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Language Legislation

In December 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the federal government would be developing legislation to support the revitalization Indigenous languages in Canada. In his announcement, he stated that, "our government will enact an Indigenous Languages Act, co-developed with Indigenous Peoples, with the goal of ensuring the preservation, protection, and revitalization of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit languages in this country."

The First Peoples’ Cultural Council held regional sessions in May and June 2017 (scroll down for more information) to talk about the promised Indigenous language legislation for Canada. Our goal is to ensure that B.C. language experts are well-informed so that when the national Assembly of First Nations (AFN) does its consultations, everyone will be prepared to provide input.

FPCC will be compiling a report based on the information we gathered at these sessions, and First Nations communities are encouraged to develop their own position papers to submit to the Minister of the Department of Canadian Heritage and the national AFN. We will also be talking about the new federal language funding and how we can prepare to effectively invest this new money.

We will be using this web page to share information about the sessions, as well as general information about Indigenous language legislation. It will be updated regularly as this process develops.

More information about the AFN's regional sessions:

Assembly of First Nations Engagement Session on Indigenous Language Legislation

The national Assembly of First Nations, in partnership with the BC Assembly of First Nations and the Yukon, will be hosting an engagement session to hold more in-depth discussions and engagement around the development of legislation.

June 22 - 23, 2017
Sheraton Wall Centre Hotel, 1088 Burrard St., Vancouver

Save the Date Poster [PDF]
Event Poster [PDF]
Registration Form [PDF]
NEW! Agenda [PDF]

Contact: Larry Whiteduck, Acting Senior Coordinator of Languages
                 Assembly of First Nations
                 Email:    lwhiteduck@afn.ca
                 Phone:  1-613-241-6789 x. 237

FPCC's Regional Engagement and Information Sessions on Language Legislation

Kelowna: Wednesday, May 17, 9am – 5pm, Okanagan College  [PDF]
Prince George: Thursday, May 25, 9am – 5pm, University of Northern British Columbia  [PDF]
Richmond: Wednesday, May 31, 9am – 5pm, Sandman Signature Hotel  [PDF]
Nanaimo: Friday, June 2, 9am – 5pm, Vancouver Island University  [PDF]
Terrace: Monday, June 12, 9am – 5pm, Kitsumkalum Community Center Hall  [PDF]

Presentation slides from FPCC Engagement Sessions

A Legislation Framework and How to Provide Input

FPCC has compiled some information to help you get started on developing your own input into the legislation.

The Language Legislation Framework Draft is a first draft of ideas for what the legislation could include and related outcomes. It also includes discussion questions that may be helpful with discussions in your community. The How To Provide Input document provides ideas for how your nation can develop input into this process, and has contact information for where you can submit your input.

Language Legislation: Framework Draft

Language Legislation: How to provide input

You will also find the links and research below very useful in developing your own position.

Important Documents About Indigenous Language Legislation

Reports from Canada

Task Force on Aboriginal Languages and Cultures Report (2005)

Assembly of First Nations Resolution on Revitalization of Indigenous Languages (2015) (Resolution no. 06/2015)

Indigenous Languages Recognition, Preservation and Revitalization; A Report on the National Dialogue Session on Indigenous Languages (2016)

Truth & Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action regarding Indigenous languages
(Call numbers 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 61, 84)

Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (1996)

A Guide to Language Policy and Planning for B.C. First Nations Communities

The Report on the Status of B.C. First Nations Languages 2014, Second Edition

Guide to the Canadian House of Commons (2016)
(page 11: How a Bill Becomes Law: The Legislative Process)

International Documents

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)
(Articles 11, 13, 14, 15, 16)

United Nations Report of the international expert group meeting on indigenous languages (2008)

United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Study on the role of languages and culture in the promotion and protection of the rights and identity of indigenous
Peoples (2012)

United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Report on the fifteenth session
(9-20 May 2016)

