(October 20, 2016 –Rankin Inlet, Nunavut) Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) Vice-President James Eetoolook today told members gathered for NTI’s annual general meeting in Rankin Inlet that the Government of Nunavut’s (GN) proposed amendments to the Education Act undermine Inuit rights contained in constitutionally protected legislation and policy, including the Nunavut Agreement, Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and the recommendations embedded in the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions’ final report.
While outlining NTI’s alternatives to the proposed amendments, Eetoolook provided the members with evidence that clearly illustrates that Nunavut’s education system and Inuktut are in serious decline. The GN’s proposed amendments do not address this crisis and will further diminish Inuktut language and culture
“We have to do something about this right now; today. As Inuit leaders, we will not stand by and watch our young people be pushed out of school and denied their rights by a failing education system. The government’s proposed amendments will further jeopardize our language. Nunavummiut need a major commitment and investment from government for our youth,” said Eetoolook.
Dr. Ian Martin, a language expert from York University in Toronto who has analyzed Nunavut’s languages for nearly two decades, joined Eetoolook for the presentation and echoed the warning. Dr. Martin presented language statistics which showed that the number of Inuit using Inuktut as the main language in the home dropped significantly between 1996 and 2011. As a result, Inuinnaqtun is now considered definitely endangered and Inuktitut is now classified as vulnerable according to United Nations language criteria. He said that if current trends continue, by 2061, only two per cent of Inuit may be using Inuktut as the main language in their homes.
“Schools in Nunavut, which should be part of the solution, are part of the problem. If the 2008 Education Act and the Inuit Language Protection Act were implemented, the majority of schools would now be teaching Kindergarten to Grade 9 in Inuktut. Many schools cannot meet even the minimum requirement to teach Grade 1 in Inuktut,” said Dr. Martin.
The main contributing factor is the lack of Inuktut-speaking teachers and adequate Inuktut curriculum. Eetoolook said NTI recommended the GN to act immediately to implement an Inuit Employment Plan (IEP) to train and hire large numbers of Inuktut-speaking language specialists and teachers in the classroom, as required by Article 23 of the Nunavut Agreement.
Implementing an IEP for the education system was supposed to occur in 1994 and again in 2008, to bring the number of Inuit teachers and school officials to 85 per cent, but the government has repeatedly failed to do so. There are currently three times more non-Inuit teachers than Inuit teachers; a ratio of 453 to 126. As a result, many of the 42 schools across Nunavut were not able to provide Inuktut instruction for the critical early grade levels as is required by the Nunavut Education Act.
“This does not create an environment in classrooms where Inuktut can be used or even begin to flourish,” said Eetoolook.
NTI members passed a resolution during the annual general meeting, calling on Nunavut’s Members of the Legislative Assembly to oppose the government’s proposed amendments and consider NTI’s recommendations. Since the signing of the Nunavut Agreement in 1993, NTI has expressed a willingness to work with government to collaborate on creating an education system that is reflective of Inuktut language and culture.
For further information:
Director of Communications
Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.
Education Act Amendments