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e-2453 (Indigenous affairs)

Initiated by Jenna Robar from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Government of Canada

  • There are approximately 60 Indigenous languages in Canada;
  • 2019 was declared by the United Nations as the Year of Indigenous Languages;
  • The speaking of Indigenous languages is integral to the well-being of Indigenous peoples;
  • The Government of Canada is committed to achieving reconciliation with Indigenous peoples through a renewed relationship based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership as the foundation for transformative change;
  • As per Article 13 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which states: Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literature, and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places and persons; and
  • As per the "Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action" document, sub-category "Language and Culture", Articles 13-16, recommending the protection and revitalization of Indigenous languages.
We, the undersigned, citizens of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to:
1. Recognize Indigenous languages as being official languages of Canada; and
2. To have each language recognized nationally, with implementations on regional and provincial levels, acknowledging that many regions have different languages.

Response by the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Julie Dabrusin

The Government would like to thank the petitioners for expressing their concerns regarding Indigenous languages in Canada.

The Indigenous Languages Act, which received Royal Assent in June 2019, recognizes that Indigenous languages were the first languages used in Canada and that the rights of Indigenous peoples recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, include Indigenous language rights.

According to Statistics Canada (2016), there are nearly 70 Indigenous languages in Canada. The majority of Indigenous languages in Canada are considered endangered because of discriminatory government policies and practices that have been detrimental to Indigenous languages and have contributed significantly to their erosion. Work to validate the Indigenous names, number and degree of vitality of Indigenous languages at the national and local levels is ongoing. The Government is also working with Indigenous partners on how to best celebrate the international decade of Indigenous languages to draw attention to the critical loss of Indigenous languages and the urgent need to reclaim, revitalize, maintain and strengthen them.

During engagement sessions for the co-development of the Indigenous Languages Act, Indigenous stakeholders, language experts and practitioners expressed the importance of focusing efforts and resources on the reclamation, revitalization, maintenance and strengthening of Indigenous languages in order to address the current trend of language erosion. A pan-Indigenous approach for all Indigenous languages was not deemed appropriate given the significant differences in the status of languages based on distinction, geographic area, measures already in place such as territorial official languages legislation and the existence of language commissioners and commissions.

The Indigenous Languages Act provides for cooperation to efficiently and effectively support Indigenous languages in Canada in a manner consistent with the rights of Indigenous peoples and the jurisdiction and authority of Indigenous governing bodies, provinces and territories. This may include entering into agreements with provincial and territorial governments, Indigenous governments and other Indigenous governing bodies, Indigenous organizations and any other entity.

The Indigenous Languages Act provides for a collaborative and flexible approach to implementation that recognizes the unique circumstances and needs of Indigenous governments, organizations, and communities. This approach is essential to respect the diversity of Indigenous identities, languages and cultures and the history of Indigenous peoples across the country.

Open for signature
February 28, 2020, at 1:27 p.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
April 28, 2020, at 1:27 p.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Nathaniel Erskine-Smith (Beaches—East York)
May 5, 2020 (Petition No. 431-00167)
Government response tabled
July 20, 2020
Photo - Nathaniel Erskine-Smith
Beaches—East York
Liberal Caucus
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