A Week Focused on Indigenous-Led Efforts to Reclaim, Revitalize, Maintain and Strengthen Indigenous Languages: Highlights of New Projects Funded in Northern Canada

News release


The Government of Canada recognizes that Indigenous peoples are best placed to take the leading role in the revitalization of Indigenous languages. This week, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage, travels virtually across the country to meet with various Indigenous communities and language organizations to listen and learn first-hand of the impact and importance of their efforts to revitalize and strengthen their languages. Today, Minister Guilbeault is meeting virtually with the Gwich’in Tribal Council to learn about Indigenous languages projects in Northern Canada. He visited Quebec virtually on Monday, Ontario on Tuesday and Western Canada on Wednesday. He will visit Atlantic Canada on Friday.

  • Gwich'in Tribal Council will deliver 2700 hours of language nests and 224 hours of language and culture classes in Gwich’in, as well as producing copies of textbooks and teaching guides in Gwich’in and English.

Minister Guilbeault announced that the federal government is contributing more than $4 million to fund 36 projects such as these in the North in 2019–2021.

Under the Indigenous Languages and Cultures Program, the Government of Canada has invested more than $60 million in 2019–2021 funding in support of the efforts of Indigenous peoples to reclaim, revitalize, maintain and strengthen Indigenous languages and cultures.

In addition to these funds, the Government of Canada is contributing a further $23.3 million to advance Indigenous languages across the North.

As a result of the significant investment for Indigenous languages through Budget 2019, we will see the largest growth in Indigenous language supports in program history, with a majority of these funds going directly to Indigenous communities and organizations to support their unique language needs.

Language and culture are at the core of healing, self-worth and identification, and the foundation of healthy communities. The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls called upon the Government of Canada to empower Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people through the transformative potential of culture. With the help of initiatives like these, Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people are reclaiming their language and cultural knowledge, and using it as an authentic and powerful tool to share their own stories, in their own words.


“Language not only reflects our identity as individuals and communities, but also holds our shared history and cultural heritage, and reveals our dreams for the future. For these reasons, the revitalization of Indigenous languages in the North, and throughout Canada, is and will remain a priority for me, for our government, and for all Canadians.”

—The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage

“Our government recognizes the importance of preserving and strengthening Indigenous cultures, traditions and languages. That is why we continue to increase our investments in communities throughout Canada where Indigenous languages are spoken; where they are part of the fabric of everyday life. Indigenous languages are a source of vitality and strength, in particular, throughout the North and Arctic.”

—The Honourable Daniel Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs

“Language describes who we are, our identity, our feelings, culture and histories. In Canada, there are over 60 Indigenous languages, and we know we must protect them, promote them and encourage fluency. We are working to dismantle the colonial systems that have threatened Indigenous peoples and their languages over generations. The Indigenous Languages and Cultures Program is part of our work in partnership with Indigenous peoples to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and to address the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.”

—The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations

“The Government of Canada must support those who best understand how to reinvigorate their own languages, using approaches that best meet their unique needs and circumstances. In line with our commitment, we will continue to support and fund Indigenous organizations in their work to reclaim, strengthen, promote and revitalize Indigenous languages.”

—The Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Services

“As a territory with nine official Indigenous languages, in addition to several others, it is so important that we support the resilience and growth of these languages here in the Northwest Territories. Through partnerships with local Indigenous governments and organizations like the Gwich'in Tribal Council, our government is investing in the grassroots efforts to protect the future of Indigenous languages for the generations to come.”

—Michael McLeod, Member of Parliament (Northwest Territories)

“The new public emphasis on revitalization has led to massive improvements to funding and resources. These developments are extremely welcome and appreciated. But I think it would be good to remember that the work of revitalization started long ago. So many of the Elders we rely on today for documenting and teaching language had themselves lost their languages in their youth. They overcame personal and financial obstacles, and took the initiative to seek out their own Elders; to sit and learn from them, without any funding or textbooks. And they are working to this day, long into their retirement years, teaching and sharing what they know. Because of them, our languages have survived for three more generations. For real revitalization, their example is still the best one. Revitalization is a call to personal commitment and direct engagement. Mahsi’ choo to all the Elders for your generosity and patience.”

—Andrew Cienski, Language Revitalization Specialist, Gwich'in Tribal Council

Quick facts

  • Budget 2019 included an investment of $333.7 million over five years, with an annual budget of $115.7 million afterward, to support Indigenous languages community-based projects.

  • The Indigenous Languages Act received Royal Assent on June 21, 2019. Canadian Heritage is working with Indigenous partners and organizations to implement the Act and develop a new approach to investing in Indigenous languages.

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For more information (media only), please contact:

Camille Gagné-Raynauld
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Media Relations
Canadian Heritage

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