Official versus Endangered Languages of Canada

Chris Harvey (Languagegeek) lg at
Mon Jan 29 15:15:42 UTC 2007

Ysgrifennodd Fernand De Varennes – Sat, 27 Jan 2007 08:51:52 +0900
> Secondly, there is no need to present the situation of indigenous 
> languages in the Northwest Territories as one opposing them to French 
> as an official language. As readers in the US should know from some 
> of the fallacies put forward by the English-only movement, nothing 
> prevents a government from having a "Official Language Plus" approach 
> to language diversity. 

For those outside Canada, perhaps some clarification is in order. 

• Federally (in Canada as a whole) there are two official languages: 
French and English. All federal programmes and departments must provide 
bilingual services across the country.

• Individual provinces or territories may pick which (or both) of these 
languages is official for provincial/territorial programmes and 

In the NWT, there are territorially 11 official languages: Gwich’in, 
North Slavey, South Slavey, Inuvialuktun, Inuinnaqtun, Inuktitut, 
Tlicho, Denesuline, Cree, French, and English. Services in any of these 
languages is provides where there is significant demand for it – I 
would strongly doubt that Gwich’in services are available in a Cree 
community (and vice versa). Thus French services are not available in a 
community with few French speakers. The argument that money is being 
wasted finding French speakers to fill jobs in Native language 
communities is not reasonable. 

The question here is not about removing French’s federal status in the 
NWT, but its territorial status. If there aren’t enough French 
speakers in the NWT to justify it being territorially official, then 
should it be so? French isn’t provincially official in Prince Edward 
Island, nor is English provincially official in Quebec. Neither province
’s decision affects a federally bilingual Canada. In my opinion, each 
of the nine Native languages should definitively be official (every 
people’s language should be official in their own land). As far as 
imported languages like English or French? I think the status of French 
or English should rest on its practicality and history in the region.

Chris Harvey
Cenedl heb iaith – cenedl heb galon
ᑭᑕᐢᑭᓇᐤ ᑳᓀᓱᐏᑌᐦᐃᓇᑿᐣ, ᑮᐢᐱᐣ ᐃᔨᐣᑐ ᐱᑭᐢᑵᐏᐣ ᐘᓂᑎᔭᐦᑭ
(A nation without its language – a nation without its heart)
Welsh Proverb

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