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Some Nunavut flights still skipping Inuktitut safety briefings

Nunavut's Languages Commissioner Sandra Inutiq says she has written a letter to one of the territory's airlines asking why safety instructions in Inuktitut are not played on some flights.

'It's like Inuit lives are less important,' says Nunavut languages commissioner

Some Nunavut flights still skipping Inuktitut safety briefings 2:05

Nunavut's Languages Commissioner Sandra Inutiq says she has written a letter to one of the territory's airlines asking why safety instructions in Inuktitut are not played on some flights.

Inutiq says she has personally seen it happen more than once when flying in Nunavut to other communities that no safety briefing is given in Inuktitut.

"When I wrote to them, I said 'Look, when you're not airing Inuktitut safety briefings, it's like Inuit lives are less important.' That's what it feels like to me."

Passengers complained last year that First Air was skipping the Inuktitut safety procedure recordings on some flights. At that time, the airline said that on rare occasions it does not play the Inuktitut recording due to time constraints.

Piita Irniq flew from Ottawa to Iqaluit on Monday. He says there was no safety announcement in Inuktitut before take off or when they landed. He says an elder told him how important it is for unilingual speakers to have those briefings in a language they understand.

A First Air 737-400 plane lands in Iqaluit. Piita Irniq says there was no safety announcement in Inuktitut before take off or on landing when he flew from Ottawa to Iqaluit on Monday. (Grant Linton/CBC)

"He was saying the fact that the only [way] he knew we were going to be landing in a place like Rankin Inlet, Iqaluit or Yellowknife [was] when the flight attendants were beginning to pass around candies. That's how he knew that we were landing in Iqaluit."

Inutiq and Irniq hope airlines will hire more Inuktitut-speaking flight attendants in the future.

Canadian North says all of its planes air Inuktitut safety instructions, but that it will look into its new partners that are part of the codeshare agreement.

First Air responded to CBC's request for comment Oct. 28 with an emailed statement that said its policy is to play the safety instructions in all languages, and if an Inuktitut-speaking attendant is not available, a recording is played. It said sometimes not all languages are presented due to time constraints, but that is rare.

"First Air takes these comments seriously and will follow up with our own training and in-flight services, as well as with airlines operating flights on our behalf, to ensure that the concerns and needs of our customers are being met," the statement read.

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