Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut March 17, 2017 - 7:00 am

Ottawa should recognize Anglophones as linguistic minority in Nunavut: language expert

Shift could trigger federal funding, free up more money for Inuktut-language education

John Arnalukjuak School in Arviat. Like nearly all schools in Nunavut, its student body is overwhelmingly Inuit. To free up more money to pay for Inuit-language education, a Toronto professor suggests declaring Anglophone students a minority to gain access to federal government minority language education funds. (FILE PHOTO)
John Arnalukjuak School in Arviat. Like nearly all schools in Nunavut, its student body is overwhelmingly Inuit. To free up more money to pay for Inuit-language education, a Toronto professor suggests declaring Anglophone students a minority to gain access to federal government minority language education funds. (FILE PHOTO)

English-speakers in Nunavut don’t likely consider themselves a minority, but a language researcher suggests perhaps they should, for the sake of strengthening Inuktut.

Ian Martin, an assistant professor of English at York University, released a paper last week warning of the steady decline of Inuktut in Nunavut and placing at least some of the blame on the territory’s education department.

With no more Inuktut taught in Nunavut’s schools now than when the territory was first created in 1999, Martin said education officials are creating an English-language bureaucracy by continuing to hire teachers and administrators from outside Nunavut.

Among the seven recommendations he makes, which include a well-funded Inuit employment plan for educators, Martin argues that Ottawa should recognize English-speakers in Nunavut as a minority language group, eligible for federal funding.

Nunavut is unique in Canada as the only jurisdiction home to two official language minorities, English and French, both of whom ought to be eligible for minority language support, Martin said

“Canada should identify and separate funding for schooling for the Anglophone [English-speaking] minority population in Nunavut, as it does for Francophones [French-speaking],” Martin said.

“This would allow for the bulk of the territory’s education funding to be devoted to Inuit language schooling.”

It’s not clear exactly what this could mean for Inuktut-language funding.

Nunavut’s Francophone community already benefits from official language minority education, with the creation of its own school board, Commission Scolaire Francophone du Nunavut, which runs Iqaluit’s École des Trois-Soleils.

French-language schooling is funded in part by the Government of Nunavut—based on a funding formula applied to all of Nunavut’s schools—as well as through Heritage Canada at a rate of $1,422,631 per year under the current agreement.

But École Trois-Soleils’ student population sits at roughly 100. Compare that to the territory’s overall student population of 10,039, 93.5 per cent of whom are Inuit.

Across the territory, 2011 census data shows that 28.6 per cent of Nunavummiut identify English as their mother tongue, compared to 70 per cent whose mother tongue is non-official (Inuktut) and just 1.4 per cent who identify French as their first language.

Those statistics aren’t quite reflected in the classroom, when you consider that only 11 of Nunavut’s 27 elementary schools offer Inuktut as a language of instruction up to Grade 3.

With English so widespread at home and throughout the education system, Martin said there doesn’t appear to be an appetite for English-speakers to define themselves as a minority.

“It goes to show that the system is already supporting them,” he said. “They certainly don’t feel like they’re under some kind of oppression.”

Martin goes farther, suggesting that the federal government support Inuktut as an official language of the territory.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report noted that Canada spends about $14 million each year for the preservation and revitalization of the country’s 90 Indigenous languages, compared to the $350 million earmarked for official minority language communities.

“They wanted really strong Inuktut”

During the 17 years Martin has studied language development in Nunavut, he said he’s seen a “complete dropping of the ball” on the part of education officials.

Martin first came to Nunavut in 2000, to prepare Aajjiqatigiingniq, a language of instruction research paper for the then-new Government of Nunavut.

The report surveyed Nunavummiut across the territory to determine what kind of language instruction they wanted to see in schools and set out a plan for the different models implemented in each region, including bilingual education.

“They wanted really strong Inuktut,” Martin said of Inuit he interviewed. “They wanted English to be available. And they saw French as increasingly important.”

