Nunavut Tunngavik calls for equitable funding for Inuit languages
Inuktut language services receive similar funding to French services despite nearly 50 times more speakers
The president of Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated says the government of Canada must spend more to support Inuit languages, a lot more.
Just last month, the Federal government promised nearly $15.8 million over four years for Inuktut language services in Nunavut, along with $14.25 million for French language services over the same period.
Inuktut is a term that refers to all Inuit languages, including Nunavut's Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun dialects.
"I find it difficult to understand how this is reconciliation," said NTI President Aluki Kotierk, noting the small difference between Inuktut and French language funding.
Data from the 2011 Statistics Canada population census, showed Nunavut has 435 people who count French as their mother tongue, and 21,515 people who count Inuktitut or Inuinnaqtun as their mother tongues.
With only a $1.5 million difference in funding between Inuktut and French services, Kotierk believes the funding is not equitable on a per capita basis.
"Given that Inuktut is an official language of our territory, it should be equitably funded. Inuit expect to receive programs and services in their language and they should be able to receive them," she said.
Kotierk argues that if the federal government were to fund Inuktut at the same level as they are funding French, they would need to commit closer to $700 million over four years.
For their part, officials at the Government of Nunavut say they're happy that language funding increased at all.
"Since 1999 all we got from the feds was about $1.1 million (per year)," said Stephane Cloutier, Nunavut's director of official languages, who helped negotiate the recent funding.
Cloutier said the reason the federal government covers all of costs of providing French language services in the territory is also the biggest hurdle for Nunavut when negotiating for language funding.
"Canada only recognises two official languages... English and French," he said. "There is a need for a change, even at the national level, to recognise that Nunavut is quite unique.
"The national language policies across the country might work, but when it comes Nunavut, it is totally different than what we see elsewhere."
Cloutier agrees with Kotierk that funding for Inuktut needs to increase significantly. He sees the recent funding as a new baseline that he plans to build from in future negotiations.
The federal government has not responded to a CBC News interview request.