Language and Culture (13-17)

Current Reality

Canada is home to around 60 indigenous tongues in 12 separate and distinct language families

  • Most languages have multiple dialects, often with issues with multiple writing systems
  • Only 3 languages account for two-thirds of all mother-tongue language speakers
  • Most languages have relatively few fluent speakers
  • Most languages are not spoken by children, a key indicator of language survival
  • Language and cultural identity are intrinsically linked; maintaining both is urgent

SOURCE Assembly of First Nations, August, 2017

Sept. 17, 2022: Number of Indigenous language speakers has declined from 15.6% (2016 census) to $13.8% (2021 census). However, the number of Indigenous youth who are actively learning languages has increased  by 7%.

May 13, 2022: CBC – First Nations in Québec call Bill 96 An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec” cultural genocide with its legal dictates increasing the threats to the survival of Indigenous languages.

Jan. 12. 2022: Toronto Star – 2022 marks the beginning of an international decade of Indigenous languages in which Canada is to play a key role. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) drive to revive and protect Indigenous languages will include initiatives to protect endangered tongues such as Michif, the Métis language. Canada is to represent North America and western Europe on a UNESCO task force which includes three Inuit, First Nation and Métis representatives. All three said they wanted to make Indigenous languages more widely spoken in Canada, with measures to ensure they are also taught in schools. The Inuit representative on the UNESCO task force wants to make Inuktuk an official language alongside English and French…Around 70% of Nunavut’s population speaks Inuktuk and it is recognized as an official language in the territory, But most children are taught in English

April 19, 2021: Budget 2021 proposes $275M over 5 yeas and $2M ongoing to support the reclamation, revitalization and strengthening of Indigenous languages as well as $108.8M over two years for the preservation of Indigenous heritage and $108.8M over two years for Indigenous cultural spaces.

Sept. 5, 2019: The Governments of Canada and Nunavut, and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. are collaborating toward an agreement that will support, revitalize and strengthen Inuktut in Nunavut with up to $42M over 3-year period to support this work.

June 21, 2019 Bill C-91 “An Act Respecting Indigenous Languages” received Royal Assent. The AFN and the Métis National Council support the bill but the Inuit Tapariit Kanatami, the national advocacy voice for Canada’s Inuit did not. ITK did not see many of their recommendations incorporated into the languages Act, thereby leaving Inuktuk, their “national” language, with less protection than English of French in their own territory.

2/5 CTAs have been completed to date


Acknowledge Indigenous rights, include Indigenous language rights



Enact an Indigenous Languages Act



Appoint an Indigenous Language Commissioner



Create post-secondary degrees and diploma programs in Indigenous languages

In Progress


Enable residential school survivors to reclaim Indigenous names


Featured Updates

Current Problems with
Language and Culture (13-17)

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Language and Treaty Rights

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Inuktitut Language Issues

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Concerns about Québec's Bill 96

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Nunavut Education Update

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Objections to Bill C-92

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Cultural Appropriation

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Background Information

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Indigenous Cultural Success

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Indigenous Languages in Canada

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UN International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022-2032): AFN National Action Plan

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Canadian Association of Applied Linguistics

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Building Reconciliation Forum

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The Glendon Declaration

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Indigenous Success Stories