Since 2019, the Inuit Languages and Cultures Program (ILCP) has been distributing language culture funding and supporting various organizations, such as the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation (IBC), in endeavours to preserve and expand Inuit language services.
However, as of August, the federal department of Canadian Heritage announced a new funding model that instead sees all funds in support of Inuit language distributed through land claims organizations.
“IBC board members are concerned about this change as there has yet to be a call out for language projects from any Inuit land claims organizations… Also, most land claims organizations don’t have a specific mandate pertaining to language retention or staff to work on this file,” Iqaluit-based Inuit Broadcasting Corporation stated on Oct. 19.
IBC also objected to what it deems as a lack of transparency that went into the decision, stating that some Inuit stakeholders were not included in the decision-making process.
“We are concerned that this new model is being implemented without consultation with Inuit beneficiaries, and it is pertaining to the most fundamental aspect of our culture: language,” said Adamie Itorcheak, vice-chair of IBC’s board of directors.
“Inuktut maintenance, revitalization and reclamation — IBC has been doing this for over 40 years through our Inuktut language programming first broadcast on TVNC and now APTN, and more recently from the digitization and increased public access of our vast collection of archival material,” reads the IBC’s response to Heritage Canada. “Continued celebration and promotion of the Inuktut languages, as well as Inuit culture and values through the public access of IBC archival material must be maintained.”
Manitok Thompson, IBC’s executive director, added, “NTI is getting the program money, which they are not mandated to get and administer. The land claims agreement doesn’t give them that mandate. The (Government of Nunavut) culture and language minister should have a say in this.
“The federal government is treating the land claims like a band council. In the Nunavut territory, the funding for language, health and, I guess, soon education is being partly funneled through the land claims. I believe the (territorial) government is missing out on the talks between the Inuit partnerships with the federal ministers.”
Also in August, the IBC responded to a notification letter from Canadian Heritage by asking for details of the mid-fiscal year change, and asking a series of specific questions, which it contends the federal government did not answer in a subsequent letter dated Oct. 16. The response consisted of a mere two paragraphs.
“For 2023-2024, (Heritage Canada) remains committed to transitioning to this new funding approach to support Inuktut language maintenance, revitalization, and reclamation,” states the letter, signed by director general Paul Pelletier.
It goes on to confirm the already announced intentions of Heritage Canada to disperse funds directly to Indigenous land claims organizations.
When asked for clarification, specifically relating to IBCs questions, the Department of Heritage’s public relations team sent this reply to NNSL Media:
“The Government of Canada remains committed to implementing the Indigenous Languages Act in partnership with First Nations, Inuit and Métis… As of this fiscal year, the following organizations will manage funding based on Inuit priorities, strategies, and activities to support Inuktut:
-Inuvialuit Regional Corporation: representing the Inuvialuit Settlement Region in Northwest Territories
-Makivvik: the organization representing the Inuit of Nunavik in Quebec
-Nunatsiavut Government: regional government of Nunatsiavut in Newfoundland and Labrador
-Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated: the organization representing the Inuit of Nunavut
Inuit organizations interested in working on Inuktut maintenance, revitalization and reclamation are invited to contact the organization which is best aligned with their realities… This approach is consistent with the Indigenous Languages Act, which recognizes that Indigenous peoples are best positioned to take the leading role in reclaiming, revitalizing, maintaining and strengthening their languages.”
When contacted for comment, Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, now the beneficiary of the funding, did not respond.
IBC spokesperson Karen Prentice told NNSL Media, “IBC doesn’t have a problem with the federal government allocating the language funds to the Inuit land claims organizations in a new language model. What our concern is, is that the organizations that were already doing this work on a daily basis are now in the dark about where to apply to the fund, how the new model will work, and how much funding will be available. And, as it states in the release, we are already seven months into the fiscal year and there hasn’t been a call out for proposals.
“Our board members are concerned about the lack of transparency in the process. So, ideally, at this point, we would be able to find out how to apply, when the funding will be distributed to Nunavut Inuit organizations, and hopefully receive at least the same, and ideally more funding for our crucial Inuktitut language programs.”