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'It's a privilege': After 1-year search, Nunavut appoints new languages commissioner

Helen Klengenberg grew up in Kugluktuk and is the first languages commissioner in the territory to speak fluent Inuinnaqtun.

Helen Klengenberg is first languages commissioner in the territory to speak fluent Inuinnaqtun

Helen Klengenberg grew up in Kugluktuk and is the first languages commissioner in the territory to speak fluent Inuinnaqtun. (Submitted by Helen Klengenberg)

Nunavut's Speaker has appointed a new languages commissioner: Helen Klengenberg will take over the role for a five-year term.

Klengenberg, who grew up on the land in Kugluktuk, is the first languages commissioner in the territory to speak fluent Inuinnaqtun. According to a news release from the Nunavut government, she is also conversant in a variety of Inuit dialects.

"It's a privilege," Klengenberg told CBC.

"I'm very pleased. There's lots of things to do in this area, so I'm very happy to be part of the team."

Nunavut's previous languages commissioner, Sandra Inutiq, resigned in May 2016 with one year left on her term, citing health reasons. Inutiq later told CBC that she was burned out, and that a tense working relationship with the premier and the government drove her to step down.

The Nunavut government didn't have an easy time filling the position — the job was posted three times over the last year, due to a low number of applicants.

In the news release, Nunavut Speaker George Qulaut said Klengenberg is a "proven advocate for language rights."

Klengenberg was a member of the Task Force on Aboriginal Languages and Cultures, which presented a report on language revitalization to the federal government. She holds a masters degree in business administration, and has held various positions with the Nunavut government, N.W.T. government, Nunavut Tunngavik and the Kitikmeot Trust.

"My main priority would be to implement the Official Languages Act as well as the Inuit [Language] Protection Act," Klengenberg said.

Language revitalization is also a priority for Klengenberg, especially Inuinnaqtun — a language that is struggling to survive.

"I made a conscious choice to make sure that I didn't lose my language," she said.

"I have grandchildren. I'm hoping that our language will be revitalized."

Her appointment will take effect on June 29.

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