Revitalizing First Nations Languages Demands Urgent Action: AFN National Chief to Meet with Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers of Culture and Heritage

Published: Jun 18, 2018News

(Yellowknife, NWT) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde will meet tomorrow with federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for culture and heritage at a roundtable discussion in Yellowknife, NWT. National Chief Bellegarde will urge all governments to work with First Nations on immediate action to revitalize, maintain, preserve and protect First Nations languages, highlighting First Nations-led work to co-develop legislation with Canada.

“Action to revitalize First Nations languages is an urgent priority for reconciliation,” said National Chief Perry Bellegarde. “Language is a right. Language is fundamental to who we are as First Nations peoples. Language is life. We’re working together with First Nations and the federal government on collaborative co-development of federal legislation. The provinces and territories can also work with First Nations to strengthen languages, and it’s encouraging to see this is already happening in some regions. There is a role for every government and every jurisdiction to work with First Nations. Let’s keep moving and maintain momentum as we approach 2019, the International Year of Indigenous Languages.”

The meeting of federal, provincial and territorial ministers and leaders of the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Métis Nation will take place in Yellowknife June 19 and continues dialogue launched at a ministerial level last August.

“There is a resurgence of First Nations people eager to learn their languages and those who want to revitalize and strengthen our languages,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “Our languages are the original voices of these lands. They are fundamental to who we are as peoples and as nations. Our language rights are protected as inherent, constitutional and human rights. I look forward to continuing our collaborative efforts to ensure First Nations languages are spoken in this land by the coming generations.”

National Chief Bellegarde will advocate action by all levels of government to support First Nations priorities and jurisdictional authority, including committing sustained, long-term investments that would foster fluency and regular use of First Nations languages within our homes, educational institutions and operations of First Nations governments and in federal and provincial government services.

The AFN has been working together with the Department of Canadian Heritage, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Métis Nation, to co-develop Indigenous languages legislation that is ‘distinction-based’, reflective of the different needs of First Nations, Inuit and Métis. Legislation is expected to be tabled Fall 2018. Prime Minister Trudeau announced his commitment to co-developing an Indigenous Languages Act at the AFN’s Special Chiefs Assembly in December 2016 which reflects the Assembly of First Nations 2015 Closing the Gap policy advocacy document.

A 2017 Nanos poll indicates that 74% of Canadians support the creation of an Indigenous Languages Act to ensure the protection, preservation, revitalization and maintenance of Indigenous languages in Canada.

There are more than 58 distinct Indigenous languages and more than 90 distinct languages and dialects spoken in Canada. There are no First Nations languages considered to be safe.

The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.

For more information, please contact:

Jenna Young Castro
AFN Communications Officer
613-241-6789 ext 201
613-314-8157 (cell)
[email protected]

Monica Poirier
Bilingual Communications Officer
Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext. 382
[email protected]