Nunavut’s Hunter Tootoo lone MP against Canadian gov’s Indigenous Languages Act

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Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo voted against the Liberal government’s Indigenous Languages Act at second reading. He says he wants to see amendments that will commit federal dollars to Indigenous languages and give the commissioner more authority. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)
Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo was the sole MP to vote against the Liberal government’s Indigenous Languages Act Wednesday night, saying it does nothing for Inuit languages.

Bill C-91 was up for second reading in the House of Commons.

Tootoo said he supports the idea behind the bill but he couldn’t vote for it in its current form.

He referred to concerns raised by Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, which represents 60,000 Inuit in Canada, when the Liberals introduced the bill on Feb. 5.

At that time, Obed said the bill doesn’t do enough to oblige the federal government to fund Indigenous languages, and that it creates a commission that is little more than an advocacy group.

Natan Obed, president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami talks with reporters at the first ministers meeting in Montreal on Friday, December 7, 2018. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Tootoo, who is an Inuk, said he has lost his Indigenous language and that as an MLA in Nunavut, he was proud to pass legislation to protect and promote Inuit languages.

Now, he says, the current Nunavut legislature is thinking of repealing those laws because they don’t have the resources to implement them.

“I was hoping that there could be some mechanism in legislation like this to be able to help the Government of Nunavut to obtain resources to … develop and deliver bilingual education,” Tootoo told the CBC after the vote.

Bill C-91 passed second reading and will now go to committee where it could be amended.

Tootoo says he plans to work with the government and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami to make changes to the bill so that he can support it at its third reading.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. joins Inuit orgs across Canada in slamming Indigenous language bill, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Budget cuts threaten international Sámi language cooperation, Yle News

Iceland: Can environmental diplomacy save Arctic languages?, Blog by Takeshi Kaji

United States: Alaskan Inuit dialect added to Facebook’s Translate app, CBC News

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