Nunavut’s language commissioner says it ‘makes sense’ to follow territory’s language laws - APTN NewsAPTN News

Nunavut’s language commissioner says it ‘makes sense’ to follow territory’s language laws

Iqaluit 1000 x 562

Kent Driscoll
APTN National News

Nunavut’s language laws have been on the books since 2008 – but it’s only recently that the territory has decided to enforce it.

It’s similar to the language laws in Québec – only the territory is approaching the issue with a softer hand.

Nunavut’s language commissioner is approaching the issue with the idea of incentive, rather than enforcement.

“Time frames, especially, give them time to comply with the act,” said Helen Klengenberg, Nunavut’s language commissioner. “They may need time to have their material translated into Inuktitut.

“Just getting the signs, not everyone in Nunavut has access to the media, or the people who can make it.”

The government of Nunavut will spend $1-million over the next five years on the language laws program.



The law states that any sign in Nunavut must have Inuit language featured at the same size as other languages.

Businesses can ask for time and help, and they have been.

“It will be case by case but we do hope that within five years, I hope, we’re pretty much a norm,” she said.

The sign legislation has provisions for fines, but Klengenberg is opting to begin with the soft sell, helping over fining.

“Part of public government is to be representative of the population that it serves,” she said. “And our representation in Nunavut is 86 to 90 percent Inuit. It only makes sense to provide that service, and be able to provide the service in their language.”


English and Inuktitut are the most common languages in Nunavut. But French is also protected by law.

According to officials, the multilingual signs are a sign that Nunavut is moving slowly towards becoming a place where Inuktitut is the norm.

Last week, Statistics Canada reported that for the first time, the number of people speaking Inuktitut has gone up.

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