Canadian government invests over $35M to preserve Indigenous languages in the North

Iqaluit in Nunavut, Canada. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)
The federal government is pledging to invest $35.4 million to support and preserve Indigenous language services in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories (N.W.T.) in Canada’s north.

The federal government has allocated $19.6 million for the N.W.T. and $15.8 million for Nunavut. The “unprecedented” funding covers the period from 2016 to 2020 and comes from the 2016 federal budget, the office of Canadian Heritage Minister Melanie Joly announced Friday.

“There is no relationship more important to our government then the one with Indigenous peoples,” Joly said in a statement. “The unprecedented level of support for Indigenous-language services in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut announced today is just one way that our government is living up to this important commitment.”

The money will fund community radio stations and education programs geared toward on-the-land training in the N.W.T. Indigenous governments in the N.W.T. will also receive part of the money to be spent according to local needs.

Some languages “in very serious trouble”
The Arctic town of Inuvik in Canada’s Northwest Territories. (Eilís Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)

Nunavut’s Minister of Languages George Kuksuk said the funding announcement was “an initial positive step toward the establishment of a new partnership with the federal government with regard to the protection and promotion of Nunavut’s official languages.”

“We need adequate and sustained resources to remedy the decline of Inuktitut and to revitalize and support Nunavut’s education, professional and community sectors,” Kuksuk said.

N.W.T.’s Member of Parliament Michael McLeod said some languages in the N.W.T. are “in very serious trouble.”

“Some languages will become nonexistent in a short period of even 10 years,” he told CBC News, pointing to the Gwich’in language needing the most support.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canadian NGO wins Google grant to build ‘Wikipedia of Inuit knowledge’, Radio Canada International

Finland: Finnish National Museum returns thousands of artefacts to indigenous Sámi people,

YLE News

Greenland: What the EU seal ban has meant for Inuit communities in the Arctic, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Repressive policy deprived Sámi people of language, culture : Norway’s prime minister, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Sami Blood: A coming-of-age tale set in Sweden’s dark past, Radio Sweden

Russia:  More protected lands on Nenets tundra in Arctic Russia, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: Bering Sea tribal groups slam Alaska delegation for ‘standing by’ as Trump struck order giving them voice, Alaska Public Media

Levon Sevunts, Radio Canada International

Born and raised in Armenia, Levon started his journalistic career in 1990, covering wars and civil strife in the Caucasus and Central Asia. In 1992, after the government in Armenia shut down the TV program he was working for, Levon immigrated to Canada. He learned English and eventually went back to journalism, working first in print and then in broadcasting. Levon’s journalistic assignments have taken him from the High Arctic to Sahara and the killing fields of Darfur, from the streets of Montreal to the snow-capped mountaintops of Hindu Kush in Afghanistan. He says, “But best of all, I’ve been privileged to tell the stories of hundreds of people who’ve generously opened up their homes, refugee tents and their hearts to me.”

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