral part of Canada’s history, culture and identity. The Government of Canada has a clear role to play in supporting the revitalization of Indigenous languages in Canada, and this important legislation must be co-developed with Indigenous Peoples.

The intent of the partners is to have the legislation adopted in the current Parliament. The Government of Canada will work with the Métis Nation, Inuit and First Nations in a spirit of respect, openness and sincere partnership on how best to support Indigenous languages and cultures. Throughout this process, Canadian Heritage will also engage with grassroots organizations, urban populations and experts.

Quotes

“The responsibility to protect and promote Indigenous languages and cultures is a critical one, and a priority for our government. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission laid out a clear path for the Government of Canada through its Calls to Action. By helping preserve and restore Indigenous languages, Canadian Heritage is following through on our government’s commitment to implement these Calls to Action in the spirit of reconciliation.”

—The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage

“The preservation and revitalization of Indigenous languages, cultures and traditions plays a pivotal role in the expression of nationhood and identity‎. The evidence is clear that a secure personal and cultural identity is a critical determinant of improved health, economic, and educational outcomes. We are proud to work with First Nations, Inuit and Métis partners to co-develop legislation that addresses the promotion, protection and revitalization of First Nations, Inuit and Métis languages in this country. These partnerships, which include communities and their representative groups, as well as language experts and grassroots organizations, contribute to the vital work of reconciliation and are essential for Indigenous Peoples’ participation in a strong and prosperous Canada.”

—The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada

“Today marks another step in the right direction in building the nation-to-nation relationship between Canada and the Métis Nation, and demonstrates that this government is serious about its partnerships with Indigenous Peoples. Notwithstanding that Métis residential schools are excluded from the federal government’s settlement and apology to former Indian residential school students, the mandate of the TRC and its Calls to Action, we will engage fully in this legislative initiative which promises to have a significant impact on a true and lasting reconciliation between Canada and the Métis Nation once our outstanding issues are resolved.”

—Clément Chartier, President of the Métis Nation

“Inuit are pleased today to formally begin the distinctions-based process of co-developing First Nations, Inuit, and Métis languages legislation in partnership with the federal government. In the coming months, ITK will lead targeted engagement in Inuit Nunangat in order to gather input about desired content for federal legislation. Inuit insist that legislation be transformative and help facilitate Inuktut revitalization, maintenance, and promotion in our communities such that it is spoken in every sector of Inuit society.”

—Natan Obed, President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

“Revitalizing First Nations languages is a vital part of self-determination. Language is culture and central to our songs, stories, and ceremonies. The recognition, promotion, and recovery of First Nations languages—the original languages of these lands—will not only strengthen our Nations but enrich the whole country. We look forward to the First Nation engagement process supporting First Nations jurisdiction, and will ensure language rights are recognized as inherent rights. This vital work will be a lasting legacy for our children.”

—Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations

Quick Facts

  • The Minister of Canadian Heritage’s mandate letter mentions the provision of new funding to promote, preserve and enhance Indigenous languages and cultures as a top priority for the Department of Canadian Heritage.

  • On December 6, 2016, the Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, announced that the Government of Canada will enact an Indigenous Languages Act, co-developed with Indigenous Peoples, with the goal of ensuring the preservation, protection, and revitalization of Métis, Inuit and First Nations languages in Canada.

  • Over two thirds of the 90 Indigenous languages still spoken in Canada are “endangered” according to UNESCO’s endangered languages criteria; the remaining third are defined as “vulnerable.”

  • The overall number of speakers is decreasing. In 2011, only about 17 percent of Indigenous people could converse in an Indigenous language, down from 21 percent in 2006. Indigenous language usage varies significantly among Métis, Inuit and First Nations populations. The proportion of speakers for First Nations languages is one in five, for Inuit is two in three, and for Métis is fewer than three in 100.

  • In 2011, only 14.5 percent of the Indigenous population reported an Indigenous mother tongue. Among those mother tongue speakers, seven percent reported being no longer able to conduct a conversation in their mother tongue.

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Contacts

For more information (media only), please contact:

Pierre-Olivier Herbert
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Canadian Heritage
819-997-7788

Media Relations
Canadian Heritage
819-994-9101
1-866-569-6155
pch.media-media.pch@canada.ca

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
Patricia D'Souza
Senior Communications Officer
613-292-4482

Métis Nation
Lynette Davis
Director
613-232-3216 x 500
lynetted@metisnation.ca

Assembly of First Nations
Michael Hutchinson
Media relations
613-241-6789 x 254
cell 613-299-6330
mhutchinson@adn.ca

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