Government of Nunavut wants Inuktut education lawsuit dismissed

In October, NTI filed a lawsuit against the territorial government accusing it of violating the equality rights of young Inuit, protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and perpetuate systemic discrimination by not offering them an education in their own language, even if they are in the majority.

Inuktut is the term used to designate the Inuit language, which includes several dialects in Nunavut. The most commonly spoken are Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun.

On April 4, the government filed a motion in the Nunavut Court of Justice to have the case dismissed, arguing that the basis of NTI’s challenge, which is section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is wrong.

The government says the agency is using section 15, which deals with the right to equality before the law, to to broaden education and language rights set out in other parts of the Charter.

Linguistic rights, including rights relating to language of instruction, fall outside the scope of section 15 of the Charter and are not protected by it.reads the motion.

Constitutional authority over the education, preservation, use and promotion of Inuit languages ​​falls within the purview of the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut.indicates the motion.

A woman walks into court.

Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated President Aluki Kotierk during the filing of lawsuit documents in the Nunavut Court of Justice, October 13, 2021, in Iqaluit.

Photo: Nick Murray/CBC

An unsuitable education system, according to NTI

The territorial government’s request to dismiss the lawsuit was a blow to NTI President Aluki Kotierk, who sees the move as a colonial approach.

Inuit children have to let go of who they are when they enter the education systemshe argues. They must speak English and excel in a school curriculum that is not based on their culture.

According to Aluki Kotierk, these young people are pushed to the limit by a system that does not meet their needs.

She claims that the territorial government is misinterpreting the Charter and that the Legislative Assembly has the duty and responsibility to provide services and programs that meet the needs of the public which is majority Inuit,” she pointed out.

A book in Inuktut.

In 2016, the latest Statistics Canada census noted that the Inuit language was the mother tongue of 65% of the population of Nunavut, compared to 72% in 2001.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Matisse Harvey

Points of contention

NTI is asking the Nunavut Court of Justice to intervene by urging the territorial government to teach various subjects in Inutktut, at all grade levels, within five years of the end of the litigation.

At present, education in Inuktut is mainly only available before the 4and year with courses in English or French for the following years.

The Inuit language has been losing ground to English in recent years. To counter this trend, the Education Act of 2008 was to introduce, from 2019, a completely bilingual school path from kindergarten to 12and year, but the territorial government has failed to achieve this goal.

In the fall of 2020, the Legislative Assembly instead passed Bill 25, to amend this Education Act and the Inuit Language Protection Act to push back part of its 20-year goal. Under this law, the government has committed to offering Inuktut classes at all levels by 2039.

According to NTI, Bill 25 harms Inuit students by causing them to lose control of their language and culture and by undermining their ability to reach their educational potential.

The organization is waiting for the Nunavut Court of Justice to position itself on the next steps.

With information from Liny Lamberink

HERE Far North

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