Improve access to services in N.W.T.'s 11 languages: commissioner
People in the Northwest Territories must be able to access health care and other basic services in any of the territory's 11 official languages, Languages Commissioner Sarah Jerome reminded MLAs on Monday.
Jerome said people in areas such as the Beaufort Delta can't always access government services, or even hire interpreters for those services, in the language of their choice.
"Hire people at the local level, hire people who are fluent to work in the areas, for example, like language teachers, for interpreter services at the community level," Jerome told CBC News on Monday.
"It just seems like we don't have enough funding to cover all that."
The N.W.T.'s Official Languages Act recognizes Chipewyan, Cree, English, French, Gwich'in, Inuinnaqtun, Inuktitut, Inuvialuktun, North Slavey, South Slavey and Tlicho as the territory's official languages.
Former languages commissioner Shannon Gullberg presented MLAs with 15 recommendations on language and health care, proposing, among other things, that nurses hired to work in the N.W.T. get basic language training.
Gullberg criticized the government for ignoring past recommendations — which she said has contributed to a decline in aboriginal languages being used — but also praised MLAs currently working to reform the languages act.
The MLAs are focusing on revamping the act on practical matters such as health, education and the law.
"What they're looking at is what services do members of the public want in the official languages, and how do we provide those services?" Gullberg said.
Mackenzie Delta MLA David Krutko said while the N.W.T. must be cost-conscious, it must also find efficient ways to provide government services in the 11 languages.
He suggested training existing nurses and language teachers, who may already speak an aboriginal language, to act as interpreters.
The government will review Gullberg's report as part of the effort to revamp the Official Languages Act.