[lg policy] Trudeau government preparing for long-awaited Indigenous Languages Act

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Fri May 11 11:44:56 EDT 2018

 Trudeau government preparing for long-awaited Indigenous Languages Act

Investigates <http://aptnnews.ca/category/investigates/>, National News
<http://aptnnews.ca/category/national-news/> | May 10, 2018 by Investigates
<http://aptnnews.ca/author/investigates/> | 1 Comment


*Martha Troian*
* APTN Investigates*
The federal government is finally getting ready to live up to one of its
promises made to Indigenous people on the campaign trail.

Canadian Heritage will spend up to $100,000 for the next 10 months to hire
a supplier to assist and provide policy advice in the development and
drafting legislation to promote, preserve and revitalize Indigenous

To date, the government has the intention of awarding this Advance Contract
Award Notice to a former General Counsel with the Department of Justice, if
no other suppliers step forward. J. Paul Salembier’s name is on the tender

During his 2015 campaign, then-Liberal leader Justin Trudeau pledged
substantial new funding to communities to support Indigenous languages and

As prime minister in Dec. 2016, Trudeau announced the government would work
with national Indigenous political organizations to develop legislation to
create an Indigenous languages Act.

*Read: *Trudeau doubles-down on promises made to First Nations, pledges new
Indigenous languages law

In June 2017, Canadian Heritage, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), Inuit
Tapiriit Kanatami and the Metis Nation launched the co-development of
Indigenous languages legislation. Since the announcement, engagement
sessions were held with the department, national Indigenous organizations,
Indigenous experts and with language keepers.

In Dec. 2017, the AFN passed a resolution named the Support for Continued
Co-Development Work on the Indigenous Languages Act calling on the federal
government to officially recognize Indigenous languages like the English
and French languages. Since the 1980s, AFN has passed close to 20
resolutions dealing with language preservation.

According to the latest census, there are 70 Indigenous languages in Canada
with 260,000 language speakers. Several of these Indigenous languages are
considered endangered.

*‘The masters of the long promise’*

Quebec NDP MP Romeo Saganash hopes the government will make Indigenous
languages official and that it’s not just mere window dressing.
[image: NDP MP Romeo Saganash]

NDP MP Romeo Saganash

“I think time is running out for them, like other promises that they’ve
made,” Saganash said about Trudeau’s campaign promises.

“It’s a lot of talk and no action for most of the files…I call them ‘the
masters of the long promise’ because that’s what it looks like to me.”

Saganash said he was not advised of the contract coming out of Canadian
Heritage despite being an Indigenous speaker himself in the House of

Earlier this year Saganash spoke his Cree language during a Procedure and
House Affairs Committee proceeding, which required the MP to first receive
permission from the House of Commons. The committee is looking into how
Indigenous languages can be heard and understood in Parliament.

*Read: *Committee considers Indigenous languages use on Parliament Hill

*Punished for speaking the language*

Indigenous leaders say the perilous state of Indigenous languages has its
roots in government policy and the residential schools system.

More than 150,000 children entered these church-run, government-funded
residential schools, many of them were regularly punished if they were
caught speaking or practicing their language and culture.

In June 2008, then Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized to survivors,
acknowledging the profoundly negative and damaging impacts of residential
schools on people, language and culture.

The final report of the Truth and Reconciliation and its Calls to Action,
released in Dec. 2015, urges all levels of government to create change as a
means to correct past wrongdoings and includes specific calls relating to

Susan Blight, a member of the Couchiching First Nation in northwestern
Ontario and an Ojibwe language learner is concerned this process will
become bureaucratic and less about the people themselves.
[image: Susan Blight is a member of the Couchiching First Nation in
northwestern Ontario and an Ojibwe language learner.]

Susan Blight is a member of the Couchiching First Nation in northwestern
Ontario and an Ojibwe language learner.

“It needs to be designed by our people, by individual nations for
individual nations,” says Blight about the proposed legislation.

A media spokesperson with Canadian Heritage said currently the department
along with several national Indigenous organizations are “developing common
and distinction-based legislative elements” that will form the department’s
community-based engagement process.

This process will commence late spring to the end of summer.

The government intends to table the legislation in Parliament before the
end of the current mandate.

When asked if the government intends to make Indigenous languages official
in Canada, the spokesperson did not directly answer.

The contract for this bid will run 10 months from the time awarded to March
31, 2019. So far the department has not received any formal expressions of
interest in the contract.

Bidding for the contract closes on May 15


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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