Funding for public services in Inuktitut

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed Feb 2 16:53:13 UTC 2005

January 28, 2005, Nunatsiaq News:

GN prepares to fight for federal Inuktitut funding

If were going to meet our legal obligations, were going to need more money
from the feds


Its been five years since the creation of the territory that was supposed
to bring government closer to the Inuit of the Eastern Arctic, but many
people still do not have access to government services in their mother
tongue.  The Government of Nunavut is preparing a battle plan for new
negotiations with the federal government to get funding for public
services in Inuktitut.

For the past five years, the Department of Canadian Heritage has provided
$1.45 million annually for French language services, and just $1.1 million
a year for Inuktitut. The $1.45 million is used to provide access to
government services in French, as required by law. But Inuktitut speakers
might be better off learning English or French if they want to deal with
the federal or territorial government, because the current agreement says
that all of the $1.1 million for Inuktitut must be distributed to
community-based language projects.

That leaves the Government of Nunavut with no federal resources to provide
services in Inuktitut. We think community-based initiatives are really
great, and it helps to enhance the language in the communities, said
Stphane Cloutier, acting co-director of official languages for CLEY. It
helps people to do their own activities, but it doesnt help the GN we
cannot access that money and deliver public services.

The Canada-Nunavut Cooperation Agreement for French and Inuit Languages in
Nunavut expired in 2004. Nunavut is now receiving funding through a
one-year interim agreement.

CLEY is using the interval to prepare an evaluation of the current deal to
use as ammunition in new negotiations.

The evaluation, conducted by Aarluk Consulting in Iqaluit, got underway
last fall with a review of Inuktitut language legislation.

Aarluk also interviewed several Nunavummiut, and territorial and federal
officials. They held a workshop with Inuktitut language experts and
artists in Iqaluit last November to review the findings.

Negotiations with Canadian Heritage will begin when a full report on the
evaluation is completed in mid-February.

Cloutier expects to face an uphill battle.

Right now, Canadian Heritage offers Inuit language funding through its
Aboriginal Affairs program.

CLEY would like to see Inuktitut recognized as an official language at the
federal level, with funding to help promote Inuktitut as a living, working
language in Nunavut.

This issue cannot be resolved at the bureaucracy level, he said. This has
to come from a political level, where someone will take a stand and say,
Inuktitut is an official language in Canada, and as such, we should have
special funding for that.

In its 2004-2007 action plan on Inuktitut, CLEY calculated that the annual
cost of providing Inuktitut services is close to $5 million.

According to the document, the GN spends $1,677,000 annually to translate
government legislation and documents; $1,462,000 to produce educational
materials and school curricula in Inuktitut; $200,000 to teach government
workers Inuktitut as a second language; and $149,000 to develop new
Inuktitut terminology.

That $3.5 million total does not include other costs, such as:
interpreting equipment in the Legislative Assembly; translating debates in
the Legislative Assembly; interpreting services in the justice system;
salaries for teachers who teach in Inuktitut; consultants who do job
interviews in Inuktitut; medical interpreters salaries; or other staff
hired to deliver public services in Inuktitut.

The fact is... Nunavut is the only place in Canada where the majority
doesnt have English or French as their mother tongue  its Inuktitut,
Cloutier said.

Theres lots of education to do with the feds and especially with the
language policy folks to make them understand that when Canada created
Nunavut, they also created a place where they have to meet the needs of
people who speak Inuktitut.

Eighty-five per cent of people in Nunavut speak Inuktitut or Innuinaqtun
as a first language, according to the 2001 Aboriginal Household Survey.

That provides an excellent foundation for the GNs goal of having a fully
bilingual society, and a government where the working language is
Inuktitut, by the year 2020.

But the survey also found that 42 per cent of Inuit had difficulty
receiving services in Inuktitut from the federal government, and 29 per
cent had trouble getting Inuktitut services from the GN.

According to Cloutier, a new language agreement must also include more
funding for French as demand increases.

We have a legal obligation to offer all of these services in three
languages, Cloutier said. If were going to meet our legal obligations,
were going to need more money from the feds.

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