In 2008, the GN introduced its Education Act, which pledged to deliver a fully bilingual, Inuktitut-English school system by 2019-20.

But, by 2013, an Auditor General’s report found that wasn’t likely, due to a lack of bilingual teachers and slow production of curriculum and teaching resources.

Amendments to the Education Act, tabled in the legislature last week, now set 2030 as the new target to implement fully bilingual education up to Grade 9.

“I don’t even think they tried,” Martin said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Education has continued to recruit a majority of its teachers, principals and senior administrators from outside Nunavut, Martin noted, which has entrenched the education system in the English language.

Among his recommendations, Martin is calling on the GN to develop and implement a robust Inuit employment plan for its educators, with the $50 million included within the lawsuit settlement agreement that Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. secured from the federal government in 2015.

Martin also recommended the GN and Nunavut Arctic College establish a research and development curriculum body to produce Inuktut-language resources and instructional units.

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(25) Comments:

#1. Posted by Not so simple on March 17, 2017

Agree completely that something must be done. But I don’t think it’s so simple as the researcher suggests.

For one, creating a separately funded English-only education wing in Nunavut will… unfortunately, not help Inuit students. This will only further the elevation of English students to an elite status. This is very predictable.

Also, it’s increasingly sticky to keep painting things as black and white. Sure, lots of teachers and administrators are brought in from out of territory (it’s the same with any department, by the way). But more and more non-Inuit who’ve grown up their entire lives in Nunavut and another big group whose entire professional lives have been lived in Nunavut are in these roles. Not to mention non-Inuktitut speaking Inuit and mixed race Nunavummiut.

I strongly believe in training, supporting and hiring a majority of Inuit teachers into Nunavut schools. But the issues are no longer so black and white as some people would like us to believe.

#2. Posted by Free on March 17, 2017

Wow!  That’s some pretty innovative out-of-the-box thinking!  Go get those federal dollars Nunavut!

#3. Posted by Free on March 17, 2017

“Canada should identify and separate funding for schooling for the Anglophone [English-speaking] minority population in Nunavut, as it does for the Francophone [French-speaking],” Martin said.

“This would allow for the bulk of the territory’s education funding to be devoted to Inuit language schooling.”

It’s not clear exactly what this could mean for Inuktut-language funding.”

I think it would mean that a hell of a lot of Nunavut’s education budget would go to education in Inuktitut… a good thing!  Still blown away by this wonderful approach!

#4. Posted by Northern Guy on March 17, 2017

Professor Martin’s notion of minority Anglophone education funding would likely work for centres like Iqaluit, Cam. Bay and Rankin where there is the critical mass of Anglophone students to make up separate school boards and schools. However this begs the question regarding communities where there are only a handful of Anglophone students. Access to publicly funded education in both official languages is a right established under the Charter you can’t abrogate it in favour of Inuktut education nor can you give it to some and take it away from others.

#5. Posted by Think about it on March 17, 2017

Education officials are not creating an English-language bureaucracy because they hire teachers and administrators from outside Nunavut. He talks about this like there is a multitude of Inuktut speaking, education degree holding people in Nunavut sitting on the sidelines while all these Southerners invade Nunavut.

If you totaled all the Inuktut-language speaking people with real education degrees, it would total a faction of the required teachers and administrators.  This is why they hire from outside Nunavut. 

Start at the root of the problem, ensure children go to school on a regular basis, ensure they are well rested and well nourished. This is not a problem you can fix top down, you need to fix this from the bottom up.

I think an assistant professor of a Canadian university would understand that any language/education needs to be developed and not just created.

#6. Posted by Tower of Babble on March 17, 2017

@#4 so what currently happens if you there are two francophone children in, say, Coral Harbour? How is their access to education in their official language guaranteed? Isn’t it a question of reasonable accommodation - i.e. where numbers warrant?

On the proposal more generally, I imagine if done right this could free up a little more money for the system.

But you’re still going to bump up against the same limitations: you just don’t have enough educated, Inuktut speakers who can be induced to embrace a career in the teaching profession.

