Nunavut Protection Law

Dennis Baron debaron at
Sat Jun 30 17:31:29 UTC 2007


June 29, 2007

QIA wants language laws dumped, re-written

“This is hardly the way to go about making the Inuit language the  
official language of Nunavut.”


The Qikiqtani Inuit Associ ation says the Government of Nunavut must  
bring in new laws that would give the Inuit language the same status  
within Nunavut that the French language enjoys in Quebec, under that  
province's famous "Bill 101" language law.

To that the end, QIA is calling on the the GN to withdraw its  
recently tabled language bills and completely rewrite them.

That's because QIA believes the two proposed laws will weaken, not  
strengthen, Inuit language rights.

"It is hard to imagine how legislation that is supposed to protect  
and promote the Inuit language could be turned into something that  
will diminish and extinguish it. But that is what the GN seems to be  
proposing," the QIA's president, Thomasie Alikatuktuk, said in a  
letter to Louis Tapardjuk, Nunavut's language minister.

And QIA asserts that Section 35 of the constitution, which protects  
and affirms existing aboriginal and treaty rights, gives the GN power  
to enact language laws that give Inuktitut precedence over English  
and French.

"We believe that ‘existing aboriginal rights' include Inuit language  
rights," Alikatuktuk said in his letter.

The QIA says that Nunavut Inuit had "high hopes" that the GN would  
bring in a Nunavut version of Quebec's Bill 101, also known as the  
Charter of the French Language, which makes French the only official  
language of the province.

So QIA is not happy with the GN's proposed new Official Languages  
Act, because it gives equal status to English and French and the  
Inuit language.

"Since English and French are already well-protected by the Canadian  
Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we see no reason why they are given  
so much attention in a bill that is supposed to be all about Inuit  
language rights," QIA says.

What's worse, QIA says, the official languages bill and the Inuit  
language protection bill actually weaken the constitutional status of  
the Inuit language - because the GN says the official languages bill  
has only "quasi-constitutional status."

"Such a backward move could very well make the official languages  
bill itself unconstitutional," the QIA says.

They also don't like words in the Official Languages Act stating that  
acts passed by the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut shall be published  
in English and French, and that only the English and French versions  
are legally authoritative.

"In other words, in the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut, where the  
language of the majority of members is the Inuit language, the bills  
passed into law by those members do not have to be in the Inuit  
language," QIA says in their letter to Tapardjuk.

This means that even the new Official Languages Act and the new Inuit  
Language Protection Act would, if passed, be authoritative in their  
English and French versions only.

"This is hardly the way to go about making the Inuit language the  
official language of Nunavut," QIA says.

QIA says that other legal areas that get short shrift in the official  
languages act include documents such as search warrants, arrest  
warrants, and interim custody orders in child apprehension proceedings.

"These are examples of court decisions that affect fundamental rights  
of Inuit, but which are not covered by the official languages bill,"  
the QIA says.

As for the Inuit language protection bill, the QIA says that the  
proposed law gives second-class status to the Inuit language, and  
clears the way for English and French to be the primary languages of  
instruction in Nunavut.

And QIA says the protection act "completely fails" to protect Inuit  
education rights.

Right now, the bill says that every parent with a child in school has  
a right to have that child receive instruction in the Inuit language.

But QIA wants the law to state that every parent has the right to  
have the entire education program delivered to their child in the  
Inuit language.

So for all those reasons, QIA wants the GN to withdraw its two  
language bills so they can be completely rewritten.

The two bills - Bill 6 for the Official Languages Act and Bill 7 for  
the Inuit Languages Protection Act - received first and second  
reading on June 5 and June 6.

The house then referred the bills to the legislative assembly's  
Ajauqtiit standing committee, which will review the bills before  
third reading, which will likely occur during the session that's  
scheduled to start Oct. 23.

It's not clear if MLAs on the Ajauqtiit committee will hold public  
hearings as part of their review work.

Two other key organizations are less than happy with the two language  

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. says the bills are "a good start" but should  
do more to protect Inuit language rights, especially in education,  
where they say most of the education program should be delivered in  
Inuktitut as soon as possible.

The Association des francophones du Nunavut and the Commission  
scolaire francophone de Nunavut say that the bills provide weak  
protection for linguistic rights, because they force individuals to  
go to court to seek redress.

You may download the full text of Thomasie Alikatuktuk's letter by  
going to, and click on the link marked "Documents."

For copies of the GN's two language bills, go to: 

Dennis Baron
Professor of English and Linguistics
Department of English
University of Illinois
608 S. Wright St.
Urbana, IL 61801

office: 217-244-0568
fax: 217-333-4321

read the Web of Language:

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