Canadian Heritage launches engagement sessions on First Nations, Inuit and Métis Languages
GATINEAU, June 1, 2018
Today, the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage, launched the intensive community-based engagement sessions that will be held across Canada this summer to support the co-development of First Nations, Inuit and Métis languages legislation.
The intensive engagement sessions will build on the results of early engagement sessions that have taken place with First Nations, Inuit and Métis language practitioners and experts since June 2017, when Minister Joly; National Chief Perry Bellegarde of the Assembly of First Nations; Natan Obed, President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami; and Clément Chartier, President of the Métis National Council launched the co-development of First Nations, Inuit and Métis languages legislation, and agreed on a collaborative engagement approach.
The next phase of engagement will be conducted through “workout” sessions convened with Indigenous Peoples throughout Canada, in addition to providing an opportunity to submit feedback through online questions and written and electronic comments.
The input gathered during the summer will inform the drafting of the legislation. The intent is to introduce the legislation in the current Parliament.
Today’s announcement is part of the federal government’s effort to help preserve, promote and revitalize First Nations, Inuit and Métis languages.
“No relationship is more important to our government than the one with Indigenous Peoples. We are working with First Nations, Inuit and Métis groups in a spirit of respect, openness and sincere partnership on how best to support Indigenous languages and cultures. Languages are important to culture and identity. Support for the preservation, promotion and revitalization of First Nations, Inuit and Métis languages is essential.”
—The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage
“The voices of First Nations people, Elders, experts, Knowledge Keepers and language speakers must be heard and included in the work towards an Indigenous Languages Act. The AFN has reached out to First Nations through our own approach and now Canada must do its part. These are our languages, central to who we are and all we do, and we must make every effort to keep them alive and thriving for generations to come.”
—Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations
“The co-development of federal legislation is an opportunity to help facilitate the use of Inuktut as the primary language spoken at every sector of Inuit society. Federal engagement with Inuit communities on First Nations, Inuit and Métis languages legislation will provide Inuit with the opportunity to directly convey our expectations for legislation directly to the federal government.”
—Natan Obed, President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
“We look forward to engaging our communities to help us define how we go about protecting and promoting the use of our Michif language. It is at the community level that we always get best insight into what is needed to support the cultural development of the Métis Nation.”
—Clément Chartier, President, Métis Nation
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 Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, announced that the Government of Canada will enact an Indigenous languages act, co-developed with Indigenous Peoples, with the goal of facilitating the preservation, promotion and revitalization of First Nations, Inuit and Métis 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 First Nations, Inuit and Métis 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 these speakers, 7 percent reported being no longer able to conduct a conversation in their mother tongue.
For more information (media only), please contact:
Office of the Minister of Canadian Heritage
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