The preservation of Indigenous languages is fundamental to protecting Indigenous culture. As far back in 1986 COO resolved to “reverse the degradation” of Indigenous languages because “the preservation of aboriginal languages is synonymous with the preservation of First Nations’ culture and the security of First Nations governments.” (Resolution 86/23) This commitment was once again reiterated in the 2017 AOCC with resolution 40/17 (First Nations’ Ownership and Control of First Nation Languages).
More recently as a result of advocacy done by COO, the PTOs, and others, the federal and provincial governments have initiated First Nations language preservation strategies.
Bill S-212 and Language Policies
In December of 2016 the Prime Minister announced that the Government of Canada will jointly develop legislation (Bill S-212) for the revitalization and recovery of Indigenous languages. This Bill is currently at second reading in the Senate. The goal of the act is to advance the Indigenous languages of Canada, and recognize Indigenous Peoples right to use, preserve, revitalize and promote their languages. The department of Canadian Heritage confirmed that the federal government intends to table the draft legislation in the spring of 2018. There is also funding available for Indigenous language revitalization at the Federal level through the Aboriginal Language Initiative. The purpose of this program is to preserve and revitalize Indigenous languages through community-based projects and activities.
Provincial Legislation and Policies
The Province’s actions on language revitalization is guided by the principles articulated in the 2015 Political Accord, and the commitments made in response to the TRC in The Journey Together. Specifically, in The Journey Together, Ontario announced it would provide $13.4 million in funding to revitalize Indigenous languages in Ontario. In the Federal budget it was announced that $89.9 million would be allotted for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Indigenous Language and Cultures over 3 years:
- $29.6 million for 2017-18;
- $30.4 million for 2018-19;
- $30.0 million for 2019-20;
The rollout of this funding began in May of 2017 with the Gidinwewininaanan No Lang Indigenous Languages Symposium, held at Lakehead University. Ontario designated this symposium as the first step in an ongoing, co-developed strategy to support the revitalization of Indigenous languages. The symposium provided a platform for Indigenous partners and education stakeholders to review current programs, determine gaps and identify community priorities and the supports needed to support Indigenous languages. While the First Nations Lifelong Learning Table (FNLLT) and the Province agree that a language strategy needs to be co-developed, there have been problems with the process. First, The Journey Togetheras a document was created without input from the First Nations Education Coordination Unit (FNECU) or the Chiefs Committee on Lifelong Learning (CCOLL). Second, the path forward after this symposium is unclear.
COO Advocacy on this File
COO is directed by Resolution 40/17 (First Nations’ Ownership and Control of First Nation Languages). This resolution instructs COO to:
- Engage with AFN and associated organizations as they co-develop federal language legislation, submit budgets to the federal government, and send breakdowns of the federal budget,
- Require AFN to ensure regional engagement on Indigenous Language legislation,
- Ensure the federal and provincial governments follow principles of OCAP®,
- Require that draft legislation be supported by regional and national resolutions before being introduced in the House of Commons,
- Ensure that any First Nations’ languages strategy is fully determined, owned, and controlled by First Nations in Ontario,
- Mandate the Anishinaabek, Mushkegowuk, Onkwehonwe Language Commission of Ontiatario’:io (AMO) to engage with First Nation communities and organizations to develop Terms and Conditions, Terms of Reference, and an organizational structure, and
- Support the AMO in securing funding.
Based on this mandate, COO has worked this year in conjunction with the language symposium to ensure that commitments to revitalize and preserve Indigenous languages proceed.