The Current

Facebook marks Nunavut Day with Inuktut translation tool in Canada

Some Indigenous people are praising Facebook's new Inuktut translation tool as a way to promote and maintain Indigenous languages but argue more needs to be done to fill the language gap for essential services.

Tool will make settings and buttons on the platform accessible in Inuktut

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. President Aluki Kotierk played a central role in spearheading Facebook's initiative to translate the app into Inuktut but says there's much more work to be done to fill the language gap in Nunavut. (Sara Frizzell/CBC)

Read Story Transcript

Facebook is marking Nunavut Day with the announcement of a new Inuktut translation tool.

"It's important that Inuit who speak Inuktut are able to see and hear Inuktut used in all aspects of their lives," Aluki Kotierk, president of land claims organization Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., told The Current's guest host Duncan McCue. 

The Facebook tool — that Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. helped launch — will help translate the platform into Inuktut. That term encompasses two Inuit languages: Inuktitut, which is spoken in most Inuit regions, and Inuinnaqtun, which is spoken in western Nunavut and part of the Northwest Territories.

The initiative will make settings and buttons on the platform accessible in Inuktut but won't translate what users write on the website.

The public will vote to determine which universal terms for "like" or "profile" will be used on Facebook, Kotierk said.

Closing the language gap 

There is a lot at stake to see this initiative help revitalize Inuktut and close the language gap for Indigenous people, according to Kotierk. 

One of the areas she wants to see change in is essential public services, such as health care services and education, which are not available in Inuktut.

"As Canadians we should be able to expect comparable essential services to other Canadians across this country," she said.

National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Perry Bellegarde says it's important the federal government's Indigenous Languages Act move ahead with a 'distinctions-based' approach to preserve and maintain Indigenous languages. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

In June, the Assembly of First Nations leaders met with federal, provincial and territorial ministers and leaders of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Métis Nation to collaborate on developing an Indigenous languages legislation.

"We know the government spent decades trying to eradicate our languages so we said at least as much effort should be spent revitalizing and restoring them," said the Assembly of First Nations' National Chief Perry Bellegarde.

With over 58 distinct languages and more than 90 dialects, he said the Indigenous languages legislation is expected to be introduced by October and passed before next year's federal election.

"Our languages as First Nations people should be viewed as Canada's national treasures."

Listen to the full conversation near the top of this page.

This segment was produced by The Current's Pacinthe Mattar and Alison Masemann.