Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
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.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you, Monsieur Nantel.
I think one point you made was on the scope of the bill. I understand going in and looking at developing an amendment. One of the concerns that the government had with the amendments that ITK put forward was that they didn't fall within the scope and mandate of the bill. I had some discussions with a lawyer to help me draft this, to try to put it forward in a way that fit within the scope and mandate of this bill. I believe that I've been able to do that with this amendment. I didn't want to cross a line with it, to come up to the line, and I think it's a good compromise as a potential win-win scenario. Neither side would be doing the happy dance, but it would put in place a mechanism in the legislation to allow both sides to get to where they want to go in the future.
Thank you.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I know that in Nunavut and the NWT, Inuktitut is an official language. The amendment I am proposing talks about a region or a territory, and I think that's one of the things ITK was looking at in what they're trying to achieve with the goal of it, so it's not imposing it on a whole territory but it would be within a region.
The wording I put forward to the person I had draft this was much simpler than the legalese that came out of it, and I think you can all appreciate that. This is just consistent language with the existing legislation, which is why that's in there. Also, she said many of these things are included in the other clauses, but not all of them.
The main thing is that it does not take into account the unique geographic and linguistic situation of Inuit, or the distinctiveness and the aspirations of indigenous people, especially Inuit. I say Inuit, but the way I worded it, again, wasn't singling out any indigenous group. It was mentioned earlier that if we just put one in there it's going to exclude others. I was very careful to put it forward in a way that was inclusive and broad, which wouldn't exclude any possible group.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
I think the intent of this and the intent of what ITK was looking at, and also in discussions with the minister, was to find a way, in a region where it is the majority language spoken, that it could be considered an official language, but only within that region. Again, that is something yet to be negotiated.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
It would allow the minister to negotiate with a group with its.... If ITK said they want it to be recognized in Nunavut, where 85% of it is, then they could negotiate or come to an agreement to allow that to happen. It doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to be everywhere else, either. It would be up to that region to come to the table to negotiate with the minister if that's something they chose to do. It doesn't necessarily mandate that it has to be.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
I know everybody's getting hung up, and the deputy minister, on the word “province”. That was something the lawyers put in there. They said it had to be like that. It doesn't mean that it's going to force it on all of them. My understanding from what the lawyers tell me is that it was just for consistency with the existing legislation. Again, the intent is within a region or territory, like Nunavut.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
I've been looking at and developing legislation for over 20 years now. Usually there are two words in there; it's either “shall” or “may”. When you use the word “shall”, it means you have to. When you use the word “may”, you don't have to. That's where I was making my point. One concern coming from the government was that it would be binding on them to do it, but if you put “may” in there, it's non-binding. They can do it if they want to. If everyone agrees that's where they want to go, then they can do that. It just allows a mechanism, in there, to get there.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you, committee members, at least some of you, for listening and not just going along with what you're told.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you very much, Madam Chair, and everyone, for allowing me to ask some questions.
I know I probably surprised a few people today. I'm very confident that through this committee process and my discussion with the minister that, with some amendments, including with the Inuit, we will be able to come to some common ground so that we will have unanimous support at third reading. I want to make that very clear right off the bat. Those are topics for another meeting.
Professor Newman, while looking at the different clauses, I noticed that clauses 5 and 8, for instance, talk about co-operation with provincial governments. Provincial and indigenous governments are mentioned throughout the bill. From your point of view, would that include territorial governments, or are they excluded by their not being named here?
Thank you.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Okay. Thank you.
Again, Mr. Newman, I'm not sure if you're familiar with the Nunavut Agreement and the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. It's an anomaly; it's unique. It's a land claims agreement with Inuit that instead of choosing to go to self-government, as in Nunatsiavut where a lot of these things are geared toward, they chose to have a public government to administer all of the programs and services.
In the beginning of the bill, in the definitions where it talks about “indigenous governing body”, the unique situation of Nunavut, where the land claims agreement chose to have a public government to administer the territory, should be included because if I read this “indigenous governing body” wouldn't cover the territorial government that has the responsibility for delivering programs and services, especially with the languages as well.
Thank you.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Mr. Chairman, I hope this is not a case where you use your word of the day.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and committee members, for the hard work you guys are doing, especially on this very important piece of legislation. I'm here just briefly, as I committed to you yesterday, Mr. Chairman, to speak to the amendment I've proposed for Bill C-55.
The ultimate goal of this amendment is to reduce and directly address any procedural ambiguity regarding the ministerial decision-making process of the marine protected areas in areas where there are established land claims agreements. I'm putting this in the context of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, but there are also other land claim agreements across the north, including Labrador, northern Quebec, and the Northwest Territories. It's understood in those agreements, and accepted as part of the agreements, that nothing should happen to our lands or to our waters without the input and involvement of Inuit. I think this applies to all facets of decision-making, any activities, as well as the management of those areas.
I feel that the proposed amendment makes this distinction very clear in the particular case of marine protected area designation. I spoke to Inuit back home, and to representatives from Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, and the belief is that the proposed amendment would help ensure that the federal government is living up to its obligations under ratified and approved land claims agreements, especially the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. I believe the acceptance of this amendment would not only substantiate the Inuit-to-crown partnership, but it would also further highlight the government's commitment to honouring the appropriate consultation process with the indigenous people of this country.
I know that this is something we heard in the House from all parties, so I'm looking forward to support for this. I think it also shows that this government is serious and is committed to honouring its obligations under land claims agreements.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thirty seconds is not enough time, but I look forward to more time, hopefully.
Thank you, committee members, for giving me the chance.
Thank you, Minister LeBlanc, for being here.
I know there have been some concerns about the bill's potential conflict with the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. As we all know, Inuit have constitutionally protected rights regarding access to wildlife and conservation area development within the Nunavut settlement area.
I'm just wondering, if any of these issues do arise, how you would plan to resolve them with NTI, Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Ms. Jordan.
Minister, as you know, the Inuit are a coastal people, and we rely on the waters and the life in them to survive. On this piece of legislation, I know there have been some suggestions made in the House and in our legislative assembly about the lack of consultation and the importance of indigenous consultation in general.
Although I'm confident that appropriate consultations will take place, the Government of Nunavut is concerned with the interim protection provision of the act. From their perspective, any decision made without consulting the Government of Nunavut could potentially have a drastic impact on future devolution talks and economic benefits from which Nunavummiut will benefit. I just want to know what assurances the Government of Nunavut can have that they will be consulted prior to any interim protected MPA.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Mr. Hardie.
Welcome, Minister Garneau.
I only have one question on this, and it's an issue that's been brought up a couple of times this summer in Iqaluit.
As you know, Nunavut is quite different from the rest of the country. We don't have dealerships. I know of one case where a recall was ordered for a vehicle and another case where there was a warranty the dealer was fixing automatically on his own. Because there's no dealer there, and they're saying an authorized dealer of the vehicle has to do the work, they're being told they have to put their vehicle on a ship, ship it out, get the work done down here, and then wait until next year to get it back.
I'm wondering if anything in here could help address that concern, where we're forced to utilize dealers. We have garages in the communities up there, but they're not authorized dealers. They have licensed mechanics. We need to address that so that work can get done. There are people who can't be without a vehicle and people have to pay for the shipping of their vehicle down south to get it fixed and get it back so they are still using those vehicles with those defects. There's no opportunity to change that. I'm wondering if there's something in the bill to help address that issue.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
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