Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut June 16, 2017 - 11:45 am

Nunavut’s new languages boss vows to keep “languages alive”

Helen Klengenberg to advocate for Inuit language rights

BETH BROWN
Nunavut’s new official languages commissioner, Helen Klengenberg, starts her job defending language rights in Nunavut on June 29. She is the territory's first commissioner whose primary Inuktut dialect is Inuinnaqtun. (HANDOUT PHOTO)
Nunavut’s new official languages commissioner, Helen Klengenberg, starts her job defending language rights in Nunavut on June 29. She is the territory's first commissioner whose primary Inuktut dialect is Inuinnaqtun. (HANDOUT PHOTO)

One year and three job postings later, Nunavut has a new official languages commissioner.

Kugluktuk’s Helen Klengenberg, who is fluent in Inuinnaqtun and English and “conversant in a variety of dialects of the Inuit Language,” will move to Iqaluit to take the lead on language rights in Nunavut for the next five years, the Nunavut Legislative Assembly announced in a June 15 release.

“It’s important that we do everything in our abilities in Nunavut to keep the use of our languages alive,” Klengenberg told Nunatsiaq News, adding that she applied for the full-time paid position in May.

Klengenberg will start June 29 as Acting Languages Commissioner on the recommendation of the Management and Services Board of the legislative assembly. She will be sworn in officially during the next sitting of the legislature, which reconvenes on Sept. 12.

Klengenberg, as mandated under the Official Languages Act and the Inuit Language Protection Act, will act as an ombudsman, which means that she and her office will monitor, advise and advocate for the protection of language rights for Nunavut’s four official languages, Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun French and English.

The languages commissioner reports directly to the legislative assembly, rather than to the Government of Nunavut.

“Helen Klengenberg has extensive senior management experience in both the public and private sectors. A proven advocate for language rights, she was a member of the Task Force on Aboriginal Languages and Cultures that presented a landmark report on indigenous language revitalization to the Government of Canada,” said Speaker George Qulaut in the release.

“I am proud that she is our territory’s first languages commissioner from an Inuinnaqtun-speaking community,” he added.

The position has been vacant since June 3, 2016, when Nunavut’s last languages commissioner, Sandra Inutiq, resigned citing health reasons.

It’s not uncommon for such positions to become vacant due to retirement, resignation, death or other reason, John Quirke, clerk of the legislative assembly, told Nunatsiaq News.

While the office can operate without a commissioner, “it is desirable to fill such positions so that the office is fully functional,” Quirke said, adding that a number of candidates were interviewed for the role, but he could not say how many.
Klengenberg holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Western Ontario, a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Saint Mary’s University and a certificate in Municipal Administration from McMaster University.

Klengenberg has filled roles such as president and CEO for Akhaliak Group of Companies, vice president of Aarluk Consulting, director of human resources for Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and advisor for arts and traditional economy with the GN. She is currently working in economic development with the GN.

Her first course of action will be to get settled in the role, and “second of all is to ensure that I make myself known to businesses in our communities,” she said.  “I will be working closely with them to ensure that they are able to provide Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun services to the communities in our territory.”

You can learn more about the office of the languages commissioner here.

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(12) Comments:

#1. Posted by IceClass on June 16, 2017

The good commissioner appears to have already forgotten that her role is the protection of Nunavut citizen’s rights in ALL official languages, not just Inuktitut.

#2. Posted by Leadership on June 16, 2017

I think Helen has the capacity to do well. Congrats to you.

But most importantly is that there’s someone in that position. The Premier and his cabinet are not going to be your friends/colleagues, you have to fight them and expose them when they’re hurting our languages. That’s something the previous commissioner didn’t understand and did everyone a disservice when she left that position vacant.

#3. Posted by Save English on June 16, 2017

@3: oh yes, please remember to protect our dying English language. A friend texted me “there” instead of “their”! What is this world coming to?

(sarcasm)

#4. Posted by Nunavumiut on June 16, 2017

#1

Did you even read the article?

“Helen Klengenberg….will act as an ombudsman, which means that she and her office will monitor, advise and advocate for the protection of language rights for Nunavut’s four official languages, Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun French and English.”

IceClass appears to have just skimmed through the article.

Helen will be a terrific advocate for ALL languages.

#5. Posted by 1999 on June 16, 2017

#1 “languages commissioner” is Helen Klengengerg’s role.  French and English has been front and foremost for 17 years.  Time is to change and dig up the buried languages of Inuit to enter into the light in this year 2017.

#2 The previous languages commissioner was younger with less experience and therefore was not as learned with experience as is the new languages commissioner, Helen Klengenberg.

Trying and failing is successful than not trying at all.

#6. Posted by Gone with the wind on June 16, 2017

Well done Helen.
For many years non Inuktitut speakers in the East Kitikmeot have wanted proper Inuktitut instruction, and some have given up asking.
We hope this can be made better.

#7. Posted by Jean on June 17, 2017

I am hoping there will be improvements with this commissioner, the previous one started ok than didn’t really accomplish anything.

#8. Posted by Stand Up! on June 18, 2017

Remember Helen there is a war going on - stand up and fight those officials who gave the last Commissioner such a hard time by ignoring what she said or not responding at all.

Be prepared that they will try to undermine you so be very strong.

You do not have to be a polite bureaucrat, be strong!!!  For us!!!

#9. Posted by Talker Support on June 19, 2017

there is much discussion on the loss of language , it is evolving and grow.  Helen’s will make steps towards that with the English language too grows , gay has more meanings now.
have a nice day is a new way of greeting in Inuktitut . we are going with the times to catch up and grow.
Nunavut will be in good hands with gentle Helen to encourage to learn Inuktitut and not to discourage by order with one way of speaking.

#10. Posted by Olaf on June 19, 2017

Seems to me the last one got screwed around by the government and their officials, no listening to her at all.

Helen, you do not have to be nice to these people; you just have to insist on doing your job.

Let us know if they are giving you a hard time or are full of inaction.

#11. Posted by Evelyn Thordarson on June 19, 2017

I am thrilled that Helen was successful in her bid to be the next language commissioner she will do a great job. She is smart and dedicated and if anyone can change the scope of the language issues in Nunavut it is her and her team. Good luck, Helen you got this my girl.

#12. Posted by Santa Clausewitz on June 19, 2017

#8 The war is inside your head, no where else.

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