Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated is expressing its disappointment in the Government of Nunavut’s attempt to reject a court challenge over Inuktut language rights in education.

On April 4, the Government of Nunavut (GN) filed a motion to dismiss Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated’s (NTI’s) claim that the GN is systemically discriminating against Nunavut Inuit in Inuktut culture and language by enacting amendments to Nunavut’s Education Act and Inuit Language Protection Act.

NTI filed this claim on Oct. 13, along with Inuit plaintiffs representing parents of Inuit students, citing equality rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Inuit represent 94 per cent of the territory’s student population.

NTI maintains that the GN’s stance conveys that constitutional rights for language minorities in Canada only belong to English and French.

“Nunavut Inuit had high hopes and expectations that the Government of Nunavut, established by the Nunavut Agreement, would fulfill Inuit aspirations of a public education system that embraced and valued Inuit language,” NTI president Aluki Kotierk stated on April 25. “The GN’s motion sends the wrong message that Inuit cannot ask for equal treatment in how they receive education, and that Inuit should accept the framework that could result in irreversible language loss.”

According to the Department of Education, in 2016 only 22 per cent of teachers were able to teach in Inuktut, primarily at early grade levels.

In November 2020, the GN passed Bill 25, amending its goal to achieve bilingual English and Inuktut education by 2020 to 2039 for all grade levels.

“NTI has continually advocated to the Government of Nunavut to strengthen Inuktut in public education. However the GN’s message is clear: Inuktut is unworthy of an equal place in the public education system,” said Kotierk, “and that Inuit should accept this inequality.”

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