Interventions in Committee
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View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
2019-03-18 17:24
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I hope nobody's indifferent to doing it this way.
Thank you, Madam Chair and members of this committee, for the opportunity to speak in support of the amendments I proposed to the draft indigenous languages act.
Before I continue, I just want to note that I'm Inuk. I think everyone here knows that, but I do not speak my language, the language of my forefathers and ancestors, due to the history of discriminatory government policies referred to in the preamble of Bill C-91.
I believe that this bill, as currently drafted, is incomplete. It fails to take into account the unique geographic and linguistic situation of Inuit. The Inuit languages and dialects that make up Inuktitut were spoken on this continent long before the arrival of French or English, whose languages are now recognized as Canada's two official languages.
This year Canada celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Official Languages Act and intends to review and modernize it. It is entirely fitting, in my view, that this committee take the very important step of acknowledging the irony of excluding Inuktitut—the majority language in the vast northern Inuit regions known as Inuit Nunangat, which is probably close to a quarter of this country—from enjoying enhanced legal status similar to that of the two majority languages in southern Canada. The amendment I am proposing in clause 9.1 would lay the groundwork to begin addressing this exclusion.
The intent of the amendment is to allow, but not commit, the minister to go beyond the matters referred to in clause 9, which are restricted to negotiating indigenous language programs and service delivery, subject to as yet unknown terms and conditions. Under my proposed clause 9.1, the minister would be able to enter into an arrangement or agreement with provincial or territorial governments, indigenous governments or other indigenous governing bodies that goes beyond program and service delivery.
Clause 9.1 would allow the minister to further the promotion and the use of indigenous languages in light of the distinctiveness, the aspirations and the circumstances of indigenous people in a designated region or territory. This would encompass a large territory like Nunavut, where 84% of the population speaks Inuktitut, or a large region like Inuit Nunangat. Clause 9.1 would make it possible for the minister to negotiate the status in Canadian law of an indigenous language in such a region or territory. It would also be possible for the minister to do so incrementally.
Importantly, if adopted, this amendment would allow the minister to keep the dialogue open with our national Inuit organization, ITK, whose current views about the shortcomings of Bill C-91 are quite clearly on the record for this committee. In fact, I understand that the government members have been told to vote against an amendment that is being brought forward by Mr. Nantel, which reflects changes that would make Bill C-91 amenable to ITK. I can't underline enough the importance of continuing dialogue with ITK on the matter of protecting our Inuit language.
It was mentioned that this was co-developed. I think ITK and NTI have made it very clear that this piece of legislation was in no way co-developed with Inuit. ITK said it was negotiated in bad faith. In developing my amendment, I tried to find a way to put an olive branch out there, or a sign of good faith, for ongoing negotiations, which I understand is where the government wants to go.
I think that all committee members are very capable, as we've heard over the last few weeks, of making their own decisions. I look forward to that. I would encourage you all to do the right thing—support Inuit, support this amendment. I think that would show that this government is serious about what they're saying.
I also urge all committee members to consider carefully what I'm proposing and the consequences of moving forward with a bill that excludes Canada's oldest languages.
With that, Madam Chair, I'm prepared to respond to any questions that any committee members may have.
Thank you for your time.
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