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NTI v GN 2021

Equality rights claim about Inuit language education

Key Message

Going to school in our own language is absolutely essential for Nunavut Inuit.

The Inuit language remains the majority language in Nunavut, the language that underpins our culture, the language spoken by our neighbours, our great-grandparents, and Elders. But Nunavut Inuit students over the age of nine have no access to school in the Inuit language.

  • We have filed a statement of claim with the Nunavut Court of Justice, saying that by failing to deliver appropriate Inuit language education, the Government of Nunavut (GN) is breaching Inuit children’s equality rights under s.15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • This is about our future as Nunavut Inuit. Without a grounding in the Inuit language for our children and youth, our culture is at risk.
  • Our language and culture are central to our independence and self determination. By depriving our children and youth of their chance to learn in their language, the GN is depriving Nunavut Inuit of a new generation of leaders who speak for our communities in our own words.
  • Learning in their own language also helps our children do well in school, which is vital for both their individual well-being and our collective success as Inuit.
  • School is mandatory until children turn 17. It is unacceptable for Inuit children to be forced into English-only or French-only education, from grade 4 or 5 on (depending on the school) overriding and replacing their Inuit language.
  • In this lawsuit we are asking the court to make GN deliver Inuit language education in all grades and across subjects, and give more control over curriculum, staffing and direction to Inuit communities.
  • The GN has had ample time to deliver Inuit language education. They’re now proposing to wait another 20 years. Our children, our language, and our people cannot wait.
  • Despite many opportunities for action and decades of urging from Nunavut Inuit communities, the GN has not acted to deliver the education Inuit children need. The pattern is well-established. We cannot afford to see if this time will be different. This is violating our children’s equality rights under the Charter.