OTTAWA, January 29, 2021
The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage, along with the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Services, and the Honourable Daniel Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs, issued the following statement today on the final day of the Symposium on Indigenous Languages – Building on Strengths and Successes.
“Indigenous languages are fundamental to Indigenous identities, cultures, spirituality, and self-determination as well as relationships with the land and in the natural world. They tell stories, preserve cultures and traditions, and hold generations of families and communities together.
The government recognizes that three quarters of the estimated 90 Indigenous languages in Canada are considered to be endangered. We must first acknowledge that the colonial systems built over past generations, and reinforced by successive governments and institutions, have contributed to the loss or erosion of many Indigenous languages. As language is essential to Indigenous identity and culture, the Government of Canada must act in partnership with Indigenous peoples to increase fluency in Indigenous languages across the country and, in turn, preserve Indigenous culture.
Through events like this week’s national Symposium on Indigenous Languages, we are working with First Nations, Inuit and Métis across Canada to build a strong foundation for the reclamation, revitalization, strengthening and maintenance of Indigenous languages. This is a commitment the government made in the Indigenous Languages Act.
We would like to thank the 300 plus elders, practitioners, experts and academics participating in the symposium where we are making progress in the following areas together:
- a better understanding of the key functions of the Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages (promoting Indigenous languages, supporting communities and research, and planning and results reporting) as we approach its creation and appointment of the first Indigenous Languages Commissioner and Directors;
- the identification and adoption of national and international best practices for preserving and promoting Indigenous languages, such as coordinating multifaceted approaches with kindergarten to grade 12 language education, better integrating information technology and using immersion programs across the lifecycle;
- the establishment of an Indigenous Languages Funding Model by learning from the Hawaiian experience and exploring what we heard during Canadian consultations with Indigenous peoples; and;
- planning how we can capitalize on the global momentum around the 2022–2032 International Decade of Indigenous Languages to develop a Canadian action plan.
Our work throughout this week has brought us a step closer to truly transforming the way we speak, perceive and promote Indigenous languages in Canada.
The symposium built on the progress made through virtual consultations this past fall with Indigenous peoples across Canada, where participants discussed the appointment of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages and Directors as well as the development of a renewed Indigenous Languages Funding Model.
Individuals, communities, language experts and knowledge keepers across the country stressed that funding for Indigenous languages has to be predictable, long-term and flexible. They also stated that all Indigenous languages must be supported, particularly those that are critically endangered and that funding processes and assessments of success should be Indigenous-led. The Government of Canada is committed to working toward these goals.
We heard how the Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages should adopt an approach that works across all levels of government in revitalizing Indigenous languages, including building relationships, sharing best practices, and working with Indigenous organizations and communities to assess the health of Indigenous languages as well as plan for the future.Ultimately, it is our goal that more Indigenous peoples will be able to learn and speak their languages with greater support and continue to pass this valued linguistic heritage on to future generations.”
For more information (media only), please contact:
Office of the Minister of Canadian Heritage