Nunavut's Education Act report a step backwards, says languages commissioner

'If the recommendations were followed through we would be going back and we wouldn't be as committed to protecting and revitalizing Inuktut,' said Sandra Inutiq, Nunavut's languages commissioner.

'[It] is a continuation of a colonialist idea that Inuit culture and language is inferior,' commissioner

The Languages Commissioner of Nunavut says that the final report from the special committee to review the Education Act is a step backwards in protecting and revitalizing the Inuit language.

"There were some points made that were quite troubling," said Sandra Inutiq, the languages commissioner, in response to the report tabled on November 5, in the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut.

"If the recommendations were followed through, we would be going back and we wouldn't be as committed to protecting and revitalizing Inuktut," Inutiq said, using a special term to refer to all Inuit languages. 

Inutiq says the report infers that there's a choice between a "strong academic foundation," and one "including language, culture and history."

"Language, culture and academics should not be viewed as mutually exclusive," stated Inutiq in a written release, "[It] is a continuation of a colonialistic idea that Inuit culture and language is inferior, and cannot be academic."

Less community control flagged as problem

Inutiq says Inuktut is already in a very compromised situation as language use rapidly declines.

"If we don't commit to having Inuktut as a right to instruction... it puts it in a more dangerous place," she adds.

Inutiq also has concerns that the report calls for less community control over education, an issue flagged by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the national Inuit organization as a problem.

"How can you engage better with parents if you're taking away control from communities and proposing to centralize education in Iqaluit?"

With the report tabled, it's up to the Minister of Education to draft any necessary amendments to the Education Act. 

"I think we can still lobby the minister to let him know what we think," said Inutiq.

With files from Pauline Pemik