Inuit leaders pressed the Canadian Heritage committee Monday in Ottawa to add special additions to Bill C-91, the Liberals proposed language act.
“Bill C-91 as it is currently drafted completely overlooks the unique status of Inuktut and the practical needs of its speakers,” Natan Obed, president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami told MPs.
The bill purports to promote and revitalize Indigenous languages in Canada.
But Obed says this bill falls short.
Inuktut is the common language spoken by 84 per cent of Inuit living in 51 communities.
Obed hopes to see the bill amended to include a special annex that addresses Inuktut as a distinct language.
ITK’s amendments include making Inuktut an original language throughout Inuit Nunangat, Inuit homeland.
Obed said historic policy that actively worked against the use of indigenous language, must now be met with progressive policy that includes the use of Inuktut in the federal service sector.
“This country has been systemically trying to wipe out Indigenous languages and this is still a great opportunity to push back against that,” said Obed.
“The legislation and the ability to co-develop, that we thought that we were entering into that would go beyond symbolism and figure out how to practically implement our rights. We still have a hope that innovation can happen and our submission shows that path forward.”
Read: Inuktut provisions
Obed said the current legislation proposed by the government fails to acknowledge the needs of Inuit people living in regions where Inuktut is widely used.
If ITK’s submission is added to C-91, it would mean Inuktut speakers would be able to access federal public services in their native language.
“These amendments are necessary to fulfill the federal government’s commitment to indigenous peoples and all Canadians to develop distinctions-based legislation,” Obed said.
“They would ensure that our people are able to enjoy the human rights and fundamental freedoms that all peoples are entitled to, including in the political, economic, social, cultural and other fields of public life.”