Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut March 20, 2017 - 2:30 pm

GN committed to bilingual education: Nunavut minister

Minister defends Bill 37, says it provides for “realistic assessment” of Nunavut's capacity to teach in Inuktut

Nunavut’s Education minister Paul Quassa speaks to reporters at the Legislative Assembly March 7 after introducing Bill 37, a series of amendments to the Education Act. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)
Nunavut’s Education minister Paul Quassa speaks to reporters at the Legislative Assembly March 7 after introducing Bill 37, a series of amendments to the Education Act. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)

Nunavut’s education minister, Paul Quassa, responded March 17 to criticism of the government’s newly-tabled Education Act amendments reiterating the government’s commitment to a fully bilingual education system.

Bill 37, tabled March 7 in the legislative assembly, introduced a number of changes to the territory’s Education Act—among them, slowing plans to roll out the use of Inuktut as a language of instruction from Kindergarten to Grade 12, which the 2008 version of the act said should be done by 2020.

The act proposes completing the implementation of Inuktut as a language of instruction from Grade 4 to Grade 9 by 2029, and introduce Inuktut as the language of instruction for Grade 10 to Grade 12 after the minister is able to certify that Nunavut’s teaching capacity is able to allow it.

The department has admitted it cannot meet the earlier goal due to a shortage of teachers who can teach in the Inuit language.

The proposal has drawn criticism from Inuit groups and Inuktut language advocates, who say the new act strips away the language rights of Inuktut-speakers in Nunavut, in a territory where the language is already vulnerable.

“The Department of Education takes its obligations to revitalize and teach Inuit language very seriously,” Quassa said in the March 17 statement.

“The department has consistently communicated its concerns with its current lack of capacity to support Inuktut as a language of instruction,” he said.

“This is the very reason that the proposed amendments to the Education Act allow for a realistic assessment of current instructional capacity, as well as the re-direction of resources to have the most impact in supporting high quality Inuktut language instruction.”

In an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna, a group of 16 academics suggest the proposed amendments are a breach of international human rights, given the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is supposed to guarantee Indigenous people a right to education in their own language.

But Quassa said the Government of Nunavut is supportive of the UNDRIP.

Quassa also welcomed input on how to improve the territory’s education system; Bill 37 is now before the standing committee on legislation, he said, where it will undergo legislative review.

“The Government of Nunavut is committed to a fully bilingual education system,” Quassa said, “and I am confident we will create a solid, long-term framework to increase and improve Inuktut for generations to come.”

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(27) Comments:

#1. Posted by That Guy on March 20, 2017

So does that mean that each schools will get books written in their own dialects? there is no standard Inuktitut from what I understand and I doubt that any will come anytime soon. there will be people from other communities that will argue how what is said or spelled, essentially killing the language.

I am an Inuk and born and raised here in Nunavut, and I am bilingual to some extent. I am certain that the Inuktitut language will meet the same fate as the Latin language. It will still be used but it will not as a primary like the government expects. There are no qualified teachers that speak Inuktitut and teach in subjects like science, math, drama, health, social studies, computer class, etc.

The language is dying and we are wasting money on it. If we were to make it mandatory that everyone who goes to any of the schools in Nunavut to have a mandatory Inuktitut speaking classes without them knowing the language, then you are robbing the future of that child’s full potential.

#2. Posted by accept on March 20, 2017

#1 is right. Unless there is a standard form of Inuktitut, it will die. Learn from Greenland. Their language is thriving. It isn’t too late.

#3. Posted by Bbff on March 20, 2017

We need to give parents choice in this matter has anyone even asked parents how they want their children educated. Let’s face it we must do both well Inuktitut and English instruction this would require an organized plan by government. Stop fighting over the politics of language and start focusing in good teaching and good schools. With a 60 percent drop out rate in our town the parents have spoken they don’t trust his system so stop fighting over the politics of this and work towards fixing it!!!

Both languages are important!!! Start there!!!

#4. Posted by Utopia Now! on March 20, 2017

Unacceptable! I demand that teachers be produced by fiat and that they immediately deliver on our UNDRIP obligations. 

Also, we need to increase steel production. I suggest a big smelting operation out on West 40, we’ll start with the loaders, old sealift containers, water trucks and work our way down to snowmobiles and ATVs.

#5. Posted by Pete on March 20, 2017

Most of us know the GN is not committed with Inuktitut, the last 9 years is a fine example of that when the department of education did little or nothing with the education act and the last decade the heads of the department have not accomplished anything but water down the education system.
Nothing but hot air coming out of this Minister who listens to his DM when she says jump he jumps.
We need real leadership not puppets.

#6. Posted by Knockout Ned on March 20, 2017

Just like last election was about Education, I hope this next one is about Inuktitut.

