'From our side, no': Bill 37 not on agenda for spring sitting of Nunavut Legislature

The spring sitting of the Nunavut Legislature starts Tuesday but standing committee on legislation co-chair Pat Angnakak says there are no plans for Bill 37 to leave standing committee.

Legislation proposes controversial changes to Education Act and Inuit Languages Protection Act

Standing committee on legislation co-chair Pat Angnakak says Bill 37 - an act to amend the Education Act and Inuit Languages Protection Act will not be supported. (Vincent Desrosiers/CBC)

Bill 37 will be absent from the spring agenda as the Nunavut Legislature gets underway Tuesday, the co-chair of the standing committee on legislation says.

The bill has been the talk of Nunavut for months. It proposes controversial changes to the Education Act and Inuit Languages Protection Act, such as pushing back the deadline for offering Inuktitut and English instruction by 10 years to 2029 for Grades 4 to 9 and postponing the deadline for Grades 10 to 12 indefinitely.

"We've issued a statement. We've written letters to the minister that Bill 37 will not be supported," said Pat Angnakak, the co-chair of the standing committee of legislation.

Asked if the bill could be expected to be on MLAs' agenda for the sitting, Angnakak replied: "No. If it does come up...If the minister wants to discuss it. But from our side, no."

Right now the bill is stalled. It is in the hands of the standing committee on legislation and it is up to them to bring it back to the House. If they don't, the bill could die in the fall when this assembly is dissolved for the election.

Education Minister and Government House leader Paul Quassa hopes there's a clearer picture of what will happen with the bill by the end of the week.

"We have to make sure that Nunavummiut are hearing all the pros and cons of any of the bills that we have to deal with," he said. "I certainly hope that Bill 37 is not any different than the process that we have to do."

Taking care of business

The spring sitting is only eight days long and the penultimate one before the October 30 election.

That means the pressure is on the government to pass legislation and finish any outstanding business.

Quassa says five bills will be introduced in the coming days. Three are funding bills to re-build schools in Kugaaruk and Cape Dorset.

"The work has been going a lot faster than we had expected. In fact, we're hoping to have that built a year early," said Quassa.

"So we do need that money to fast track some of the things that we want to be done in Cape Dorset," he said.

The two other pieces of legislation are Bill 47 — an act to amend the Legal Profession Act and Bill 48 — an act to amend the Access to Information and Privacy Act.

Bill 48 would include Nunavut municipalities under the territory's access to information legislation, Quassa said.

Nunavut's Information and Privacy Commissioner has been calling for this change for years.

"This [Inclusion of Municipalities] has been on the wish list for many, many years and it will come as no surprise to anyone that it remains on the list this year," Elaine Keenan-Bengts wrote in her 2015-2016 annual report.

These five new bills add to a list of six outstanding bills, including Bill 29 — which would amend the Motor Vehicles Act and Bill 40 — Corrections Act and Bill 37.