Language and Culture (13-17): Current Problems

Inuktuk Language Issues

May 19, 2021


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.

March 20, 2019

Fed. Govt.

Funding for Inuktuk vs English and French

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. President Aluki Kotierk. With this budget, the Government of Canada has strengthened funding for minority language service for English and French, yet, failed to invest equitably in Indigenous languages. NTI seeks recognition that Inuktut is the majority language in Nunavut and must be the language of public services, including education, justice and health services.

June 7, 2017

Fed. Govt.

Funding for Inuktuk vs French

CBC – Inuktut language services in Nunavut Tunngavik receive similar funding to French services despite nearly 50 times more speakers The federal government funds $14.25M over 4 years to support 435 french-speaking people (2011 census) vs. $15.8M to support 21,515 people who speak Inuktitut or Inuinnaqtun as their mother tongues. On a per capita basis $8,190 for French vs $184 for Inuktuk languages annually. Inuktut is a term that refers to all Inuit languages, including Nunavut’s Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun dialects.

French = $8,190 per capita vs Inuktuk = $184 per capita

English and French are not the only official languages of Canada, especially in the north where both languages are in the minority and do not reflect the linguistic reality.

June 5, 2019


Nunavut Inuit Education Update

Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (NTI) regrets to announce that Bill 25 – An Act to Amend the Education Act and the Inuit Language Protection Act, which received first reading on June 4, is not a significant improvement over the failed Bill 37 in 2017. NTI’s Tusaqsimajavut Report highlighted what was heard during community consultations: Nunavut Inuit want to see Inuktut as the main language of instruction in our schools (K-12) and early childhood education; more focus on teaching Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit; no reduction in DEA authorities and better support for DEAs; re-introduction of divisional school boards; improved processes between DEAs, Department of Education and Regional School Operations; an end to social promotion; and better inclusive education and student supports.

For the past decade and longer, NTI has been seeking a partnership with the GN on education consistent with Article 32 of the Nunavut Agreement. Over a year ago, NTI proposed the following three joint initiatives as a path to Inuktut LOI:

  • Short and medium term implementation of targeted Inuit educator training programs.
  • A new Department of Education Inuit Employment Plan, with a realistic timeline for representative Inuit employment in schools and the Department of Education.
  • New timelines for Inuktut LOI, based on the IEP timeline for Inuit educator employment.

NTI continues to call on the Government if Nunavut Cabinet and Members to show leadership, transparency and commitment to working with NTI on this three-pronged solution to Nunavut’s education and language crisis.

July 9, 2019

Fed. Govt.

Nunavut Self-Government and Inuktuk

The aspiration of Nunavut is a step closer as Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (NTI) seeks guidance for self-government from Inuit Elders and commits to becoming an Inuktut language workplace announced President Aluki Kotierk from Kugluktuk today. Inuktut language assessments have been completed with NTI staff. All staff will receive on the job training and support based on their needs. New terminology in technical fields, finance and law will be developed. More than 200 hours in Inuktitut training have been delivered with Inuit staff of NTI in the past two years. “As identified in the study on the education system, ‘Nunavut has a history of cultural genocide, linguicide, econocide and historicide, and this continues,’” said Kotierk. “We can no longer wait for governments to deliver on their promises. We must take action.”

May 31, 2022


Use of Inuktut at work in Nunavut continues to decline: 38% (2016) vs 33% (2021)

Nunatsiaq News: While there has been a slight increase in Inuit working in government in Nunavut, there has also been a decrease in the amount of Inuit language used in government workplaces, according to a survey released by Statistics Canada. “It’s kind of good news … but we do have a long way to go,” said Jimi Onalik, deputy minister for Nunavut’s Department of Executive and Intergovernmental Affairs.

The survey, which was released May 27, examines information such as Inuit employment in government, how much Inuktut is spoken at work, and challenges to Inuit employment.

It covers territorial and federal government employees in Nunavut, comparing results from 2016 and 2021.

In 2021, it found, 57 per cent of government employees in Nunavut were Inuit, compared to 52 per cent in 2016. However, as a part of the Nunavut Agreement, the goal is to reach a level of Inuit employment in government that is representative of Nunavut’s Inuit population aged 15 or older, which Statistics Canada lists as 80 per cent.

In terms of language, 42 per cent of all respondents were comfortable using an Inuit language at work in 2021, up from 36 per cent in 2016.

But in 2021, only 33 per cent of all respondents said they use an Inuit language at work, which is a decline from 38 per cent in 2016. For Inuit respondents, that number was 63 per cent, although the survey does not report how that number compares to 2016.

Onalik said the decline in the use of Inuit languages in the workplace might be part of a broader societal trend in the decline of Inuktut speaking. But, he said, the GN needs to do a better job at encouraging its use, as language is a factor in making the government a more comfortable workplace for Inuit. “Part of that is the ability to communicate in the language in which you are most familiar and which you are thinking,” he said.

Onalik also wants the GN to hire more permanent employees. According to the survey, approximately two in five government employees did not hold permanent jobs. “It’s hard to ask employees to commit to you if you’re not willing to commit to them,” Onalik said. One solution is to speed up the hiring process to ensure more people are hired, he said.

Child care was also a significant challenge cited by survey respondents, as 22 per cent indicated their current child-care arrangements were not good enough. Onalik said he wasn’t able to work for a year after his son was born, so he understands the need for better child care. But, he added, under the $10-a-day child-care agreement signed with the federal government, those conditions should be improving soon.

He added that the territorial government’s sixth legislative assembly is also focusing on other areas, such as elder care and construction, as a way to improve Inuit employment rates.