Inuit, First Nations and Métis organizations are taking the next step toward protecting Indigenous languages in Canada, as they work alongside the federal government to develop a nationwide language law.
For Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), this legislation will stem the loss of traditional knowledge in Canada’s Inuit communities.
“I know what it’s like to have the hole, to want to be able to converse and to be a part of the society in all aspects, but can’t because of that limitation,” said Obed, who does not speak his Inuit language fluently.
“There are many Inuit that feel similar to me,” Obed said. “It’s our right; this is the way that we present to the world. This is the way we transmit our knowledge.”
Obed will work with the federal government to develop a new bill on behalf of the ITK, and alongside the Assembly of First Nations and the Métis Nation. The partnership was announced last week in Ottawa with the leaders of the organizations and the minister of Canadian Heritage, Mélanie Joly.
The heritage minister will work directly with each of the organizations representing First Nations, Métis and Inuit.
“The Inuit reality is very different from First Nations and Métis,” Obed said. “We don’t want legislation that is pan-Indigenous.”
Canada doesn’t have a federal Indigenous languages act, and this would be the first step toward creating measures for their protection and promotion. The development of a languages law was initially announced in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s 2015 mandate letter to the heritage minister.
The expected law will also support the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
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