Language and Culture (13-17): Current Problems


May 19, 2021

Inuktuk Language Issues

Access to Education for Inuit Youth

Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse – Considering the limited availability of residential care units for youth in Nunavik, Inuit youth must leave their communities to receive rehabilitation services. Two media articles reporting that Inuit youth could not speak their language in rehabilitation centers prompted the Commission to launch an investigation. The investigation initially concerned the right of Inuit youth to speak their language as well as the social services they receive while in the residential care of the CIUSSS-de-l’Ouest-de- l’Île-de-Montréal (CIUSSS-ODIM). However, the Commission soon realized that youth residing in these facilities were deprived of a formal education, as were youth residing in units under the governance of the Ungava Tulattavik Health Center in Dorval. For this reason, the scope of the investigation was expanded to include their right to education. The investigation focused on the following areas:

  • The cultural safety of Inuit youth from Nunavik placed under the residential care of the CIUSSS-ODIM
  • The use of language
  • Cultural and social isolation: obstacles to exercising cultural rights
  • Rehabilitation services
  • Cultural competence and clinical tools
  • The right to rehabilitation services in their communities
  • Access to education in English of Inuit youth placed in residential care
  • Obstacles to access to education in English and lack of schooling
  • The limits of the legal framework
  • The cultural safety of Aboriginal students

Final considerations

The current investigation demonstrates a series of actions and omissions and institutional practices on the part of the different actors involved which led to the exclusion of Inuit children in residential care from the formal education system as well as a chronic violation of their right to education and to the full development of their human and cultural potential.

June 7, 2021

Language and Treaty Rights

Concerns about Bill 96

Montreal Gazette – The leader of the Kanesatake Mohawk community is demanding the Quebec government include the protection of territory, languages and culture of Indigenous people in its bill recognizing Quebec as a nation in the Canadian constitution and establishing French as the only official language. Quebec’s Bill 96 is a “second colonization”, Kanesatake Grand Chief says. He also said he’s concerned that Quebec wants to recognize its status as a nation and protect the French language on the province’s territory, when that territory is in large part unceded Indigenous territory and there has been no discussion or negotiation with First Nations.

May 14, 2021

Language and Treaty Rights

Concerns about Bill 96

The Assembly of First Nations Québec – Labrador – The AFNQL is in a very good position to understand the merits of the linguistic initiative launched by the Government of Quebec through its Bill 96 on the official and common language of Quebec, but it warns that the survival and development of one language must never be at the expense of another language and must never be based on coercion. The ten First Nations that make up the AFNQL will respectfully examine the Quebec bill, and together, they will prepare and make known their reaction, clearly and firmly, in due course. The option that the Chiefs’ Assembly will choose to formally express its position to the Government of Quebec and to the entire Quebec population will be decisive for our living together. For a respectful relationship between us, it is fundamental that the position of First Nations on the essential question of languages be clear and well understood.

First Nations understand better than anyone the importance of preserving the language passed down to us by our parents. Our languages are the bearers of our traditions, our cultures, and our values. Some of our First Nations have lived through sad historical episodes whose asserted goal was to eradicate their culture and language. They had the resilience to survive, not without pain. Today, they are working to revive and maintain them to preserve and transmit their integrity to the younger generations. In addition to the primary question of the original languages, for several First Nations, the use of second languages, either French or English, which they have had imposed on them, is also an issue that will be the subject of reflection by the Chiefs.

May 13, 2022

Language and Treaty Rights

First Nations in Québec call Bill 96 cultural genocide

CBC: Quebec says it won’t change Bill 96 to exempt Indigenous youth from having to take extra French courses in CEGEP, despite mounting calls from First Nations leaders who say their efforts to rebuild their languages and cultures are in jeopardy.

Kahnawake Grand Chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer — who held a news conference at the National Assembly Tuesday alongside Chief Ghislain Picard of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador and Gesgapegiag First Nation Chief John Martin — said her community would hold protest actions until it felt heard. “Any gesture of goodwill right now on behalf of the government will go a long way,” Sky-Deer told reporters. 

Sky-Deer, Picard and Martin are among the many First Nations leaders who have denounced the clause in Quebec’s proposed overhaul of the Charter of the French language that would force students attending English CEGEPs to take more second-language French courses. The bill could be adopted by the Coalition Avenir Québec majority as early as this week, as the legislation has undergone a number of amendments and is ready for other political parties to have their say on it. 

