Backgrounder: Government of Canada introduces historic legislation on Indigenous languages


In December 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada would enact legislation with the goal of ensuring the preservation, protection and revitalization of First Nations, Inuit and Métis languages. The Prime Minister further stated that the legislation would be co-developed with Indigenous Peoples.

Following that announcement, in June 2017, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the leaders of the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Métis National Council declared their joint intent to collaborate on the legislation.

Following the June 2017 declaration between the partners, Indigenous Peoples from all distinctions-based groups were engaged on a number of occasions by each of the co-development partners to obtain feedback on what they thought should be included in the legislation.

Between July 2017 and September 2018, Canadian Heritage conducted more than 50 engagement sessions across the country that included approximately 1,200 Indigenous participants. In addition, an online portal was made available that generated over 200 responses in the form of completed questionnaires and electronic submissions. During that period, presentations and other types of sessions were also provided to various groups.

The bill has been developed to support the meaningful implementation of Calls to Action 13, 14 and 15 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, elements of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the federal government’s commitment to a renewed relationship with Indigenous Peoples based on the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership. In particular, the legislation recognizes and supports all Indigenous languages in Canada and contains mechanisms which will: 

  • establish measures for the provision of long-term, sustainable funding of Indigenous languages; 
  • advance the objectives of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
  • support the reclamation, revitalization, strengthening and maintenance of Indigenous languages in Canada; 
  •  support and promote the use of Indigenous languages; 
  • work with provinces, territories, Indigenous representative organizations and Indigenous governments to create effective support for Indigenous languages in Canada through a variety of mechanisms; and,
  • establish an Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages.

The work with the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Métis National Council will continue in the coming months through the next stages of the legislative process.


For more information (media only), please contact:

Simon Ross
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Canadian Heritage and

Media Relations
Canadian Heritage

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