Nunavut Protection Law
debaron at uiuc.edu
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
"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
"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
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
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 www.qia.ca, and click on the link marked "Documents."
For copies of the GN's two language bills, go to: www.assembly.nu.ca/
Professor of English and Linguistics
Department of English
University of Illinois
608 S. Wright St.
Urbana, IL 61801
read the Web of Language:
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