The leaders have repeatedly requested to meet with government officials to ask for an exemption for youths in English-speaking Indigenous communities, who have been learning their language first, with English as a second language and French as a third. 

They say the government has shown little sympathy to their cause.

“To put another burden, of a third language for us to have to learn and be proficient in, when we’re trying to revitalize our Indigenous language — after all these Indian Day Schools, Indian Residential Schools, and all the things that happened to our people — it’s a challenge,” said Sky-Deer, whose community is Kanien’kehá-speaking and English-speaking.

Picard said the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador made a presentation to a legislative committee about the bill and proposed several amendments “to no avail.”  “Even when we play by their rules, we are becoming the victims because none of it is being acknowledged,” Picard said.

Simon Jolin-Barrette, who tabled the bill and is the minister responsible for the French language, said Tuesday there was no plan to make any exemptions.  “Since 1977, Bill 101 applies to everybody in Quebec and Bill 101 will continue with Bill 96 to apply to everybody,” Jolin-Barrette said, referring to the Charter of the French Language, which was passed as law 45 years ago. Bill 96 aims to update the charter. 

Gesgapegiag First Nation ChiefJohn Martin said the original law had increased dropout rates in his Mi’kmaq community. “It makes it very difficult for our students to succeed in high school and now even harder if they pass high school and get to CEGEP,” Martin said. 

Indigenous Affairs Minister Ian Lafrenière said he met with First Nations leaders Monday but that his government’s line remains the same. “We need to protect and promote French in Quebec,” Lafrenière said. “Let’s find the right tool to protect and promote different languages. Bill 96 is not the right one.”

But the First Nations leaders at the National Assembly Tuesday say it is not the Quebec government’s role to protect Indigenous languages — but to respect their communities’ right to govern themselves. “What the government should be doing is recognizing and respecting Indigenous languages and cultures that have been here longer than Quebec,” Sky-Deer said.

An elder and knowledge keeper from Kahnawake, Ka’nahsohon Kevin Deer, was part of the group holding the news conference. He held a Two Row Wampum Belt, saying it was important to remind Quebecers of its meaning.  “Your ancestors and our ancestors agreed that we would follow three principles of peace, friendship and respect,” Deer said.  “We are still here today. Our ceremonies, our languages, our creation stories — everything that makes us unique in the world, just like Quebec. They talk about their distinctness. Well, we are too.”

Sky-Deer, the Kahnawake Grand Chief, said she would like to see a complete exemption from Bill 96 for Indigenous people because several other provisions in the proposed legislation could harm members of her community, such as those pertaining to small businesses and court proceedings.

March 1, 2022

Objections to Bill C-92

Indigenous artist denied participation because his Indigenous songs didn’t have enough French

Mar. 1, 2022: The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) – is dismayed to learn that one of its most influential artists has been denied participation in the Festival international de la chanson de Granby (FICG) because of the predominantly Indigenous language content of his songs.

Indeed, the performance of Samian, a multidisciplinary Anishinabeg artist, at the FICG was refused because he could not provide an adequate quota of songs in French in the eyes of the organizers.

“It is with dismay that I realize that my struggle over the past 15 years to promote First Nations culture and languages is not over, despite the few advances I have seen,” says Samian.

Let us remember that the languages of the First Nations are not a threat to Quebec’s heritage but rather the very essence of the First Peoples. Despite several observations on the fragility of these languages and even though UNESCO has dedicated the next decade to the revitalization of Indigenous languages, the fight remains; the reaction of the FICG is proof of this.

“The position of the FICG mirrors the position of the Quebec provincial government which, with its Bill 96, imposes French to the detriment of the first languages of Indigenous peoples. Another example of a colonial ideology well established in Quebec,” declared AFNQL Chief Ghislain Picard.

The AFNQL does not expect the Quebec government to raise a finger to denounce the FICG’s decision since it is in line with the positions put forward by Bill 96 which penalizes the First Nations, hence turning a deaf ear to the positions proposed by the communities.

It is to be noted that ADISQ, in an effort of recognition and reconciliation, dedicates a Felix for the Indigenous artist of the year since 2019. This award is given to an Indigenous artist whether he or she expresses himself or herself in his or her ancestral mother tongue or in French.