Provisions of Inuit Language Protection Act now in force across Nunavut

Nunavut's Language Protection Act is now in force. Government and private business must gear up for compliance.

All public communication, including signs and advertising, must include at least one Inuit language

Nunavut's Inuit Language Protection Act came into effect on July 9, meaning private business and government must now communicate and offer services in at least one Inuit language. (Sara Frizzell/CBC)

Nunavut now has its own sign law.

As of July 9, all private businesses and government offices across Nunavut must offer services and communication in either Inuktitut or Inuinnaqtun, unless they operate across the territory, in which case they must offer services in both languages.

The law includes public signs, posters, advertising, invoices, and estimates, as well as customer and reception services.

The new regulations are part of the Inuit Language Protection Act.

Helen Klengenberg, Nunavut language commissioner, said Inuit hope to one day be able to function in their own language in their daily lives. (Submitted by Helen Klengenberg)

"We hope someday to be able to function in our own language in every aspect of our daily lives, as they did in Canada with English and French," said Helen Klengenberg, Nunavut's language commissioner.

For now, no fines are being handed out to anyone failing to live up to the legal letter of the legislation, but the government is asking businesses across the territory to draw up and submit language plans outlining how they are working toward complete customer service in Inuktut (Inuktut includes Inuinnaqtun and Inuktitut).

Grants are available through the Department of Culture and Heritage to help businesses comply with the new law.

Matthew Clark, president of the Iqaluit Chamber of Commerce said more may need to be done to bring private enterprise in Nunavut up to speed on the requirements of the new law.

"Resources and cost are always a concern, translation service is expensive, and getting new signage is expensive, so I don't know if Iqaluit businesses are 100 per cent aware of the requirement, and ... certainly not aware of what resources are out there to help us," Clark said.

The act does not outline fines or penalties for non-compliance.

Provisions for private sector accommodation are built into the act for cases where compliance would be too onerous, or where the activities of an organization primarily target a non-Inuit language or cultural group.

For more information on the act and compliance guidelines visit here.

With files from Sara Frizell