Letters and Resolutions

Ministerial Mandate Letters from the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau to Ministers
Minister of Canadian Heritage Mandate Letter
Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Mandate Letter

First Nations Summit Letter to the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau and Ministers 
Supporting Revitalization of Indigenous Languages in B.C. (May 11, 2017)

First Nations Summit Letter to the Honourable Christy Clark and Ministers
Supporting Revitalization of Indigenous Languages in B.C. (May 11, 2017)

Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs Letter to the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau and Ministers
UBCIC Resolution 2017-05 "Supporting Revitalization of Indigenous Languages" (May 17, 2017)

Existing Legislation on Indigenous Languages

Canada: Official Languages Act
For reference, here is the current Official Languages Act for French and English.
Here is a more general summary of the legislation.

Canada: S-212 An Act for the advancement of the aboriginal languages of Canada and to recognize and respect aboriginal language rights
There is currently a private member’s bill in progress through the Senate that aims to provide recognition, but not official status, for Aboriginal languages.
For more information: [click here]

Canada: Nunavut
Official Languages Act 2008
General Information

The Act gives official status to the Inuit language, English and French. It provides for the following rights:
  • Use of any official language in the Legislative Assembly and the Nunavut Court of Justice and appeal court proceedings.
  • Anyone can communicate with or receive services in an official language from the head or central office of any territorial institution and non-head offices also have a duty to provide a service in an official language where there is demand.
Nunavut also has the Inuit Language Protection Act 2008
  • Children in grades K-3 have the right to receive instruction in the Inuit language.
  • A new Language Authority is created to establish language standards.
  • Inuit will have the right to work for the government in their own language.
  • Municipalities must offer services in the Inuit language.
  • By 2019, all school grades will have the right to an Inuit language education. However, this will likely be delayed: [click here]

Canada: Northwest Territories

Official Languages Act 1988
  • Chipewyan, Cree, English, French, Gwich’in, Inuinnaqtun, Inuktitut, Inuvialuktun, North Slavey, South Slavey and Tłįchǫ are the Official Languages of the Northwest Territories (along with English and French).
  • Grants equal rights and privileges for their use in government institutions (legislature, courts).
  • People can receive government services in a language where there is a significant demand for that language.
  • There is a language commissioner and an Aboriginal Languages Revitalization Board.

Canada: Yukon
French and English are the official languages but services may be provided in Aboriginal languages (Language Act 2002).

Canada: Manitoba
The Aboriginal Languages Recognition Act 2010
The languages of Cree, Dakota, Dene, Inuktitut, Michif, Ojibway and Oji-Cree do not have official status, but are recognized as the Aboriginal languages spoken and used in Manitoba.

New Zealand
Māori Language Act 1987
  • Declares the Māori language to be an official language of New Zealand
  • Gives people the right to speak Māori in certain legal proceedings
  • Establishes a commission to oversee the implementation of policies, procedures, measures, and practices designed to give effect to the declaration of Māori language as an official language.

USA: Hawaii

In 1978, Hawaiian is made an official language of Hawaii (along with English) and the the study of Hawaiian is accorded special promotion by the State.

Sweden, Norway and Finland

The Sami language has official status in Sweden and also in some municipalities of Norway and Finland.
  • For example, the Swedish legislation applies to areas where Sami has a long tradition and entitles individuals to use Sami in their dealings with administrative agencies and courts.
  • The legislation also gives the right for pre-school and elderly care to be partly or completely in the minority language.
  • Swedish National minorities and minority languages policy

United Kingdom - Wales
Welsh is not an Indigenous language, but has faced many similar challenges as a minority language native to Wales.
  • The Welsh Language Act 1993 and the Government of Wales Act 1998 provide that the Welsh and English languages be treated equally in the public sector, as far as is reasonable and practicable.
  • The Welsh Language (Wales) Measure was passed in 2011 confirming official status, creating a language commissioner and new provisions for the language.
  • Detailed language strategies and related information

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