You will end up overpaying a bunch of underqualified people. Inuktut may improve somewhat but education generally will get worse.

#7. Posted by George on March 17, 2017

#6 how would Education get worse? Currently Nunavut schools are taught in English and the drop out rate is like 70%, with no real resources and curriculum and support for Inuktitut also.

By improving funding and support for Inuktitut, putting in the recourses in place where majority of the people in Nunavut’s first language being Inuktitut I can only see it as a positive. It would improve education for Nunavut, for the majority of the population.

#8. Posted by an inuktitut smile on March 17, 2017

#4 English language is easy to learn.  A Federal fund is in place for English, minority language.  In fact $350,000,000.00 million dollars has been allocated for minority languages.

#5 Go back to beginning and start from 17 years ago.  Inuktitut was never taught in schools as was the vision of Nunavut.

Learning a language requires creativity.  The development is academic.  Both work together.

#9. Posted by Problem not solved on March 17, 2017

None of this will matter if there are no qualified Inuktitut teachers. Isn’t that at the core of the problem?

The solution seems more complex than pouring money into Inuktitut, otherwise we are looking for ways to better fund crayons and colouring class?

#10. Posted by Wannabe on March 17, 2017

Vision of Nunavut has always been in Inuit language and it has always been here in the Arctic. Nunavut has always existed. Inuit education has worked very well without any other input into Inuit life. Inuit did not have pollution problem. English education, monetary needs are product of foreign world. It has been said different as day and night. But here in the Arctic these two go hand in hand. As in the Arctic 24 hour darkness and 24 hour daylight. So something’s possible.

#11. Posted by Problem on March 17, 2017

Never mind a democratic public government is supposed to be ruled by the majority population.  A strong Minority but dominant - much like south African Apartheid.  Colonialism is still alive and still it’s okay to ignore?  What happened to progressing society - deep wounds don’t heal and Canada cannot continue focusing on global reputation when it ignores a long-neglected Nunavut Inuit.

#12. Posted by Sckool is kool on March 17, 2017

#10 you say: “Inuit education has worked very well without any other input into Inuit life.”

When was this? Maybe during some golden age in the past?

I don’t think the word education, as you are using it, really fits the context of education as we are referring to it here.

#13. Posted by Peter on March 17, 2017

#9 that is true, that is where the GN can step in and work towards getting those Inuit teachers, they had 9 years to work with the education act but the department of education did not do a thing.
They did not implement the act in fact went against it for all those years.
NTEP could of been improved where Inuktitut resources and manuals could of been developed.
Instead nothing was done, now they want to amend the act because they didn’t do anything with the current one. The problem seem to be the bureaucracy that has been in place for ten plus years now.

#14. Posted by Textbook junkie on March 17, 2017

The language experts are correct and it is too bad that the GN will not listen to them instead listen to those who can’t do the job.

#15. Posted by Northern Guy on March 17, 2017

#8 I disagree with your assessment that English is “easy” to learn. That being said at present $0 of Canada’s minority language protection funding is spent in Nunavut on ensuring English-language education. I would be all for minority-language investments in Nunavut that would result in a separately funded and administered school system for Anglophones that would also free up funding for additional investment in Inuktut education. But as #1 clearly notes would such funding not create another groups of rights holders that would be perceived to be receiving an “elite” education e.g. smaller class sizes more individualized instruction etc. and how would you determine who would have access and who would not? This proposal obviously raises a lot more questions than answers.

#16. Posted by Right rights on March 17, 2017

I have a right to receive my education in my Inuktitut language.  Sick of being ignored and treated second class citizen in my own land.  Fuck!

#17. Posted by Observer on March 17, 2017

“I have a right to receive my education in my Inuktitut language.”

Which version of it? The one spoken in Kugluktuk, Arviat, or Clyde River?

