Monday July 31, 2017

Undoing Linguicide: The legal right to the survival of Indigenous languages

Listen to Full Episode 54:01

​Lorena Fontaine is battling to revive aboriginal languages -- languages that have been quashed and brought to the brink of extinction by Canada's residential school system. She is completing her PhD at the University of Manitoba, and argues that Canadian Indigenous communities have a legal right to the survival of language. For her, it's a race against time that must not be lost. **This episode originally aired April 8, 2016.


Trenches - Undoing Linguicide

"Aboriginal people have a right to language. Unless we do something in this generation the languages will die in the next generation -- the generation of my daughter."

-- ​Lorena Fontaine, PhD student at the University of Manitoba

Guests in this episode:

  • Doris Young, residential school survivor from the Opaskwayak Cree Nation; Lorena's mother.

  • Esther Sanderson residential school survivor from the Opaskwayak Cree Nation; Lorena's aunt.

  • Phil Fontaineformer National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. His first language is Ojibwe.

  • Fernand de VarennesDean of Law at the Université de Moncton and an expert in minority language rights.

Special thanks to: the Glendon College Centre for Research on Language & Culture Contact for accommodating us at the Colloquium organized in February to on Indigenous Language Rights.


Note: We requested interviews with the Minister of Justice, Minister of Heritage and the MInister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs. The office of Indigenous and Northern Affairs responded with the following comment:

Improving the education outcomes of First Nations children living on reserve is critical to improving their quality of life and contributing to stronger communities. Budget 2016 will make substantial investments in primary and secondary education on reserve, totaling $2.6 billion over five years. This includes funding to address immediate needs and to keep pace with cost growth over the medium term. It also includes investments in language and cultural programming.

·      This includes funding to address immediate needs and to keep pace with cost growth over the medium term, in addition to investments in language and cultural programming, investments in literacy and numeracy programs and special needs education, which will contribute to improved education outcomes

·      In order to achieve meaningful gains in education outcomes for First Nations, Budget 2016 proposes significant funding to support the transformation of the current on reserve education system through a respectful process of consultation and partnership with First Nations.

·      The Government recognizes that funding alone is not enough; improving student outcomes requires all partners involved in delivering education to work together.

·      By sitting down with First Nations and listening to their concerns and ideas, we will be able to determine together how to improve education outcomes for First Nation students and ensure First Nation control of education in their communities.

·      In the coming months, the Government will be announcing details of the way forward in First Nations Education, including details on how it will engage with First Nations to strengthen a cooperative partnership to explore options and develop a   roadmap to improve First Nation education.

·      There is no one-size fits all approach when it comes to education. The Government will work with First Nations to support them in creating the educational system that will be successful for First Nations youth on reserve.