All Nunavut schools should offer Inuktitut — including French school: MLA
"It seems the Inuit language rights of those who attend the French school are not protected"
Nunavut MLA Pat Angnakak, from the Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu riding, told members of Nunavut’s legislature March 11 that she wants every school in Nunavut to offer Inuit language instruction — and that includes the territory’s only French-language school in Iqaluit.
Nunavut’s education act includes provisions protecting French language instruction in Nunavut, Angnakak told Education Minister Paul Quassa, during question period.
“Unfortunately in upholding these language rights, it seems the Inuit language rights of those who attend the French school are not protected — there’s no requirement for the Inuit language to be taught in the [École des Trois-Soleils],” Angnakak said.
“Can the minister clearly explain why this is the case?”
The language rights of the French minority population in Nunavut are protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Quassa said.
“In addition, as per section 158 of the [Nunavut] Education Act, these charter rights prevail over any part of the education act, in particular to language of instruction,” he said.
Angnakak said the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada showed that the erosion of Indigenous languages in school systems resulted in devastating impacts on Indigenous individual’s self-identity and well-being.
“Will the minister… ensure that Inuit language is taught in every Nunavut school without exception?” Angnakak asked Quassa.
“An education bill is being worked on after the [Education Act], and language of instruction will be one of the main topics,” Quassa said.
The Government of Nunavut began reviewing the current education act, legislated in 2008, shortly after a 2013 report from the Auditor General of Canada raised concerns about unrealistic goals set by the education department.
One of those concerns related to the department’s goal of being fully bilingual in Inuktitut and English by 2019-20, which the report said was likely impossible.
A special committee made up of MLAs reviewing the education act tabled their recommendations for the review in November 2015, after collecting input from more than 30 stakeholders.
One of the main recommendations of the committee was to develop a single-instruction education model for Nunavut schools.
The committee’s report also suggested Inuit-language instruction should take a backseat to delivering quality education.
That suggestion sparked a reaction from Nunavut’s language commissioner, Sandra Inutiq, who said the committee’s report contained “quite troubling” statements.
Minister Quassa responded to the commissioner by saying the Inuit Language Protection Act, which Inutiq is responsible for implementing, will always be respected.
“Our schools will always be bilingual,” Quassa told Nunatsiaq News in November 2015.
March 11 in the legislature Quassa told MLA Angnakak that his department has been working with the French school board since the implementation of the 2008 education act towards increasing Inuktitut in the French-language school.
“My department has been working with [the school board] to provide 0.5 [person years] to allow for Inuit instruction,” Quassa said.
“I’d like to add that I’ve talked to the school board chair on this issue… and I’m looking forward to working together more on this issue.”