Nunavut tables plan for implementing language laws
“It is the responsibility of every community, organization and individual in Nunavut to keep our languages alive”
With the tabling of the Uqausivut Plan in the legislative assembly Oct. 30, the Government of Nunavut has spelled out how it plans to protect Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun and Canada’s two official languages, English and French.
The plan’s aim: to put English, French, Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun on an equal playing field in Nunavut.
“It is the responsibility of every community, organization and individual in Nunavut to keep our languages alive,” said Nunavut’s language and culture minister James Arreak said in an Oct. 30 news release.
“The passage of our language legislation marked the first step in a journey just as bold and ambitious as the creation of Nunavut — the challenge of enshrining and protecting the languages at the very heart of our culture and society. The Uqausivut Plan is the next step in that journey.”
The plan will “guide the implementation of Nunavut’s language legislation,” Arreak said.
In 2011, Arreak first tabled the first draft of the Uqausivut Plan, and then invited Nunavummiut to review and comment on its contents.
After a year of consultations, 35 comments were submitted, resulting in the Uqausivut Plan’s series of “implementation priorities” from 2012 to 2016 for the government’s Official Languages Act, which deals with the use of Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun, French and English, and its Inuit Language Protection Act to promote and preserve Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun in the territory.
These, outlined in the 27-page plan, will affect government offices, businesses and municipalities.
The Uqausivut Plan says, among other things, that there needs to be greater focus on language revitalization, particularity in the Kitikmeot region where current language loss is a pressing issue.”
However, revitalization of Inuinnaqtun could take “between 20 to 40 years if concerted action is taken immediately,” the Uqausivut Plan says.
The plan says “private sector organizations are generally supportive in promoting [Inuit languages] to their customers.”
But the plan says businesses want “enhanced collaboration” with the GN, with clear directives and support programs for meeting new language requirements.
So, the Department of Economic Development and Transportation will assist businesses, it says.
And a new implementation fund will “assist departments and public agencies in meeting language obligations,” although provisions of the Inuit Language Protection Act will come into force over the next three years to help these businesses adjust.
The plan also calls for the creation of a special “Promotional Fund” to advance the Official Languages Act. Money from the fund will come from fines and penalties for violators of the two acts, donations, and other payments.
The plan notes Francophones are also welcoming the implementation of the Official Languages Act “without further delay” because the act will “seek improved French delivery of government services.”
A recent Statistics Canada report found about 21,000 people speak Inuktitut in Nunavut, the most used mother tongue language among Inuit languages.
A 2011 Statistics Canada data shows that in Iqaluit 845 residents speak French and English, with 320 speaking French as their mother tongue.
Across Nunavut, 1,205 people speak French and English, with 455 speaking French as their mother tongue.
The GN plans to lobby Ottawa to renew a Nunavut-specific language funding agreement between Canada and Nunavut for the continued protection and promotion of French and Inuit languages in the territory.
Under the Official Languages Act, passed by the Nunavut legislature in 2008 to address the use of Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun, English and French in the assembly, Nunavut’s court and other government services, the Uqausivut Plan wants to see:
• more translation services, including French language translations of all acts and regulations;
• more legal translation and terminology development capacity in Inuktitut;
• more translation of materials in Inuinnaqtun; and
• more choice of language services when calling head or central service offices.
Under the Inuit Language Protection Act, also approved in 2008, which guarantees the right to Inuit language education, defines specific obligations for public services, private businesses and protects unilingual and bilingual employees of the territorial government who choose to work in Inuktitut, the Uqausivut Plan wants to see:
• more use of Inuit languages on public signs, posters and any commercial advertising;
• reception and customer services available to the general public in Inuit languages;
• proper government use of Inuit languages on signs and documents;
• a Language Award Program to promote achievements by organizations;
• more support for signage in Inuit languages;
• one-time support to municipalities for updating road and building signage;
• language training programs for municipal employees;
• improved access to emergency, search and rescue and dispatch services in the Inuit languages;
• improved training for nurses and medical interpreters and support for medical terminology development;
• encouragement to Crown corporations like Qulliq Energy to supply monthly power bills, notices, warnings and instructions in the language of their customers’ choice; and,
• development of resources so the District Education Authorities can promote Inuit languages in early childhood programs.
Monica Ell, Nunavut’s minister of Human Resources, also said Oct. 30 Inuit language training will be offered in all three regions across Nunavut in 2012-13.
“Our language training will include both Inuktitut as a first language and Inuktitut as a second language and Inuinnaqtun language training,” she said.