Language and Culture (13-17): Current Problems

Nunavut Education Update

April 25, 2022


Nunavut Government claims Inuit children have no rights to be taught in Inuktuk

NationTalk: In its Motion, the GN argues that Inuit have absolutely no rights to Inuktut education, and that the only constitutional rights to language in Canada relate to minority rights in English or French, even though Inuit comprise 85% of the total population and 94% of the student population in Nunavut. In any other jurisdiction in Canada, students and parents don’t have to encounter such resistance to the political will of its people.

Nunavut) Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) expresses disappointment with the Government of Nunavut’s (GN) motion to dismiss NTI’s Claim for Equality Rights of Inuit Children and Youth (the “Claim”) as per s. 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the “Charter”).

On October 13, 2021, NTI, along with Inuit plaintiffs representing parents of Inuit students, filed a Claim asserting that by enacting amendments to the Education Act and the Inuit Language Protection Act, the GN systemically discriminates against Nunavut Inuit for failing to provide education in the Inuktut language and culture, and therefore violating constitutionally-protected equality rights guaranteed under the Charter.

On April 4, 2022, the GN filed a Motion to Strike (the “Motion”) NTI’s Claim in the Nunavut Court of Justice (the “Court”) and in doing so, the GN is asking the Court to dismiss the entirety of the Claim without having the opportunity to hear the full case on its merits.

“NTI has continually advocated to the Government of Nunavut to strengthen Inuktut in public education. However, the GN’s message is clear – Inuktut is unworthy of an equal place in the public education system, and that Inuit should accept this inequality,” said NTI President Aluki Kotierk.

The GN also claims that the government has the “unfettered” authority to pass any legislation it chooses, even if it results in discrimination against Inuit, and to decide the kind of education and in which language Inuit children would receive, based on its narrow view that the Inuit negotiators relinquished authority on language of instruction to the GN.

“Nunavut Inuit had high hopes and expectations that the Government of Nunavut, established by the Nunavut Agreement, would fulfill Inuit aspirations of a public education system that embraced and valued the Inuktut language. The GN’s Motion sends the wrong message that Inuit cannot ask for equal treatment in how they receive education, and that Inuit should accept the framework that could result in irreversible language loss.” said NTI President Aluki Kotierk.

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.

April 14, 2022


Nunavut Tungavit


Toronto Star: In Nunavut, education policies pose an existential threat to the vibrancy of the Inuit language right now. In today’s schools, Nunavut Inuit youth have little opportunity to learn Inuktuk – and are overwhelmingly taught only in English or French.

Unlike many Indigenous languages silenced by colonialism, Inuktuk is still very much a living language and is spoken by the majority of Nunavut Inuit. However the, the rate of Inuktuk is rapidly declining , and will be in critical danger if trends continue.

A huge part of the decline in Inuktuk is how students are educated in Nunavut. Some schools offer an Inuktuk stream up to Grade 2; most do not offer Inuktuk beyond the fourth of fifth grade. School enrolment is mandatory until age 17, requiring students to spend the day learning in a language that is not their own for years.

Nunavut Inuit don’t discount the importance of bilingualism in education, and expected graduates to equally acquire Inuktut all the way through high school. Language was fundamental to the vision of Inuit self-determination that established Nunavut, and the government of Nunavut committed to increase instruction in Inuktut for all grades by 20192020, through the enactment of the Education Act in 2008.

The government of Nunavut failed to deliver on this commitment, and recently passed legislation to drastically reduce its responsibilities to equally provide Inuktut in education. Instead, they will only offer Inuktut as a language arts class.

This weaker approach will negatively shape how Inuit reflect and experience the world. Inuktut is an inherent part of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit — traditional knowledge — as a living, breathing part of life, with the richness of advanced terminology and knowledge of Inuit connected to relationships, land and sovereignty. Education without Inuktut threatens to destroy our sense of belonging, and the ability of students to become capable, proud, productive and self-reliant young Inuit in the modern world.

Many Inuit face poverty, inadequate housing and food insecurity from the effects of colonialism. But just as dispossession of language has created disadvantage and harm, the cultivation of Inuktut can create opportunities for educational attainment and improved outcomes. Exploring Inuit world view in our own language can help youth develop cultural connections and the strength to become our next generation of leaders. For the challenges ahead, Nunavut Inuit need champions who can speak for Inuit, in our own words.

Downgrading Inuktut to an arts course is not acceptable, and is deeply disappointing. Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated is bringing a systemic discrimination case against the Government of Nunavut, for the unequal manner in which students are taught Inuktut in schools.


October 13, 2021


Protection of Inuktuk Language Rights

NTI filed a landmark lawsuit with the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit, asserting that the Government of Nunavut (GN), by failing to provide a public school system offering Nunavut Inuit equal opportunities to complete schooling in their own language and culture, is violating constitutionally-protected equality rights of Nunavut Inuit guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

With the adoption of a new Education Act in 2009, Nunavut Inuit had high hopes and expectations that the GN would fulfill Inuit aspirations of a public education system that embraced the Inuktut language and produced high school graduates thoroughly fluent in the Inuktut language, equally as English or French. But after failing to meet its political commitments as reflected in the legal obligations for the provision of fully bilingual Inuktut education in Nunavut by 2019, the GN made legislative amendments in the fall of 2020 that postponed the obligation to provide Inuit language education. The new framework of amendments drastically changed the GN’s previous priorities and obligations to provide Inuit students with an education in their own language by effectively reducing Inuktut language of instruction.

Education delivered in Inuktut is foundational to maintaining Inuit language and culture, and a vital component of the cultural identity, history and survival of Nunavut Inuit. As many Indigenous groups in Canada struggle to protect and revive languages within their communities, Nunavut is uniquely positioned to successfully support Inuit language before it becomes extinct.

Although 85% percent of the Nunavut population comprises of Nunavut Inuit, only 64% of Nunavut Inuit reported Inuktut use during the 2016 Canadian Census, and is further declining at an alarming rate. As a result of the GNs broken commitments and continued failures of implementing bilingual education, the use and fluency of Inuktut is under threat for future generations. Without drastic action and corrective measures on the part of the Government of Nunavut, the erosion of the Inuit language — and the associated impact on Inuit culture and self-determination — will have dire and irreversible social consequences to Nunavut Inuit