Nunavut MLAs reverse course on controversial language/education act

A bill that would 'dilute Inuit rights to Inuktut education' has hit a dead end: the committee canvassing public opinion has recommended it not go ahead.

Standing committee cites 'overwhelming lack of consensus in support of the bill'

Chairperson for the Standing Committee on Legislation Tom Sammurtok announced that the committee would not recommend Bill 37 move forward. (CBC News)

A bill that would "dilute Inuit rights to Inuktut education" has hit a dead end: the committee canvassing public opinion has recommended it not go ahead. 

Nunavut's standing committee on legislation announced Friday it believes Bill 37, which contained controversial amendments to the Education Act and the Inuit Language Protection Act, should not go forward.

It will formally make this recommendation to the Legislative Assembly when the House reconvenes later this month. 

The bill was introduced in March and passed the first two readings in the House before being sent to the standing committee for review.

Committee chairperson Tom Sammurtok said the bill should not pass to a third reading, which means it will be ignored until it dies with the end of this assembly's term. 

A news release attributed the decision to "the overwhelming lack of consensus in support of the bill in such areas as language of instruction, the role of District Education Authorities and increased employment of Inuit teachers."

Diluting Inuit language education 

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. had been encouraging Nunavummiut to contact their MLAs or make a written submission to the committee with their opinions. 

NTI vehemently opposed the changes, something which NTI President Aluki Kotierk made clear in a news release published as the bill was passed to the standing committee.

"It will dilute our Inuit right to Inuktut education," she said. "This is unacceptable. Nunavut was created so that our rights to learn in Inuktut would be recognized and protected." 

The proposed changes would have pushed the deadline for offering bilingual education by 10 years to 2029 for Grades 4 to 9, and postponed the deadline for Grades 10 to 12 indefinitely.

The same act proposed changing the 2008 Inuit Language Protection Act from giving every child the right to "receive Inuit language instruction" to giving every parent "the right to receive the majority of the child's school instruction in the Inuit language."