Interesting that the former Official Languages Act listed eight official languages. There must have been several "Indian" languages included perhaps. If the new law is applied to businesses it seems that clerks would be required to know the four official languages. Language training schools will have a field day!
Nunavut introduces new language bills
Not strong enough, say Inuktitut proponents; small businesses disagree
Last Updated: Wednesday, June 6, 2007 | 9:17 AM CT
Proposed laws aimed at protecting the Inuit language went through first reading Tuesday in the Nunavut legislature.
But some say the legislation does not go far enough in putting Inuktitut and Innuinaqtun on an equal footing with English and French, while others say it goes too far.
Louis Tapardjuk, the territory's minister of culture, language, elders and youth, introduced a new official languages act, along with an Inuit language protection act, for first reading.
But Nunavut Tunngavik president Paul Kaludjak and Languages Commissioner Johnny Kusugak, who were at the legislative assembly when Bills 6 and 7 were introduced, criticized the proposed legislation.
"We truly believe that it could have been a lot stronger," Kusugak said, adding that he was expecting tougher enforcement provisions, as well as a shorter period of time before Inuktitut is mandatory in schools from kindergarten to Grade 12.
Tapardjuk, however, said the language bills are part of an evolutionary process, putting the Inuit languages of Inuktitut and Innuinaqtun on equal footing with English and French.
"Sure, I'd like to see it tougher myself," he said. "However, we have to face reality. We are bound by the Nunavut Act, and English and French have to be recognized in Nunavut.
"Our problem in the Inuktitut language is that we don't have Inuktitut-speaking judges, we don't have Inuktitut-speaking doctors," Tapardjuk added. "It's eventually going to come around, but we are to make certain there are [pieces] of legislation that [address] that issue."
Both proposed laws are meant to ensure Inuit can see and use their language in all facets of life, from phone bills and bylaw tickets, to workplaces and schools. They were developed following several months of public consultations around the territory.
Under the proposed official languages act, English, French and the Inuit languages of Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun would be the territory's official languages. The current Official Languages Act, which existed when Nunavut was still part of the Northwest Territories, lists eight official languages.
If passed, the Inuit language protection act would require services to be provided in Inuktitut or Inuinnaqtun, as well as ensure those languages be included on signs, bills and advertising. Such requirements would apply to stores and businesses — something that Claire Kennedy of D.J. Specialities in Iqaluit said may hurt small businesses like hers.
"We can't compete with government wages as a small business, and that's where we get hurt," said Kennedy, who added that she has been having trouble hiring bilingual staff for years.
The proposed protection act would also create a minister of languages and an Inuit language authority that would develop terminology and standards.
Ultimately, Tapardjuk said, the government's goal is to make sure the Inuit languages thrive and Inuit are proud to speak their mother tongue.
The public will have a chance to comment on the proposed laws once they are referred to a standing committee for review, assuming the bills get second reading.