Nunavut MP stands alone against federal Indigenous Languages Act

Hunter Tootoo says he supports the idea of the bill, but the legislation should include a commitment to funding and a stronger languages commission.

Hunter Tootoo wants to see amendments that commit money to Indigenous languages.

Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo voted against the Liberal government's Indigenous Languages Act at second reading. He says he wants to see amendments that will commit federal dollars to Indigenous languages and give the commissioner more authority. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo was the sole MP to vote against the Liberal government's Indigenous Languages Act Wednesday night, saying it does nothing for Inuit languages.

Bill C-91 was up for second reading in the House of Commons.

Tootoo said he supports the idea behind the bill but he couldn't vote for it in its current form.

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He referred to concerns raised by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed when the Liberal's introduced the bill on Feb. 5.

At that time, Obed said the bill doesn't do enough to oblige the federal government to fund Indigenous languages, and that it creates a commission that is little more than an advocacy group.

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami President Natan Obed has described bill C-61 as 'colonial' and says it doesn't do anything to protect Inuit languages. (Adam Scotti/Prime Minister's Office)

Tootoo, who is an Inuk, said he has lost his Indigenous language and that as an MLA in Nunavut, he was proud to pass legislation to protect and promote Inuit languages.

Now, he says, the current Nunavut legislature is thinking of repealing those laws because they don't have the resources to implement them.

"I was hoping that there could be some mechanism in legislation like this to be able to help the Government of Nunavut to obtain resources to ... develop and deliver bilingual education," Tootoo told the CBC after the vote.

Bill C-91 passed second reading and will now go to committee where it could be amended. 

Tootoo says he plans to work with the government and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami to make changes to the bill so that he can support it at its third reading.