We’re at a turning point. We can either come together to build an Inuktitut foundation for the future, or we can continue to bicker about which word in which dialect is better.

I want to see a fully standardized Inuktitut by the end of the next government, along with comprehensive plans to roll out the language in school curricula, in literature, and in lessons available to all. No more waiting 4 months to see if you made the list to learn Inuktitut at Pirurvik.

Eye on the ball folks.

#7. Posted by John Doe on March 20, 2017

Greenland is slightly ahead of Nunavut but it’s not when it comes to graduation rates and University. They have a University but with few degrees due to the lack of Greenlandic curriculum. They too are struggling to develop resources and teachers to teach in the Inuit language. The stats show most students that graduate is because they learn the Danish language, which is still the predominant language of instruction. Greenland has a Language Council that is responsible for building curriculum and further developing the Greenlandic vocabulary so that one day it can meet the goals of their Language Integration Act. Should the Nunavut Education Act have a mandate to standardize Inuktut and produce curriculum resources so that one day Inuktut can be the language of instruction? Yes, in the meantime, today, students need… deserve… an education. They should be given every opportunity to get that education in whatever language will allow them to succeed… for today.

#8. Posted by Moving forward on March 20, 2017

@1, you are right.  @#2, it’s almost too late.  It’s too late for those kids going through the system now.  They will not graduate bilingual.  Right now, those who are in dual model education are struggling to catch up in grade 4 an 5.  @#3, while I admire giving parents choice…many don’t seem to understand the education system enough to make good decisions for their children.  It’s not about not having good teaching, it’s conflict among the language that is holding the language back..lack of people educated to teach the language at the higher grades (and lack of resources to support those courses in Inuktitut).  @#5, the GN can only be as committed as the population. If there are no individuals willing to teach at the high school level, how is the GN responsible?!
It is not too late for the language to thrive… but it has to come from tthe homes first… schools can’t be expected to do it all… furthermore, people have to get over petty dialectal differences.  They hurt progr

#9. Posted by change on March 20, 2017

change has to start with dual model…change has to include parents (and not just the ones who are educated with how the school system works…but those who do not).  Change needs to include all parties - parents, teachers, students, policy makers, IDEA, and community.  Let’s start with standardizing the language so that teachers can teach without worrying they will offend someone (or a dialect).  Let’s get rid of dual model and:
1. give Inuktut it’s own school
2. co-teach english and inuktut from preschool…

current models are leaving kids behind when they reach grades 6-7 and it’s nobody’s fault but the system.

#10. Posted by Student on March 20, 2017

I don’t think Greenland is slightly ahead, I think they are ahead by a lot! Inuktitut curriculum in place for their schools, University in Greenland and a much higher graduation rate than Nunavut, their language is used everywhere even within their government, schools and the general public. On FB, emails, reports, bank statements, income tax forms, ATMs and so on.
So slightly is a little misleading, it’s more like a lot.

#11. Posted by Navigator on March 20, 2017

@6 Knockout Ned. I couldn’t agree more! Let’s pull this together. I think we are all so upset because sense that it’s getting close to now or never.  So, let’s take a deep breath, look at the options, and make a plan. It isn’t too late, but we could easily spend the next two governments having the same arguments ... and then it will be too late. The problem is bigger than Education. We need a more aggressive Uqausivut backed by money and political will to implement.

#12. Posted by strong Inuit on March 20, 2017

French dialect around Québec is different as different dialect around Scotland, USA, and many languages in countries.  One language of Inuktitut and different dialects in Nunavut is workable.

#13. Posted by Accept on March 21, 2017

#12, yes there are different dialects in those countries and languages. That’s even technically true of English in Canada. But when being instructed in those languages and working in those languages, one standard has been set. They don’t have curriculums and government forms, etc. in each dialects. They may use those dialects at home, but they work and do business and learn, for the most part, in the standardized form of those languages. If they pridefully refuse, they won’t get far. If someone bites the bullet and insists on choosing a standard for Inuktitut, they won’t be popular, but they just might save the language. I doubt Inuit in Greenland were thrilled when the government did that with their language, but it was necessary and the language is alive and thriving.

#14. Posted by really on March 21, 2017

when Quassa says:

“and I am confident we will create a solid, long-term framework to increase and improve Inuktut for generations to come.”

you know he is a politician only concerned with his own future.  this is sad for the future of Inuktitut.

#15. Posted by Utopia Now! on March 21, 2017

@#14 You are correct! He needs to be much more ambitious! Reality is just a speed bump on our societal moon-shot.

Instead of a solid, long-term framework to increase and improve Inuktut for generations to come, what we need is a flimsy, short-term manifesto packed with righteous indignation to whip up outrage straight through to the election!