That is the simple problem right there. There’s no standardization of the language. People point to Greenland as an example for the educational system, but if they want to use that as an example, the dialect chosen as the standard was the language spoken around Nuuk: that’s what the textbooks were in (written in the Latin alphabet, incidentally), that’s what was taught in schools, that’s what translators were certified in, that’s what documents were produced in. If you didn’t speak that dialect, too bad.

No politician in Nunavut has the courage to stand up and say “I’m sorry, Baker Lake/Taloyoak/Sanikiluaq/wherever, but we’re not going to teach your dialect in schools. We’re not going to publish reports using it, because we’re standardizing the language and your version didn’t make the cut.”

Until that happens, the language will go away.

#18. Posted by Researcher on March 17, 2017

#17 the department of education DM and ADM seem to be running the show not the Minister, they had almost ten years to work on these issues but what did they do during that time?
I agree that we need to standardize Inuktitut, it’s the only way for use to save our language, it doesn’t mean we will loose our dialects it means we will have a tools to use Inuktitut in the school system and the GN.
If you speak Inuktitut at home than your dialect will not disappear, right now kids are being taught in English and that is not working, we are loosing our language.

#19. Posted by Uncommon on March 17, 2017

I guess there are people truly angry for being ignored by their government versus those who are too smart to continue ignoring Government responsibilities.  Who cares about which dialect is going to be delivered.  Why not go with the strongest dialect?  You speak of ‘courage’ in terms of politics, Inuit speak in terms of resilience - putting up with ignorant Government but still smile at the end of the day.

#20. Posted by ADM on March 17, 2017

#18 almost got it right, but the DM is just a figure head like the Minister. It’s always been the ADM spot that has all the power. All the ones we’ve had.

#21. Posted by The True Power on March 18, 2017

It is the ADM and a small elite group who are currently driving the education agenda at the department.  It is non-Inuit, non-educators who truly call the shots and they really don’t care about any dialect or the Inuit language.  Hiring practices at education headquarters don’t seem to follow procedure or priority hiring policies.
We don’t have any Inuit executive directors or superintendents at the regional school offices.  Why is this happening?  Why is no one overseeing the cases of nepotism and unadvertised positions that go to non-Inuit?  The minister and the premier need to clean house.

#22. Posted by Right on March 18, 2017

#21 is so right. The new jobs at the Department of Education that are high level, senior management jobs are being advertised with no staff housing. They already started putting people in these jobs as “acting,” even though the jobs never existed before. People are already picked. Wait and see, I bet most of them are not Inuit, I bet most of them have never taught, or been students in a Nunavut classroom. And I bet most of them will be friends or family of the crew already there.

#23. Posted by finally gone with the wind on March 19, 2017

#15 had English not been so easy to learn then why is the world’s populations talking English?

English anything will have to stop pushing and shoving.  Get in line behind Inuktitut and que with French.

“...and how would you determine who would have access and who would not?”  ‘Frankly Charlotte, I don’t give a damn.’

#24. Posted by aurelio Schmitt on March 19, 2017

Então porque é tão difícil trocar os nomes das cidades que ainda conservam o nome inglês para a língua inuit? Sabemos em todo mundo que Nunavut, quando foi criado território deveria trocar todas cidades para o nome inuit, mas Grise Fiord, Baker Lake, Cambridge Bay, Coral Harbour, Hall Beach, Clyde River, Pond Inlet e tantas outras ainda conservam o nome inglês? Seria uma recolonização inglesa na área de Nunavut? fica minha pergunta

#25. Posted by Gyges on March 19, 2017

#21 You can follow priority hiring practices all you want, a pool of highly qualified Inuit is what you need and don’t have. Hiring people who have no clue what they are doing is not the answer, though there is a belief that doing so will solve everything. A comedy of errors you might say, but alas the show must go on!

#23 That much of the world speaks English has nothing to do with how relatively easy or hard a language it is to learn.

English will have queue up behind Inuktitut you say. That’s funny, but it’s not going to happen. The skills needed to preserve Inuktitut will follow from embracing English education, and become masterful at it.

Ignorance and lack of education mean lack of power. And that is not going to change regardless of where we are in the world.

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