At least two Northern Indigenous organizations are expressing skepticism after the federal Liberals’ introduced new legislation meant to protect Indigenous languages.
The Liberals tabled the bill yesterday, two years after promising a law to promote Indigenous languages, which Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said are on the verge of disappearing absent any intervention.
The bill pledges long-term funding and to create a federal commissioner of Indigenous languages.
Exactly how much funding has not been disclosed but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to bring forth legislation to revitalize Indigenous languages and for 2017 to 2019 committed 90 million dollars to do so.
Dene Nation Chief Norman Yakeleya says whether the bill will speed up the process in Canada to legislate the revitalization of Indigenous languages is not clear yet.
“This legislation will apparently allow First Nations, Inuit, and Metis to decide for themselves how they want to revitalize their languages,” Yakeleya said. “Canada needs to put forth the same effort and energy to revitalize Indigenous languages as they did to eradicate Indigenous languages.”
While the Assembly of First Nations and National Métis National Council are calling the bill a landmark piece of legislation, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami is calling the legislation a symbolic gesture from a “colonial system.”
Natan Obed, ITK’s president, said the Liberals’ legislation lacks any Inuit-specific content and doesn’t address Inuit rights to speak their traditional language, or help to revive and promote it.
The Indigenous Languages Act will now work its way through the legislative process with the goal of turning it into law before the House of Commons rises in June and an election campaign takes over federal politics.
-With files from Josh Campbell.