@#13 I’m chuckling thinking about a physics textbook written in Newfinese. Hehe, I would read that!

#16. Posted by In a reality world on March 21, 2017

#14 Your comment is too cynical. I think Mr. Quassa cares very much about the future of Inuktitut.

#17. Posted by Québécois on March 21, 2017

#16 it sure doesn’t show with the actions or lack there of from him and his department.

#18. Posted by Accepted on March 21, 2017

I agree with you #13, we need a standard for Inuktitut! It interesting to note that in Greenland they are using the Nuuk dialect for schools Government and anything official. They have not lost their local dialect because of this in fact their language is used everyday and everywhere.
Right now we are using English and loosing our language day by day, 50 years from now it will be pretty much gone the way we are going.
Time to standardize Inuktitut and create more resources and materials to teach in Inuktitut.

#19. Posted by Language Specialist on March 22, 2017

Wake up Quassa, the bill will kill what little Inuktitut there is in the schools!
Ilinniaqtittijiunnginavit a’jamut ministangulaurituq, ilinniaqtulirinirmit qaujimattiaqtumik ministataarajaraluarapta!

#20. Posted by Think of the kids on March 22, 2017

How do you expect to teach advanced subjects like calculus, physics, computer programming, etc. in Inuktitut when the vocabulary for it doesn’t even exist in the language?

While opponents of this bill are bickering about language of instruction, grade 12 students who want to go to university are being taught their physics and calculus classes by teachers who have no qualifications. Instead, they got the job because of priority hiring and this focus on language of instruction above all else.

#21. Posted by Teacher on March 22, 2017

#20 currently the Inuktitut stream from K to grade 3 does not have a curriculum or very much materials to teach with, let’s focus on that where the department of education is failing horribly and improve that first, than we can move up in the higher grade.

Improve NTEP with the necessary resources and support to help increase the Nunavut teacher that are needed.
This is very much possible, most subjects can be taught in Inuktitut very effectively, works in other places.

Instead of your negative views which do very little in improving the education system why not look at why the department of education is not up for the tasks and start making changes there. That would really be thinking of the kids here in Nunavut. The current watered down system doesn’t work.

#22. Posted by Inuk on March 22, 2017

My philosophy is, if you are firm in your first language, it is easier to pick up a second language. Inuktitut is our mother tongue, invest in it and the children will have an easier time learning in English as they will be able to think bilingually. Stop being so negative and start being proactive and help make necessary changes to give the children of Nunavut the best chance of survival! Your continued negativity and criticism will not do anything.

#23. Posted by Accept on March 22, 2017

#22, criticism alone will not do anything, but neither will platitudes like “be positive”, “be proactive”. It’s hard for people to be firm in their first language when there is no standard set. What we have is lots and lots of people who cannot properly speak or read Inuktitut because they are not being instructed in it, and they can’t be instructed if there is not curriculum, and there can’t be a curriculum that can be used all over Nunavut if there is not a standardized form of the language. Someone in charge has to make the unpopular, difficult decision to do that.

#24. Posted by unity on March 24, 2017

#23 stop the grandstanding for one minute.

#22 comment “Stop being so negative and start being proactive and help make necessary changes to give the children of Nunavut the best chance of survival!”

No where is there a feel good be positive.  Be proactive and that is exactly what you are standing on.

#25. Posted by Accept on March 24, 2017

#24, I am not grandstanding. Saying “be proactive” “make necessary changes” is not a solution. Be proactive how? What are the necessary changes? How does one be proactive when there is no direction? Platitudes feel good, but it’s no way to make changes. Sorry if actual suggestions bother you. The language won’t be saved by warm fuzzy suggestions.

#26. Posted by unity on March 24, 2017

#25 You are creating a direction to follow and believe strongly to find a way.  “Time to standardize Inuktitut and create more resources and materials to teach in Inuktitut.”  This is proactive.

“Someone in charge has to make the unpopular, difficult decision to do that.”  This is unavoidable which is necessary for change.

#22 has experience and knowledge from the words written.  Maybe an Elder, a hunter, a survivor who has learned from the past 60 years, a listener.

Courage, strength, humility will be the people who bring Inuktitut back to life in Nunavut.

You may know more than you think you know.  Lead.

#27. Posted by Inuk on March 24, 2017

Be positive - start looking at the strategies that work to improve Inuktitut. We are losing our language? Yes, but it doesn’t mean we need to kick and pout and try to find someone to blame.
Be proactive - Don’t like the decisions that are made? Instead of bad mouthing and debating, submit your suggestions on how to do it a different way to your MLAs, make them known to the people who can make necessary changes to the education system. Be a part of the solution, help create and promote a system that will work for the children.
Tukihinnaqpaa? Naammangittumiluugva titiraqtunga?

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