On a day when Culture and Heritage Minister David Joanasie cited statistics about a growing number of Inuit language speakers in Nunavut and 82 per cent of Inuit being bilingual, Aggu MLA Paul Quassa took aim at Premier Joe Savikataaq, urging him to make Inuktut the working language of government.

“It’s been 20 years since the inception of our territory and we still see that the core of the government continues to use English as its main working language,” says Aggu MLA Paul Quassa.
photo courtesy of the Government of Nunavut

“Does the premier remember why we got Nunavut or was he just newborn when Nunavut was created?” Quassa said Wednesday. “The government was supposed to run in Inuktitut and people are still expecting it today but still nothing.”

Quassa said Greenland provides a good example to follow.

“When I go to a store in Greenland, they use their language. They operate using their language,” he said. “Does the premier have to look more at these other jurisdictions? Can he learn from these other jurisdictions so that within Nunavut our government headquarters can run in Inuktitut?”

Savikataaq said Nunavut is unique. He noted that the GN has made money available to train bureaucrats in Inuktitut – although Quassa argued that the government must compel non-Inuktut speakers to provide service in the Inuit language, not make it voluntary.

Savikataaq replied, “If there is no one available to serve in Inuktitut they find someone that can communicate in Inuktitut like nurses, teachers, and pilots…  if they want service in Inuktitut, they will get service in Inuktitut.”

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  1. Quassa repeatedly demonstrates that he is completely out of touch with reality. I’m from the south. I’m here because nobody in Nunavut had the skills to do the job I do. Without me here, nobody would be doing this job. It’s an important job that contributes to the betterment of life for Nunavummiut. The same goes for nurses, doctors, teachers, police, tradespeople, etc. None of us speak Inuktitut, and forcing us to learn a dying language is absurd. If the GN wants to clutch its pearls and make Inuktitut mandatory, its workforce will be absolutely decimated, with 50% or so of employees, almost all of them in jobs where no Nunavummiut have the skills to do, quitting to move back to the south.

  2. If you move to Quebec, you learn French. If you move to Europe you learn the language of your new country and maybe a third language. If you fail to do this you not only have difficulty with employment, you look ignorant or arrogant or both.
    Immigrants to Canada quickly learn to work in English or French, perhaps with an accent and some errors at first, but it’s English or French.
    If Nunavummiut want incomers to learn their language, they should make lessons widely available, and either free, or with tuition refunded on passing each level. By all means add a bonus for each level passed. And those who speak the language already should make a point of encouraging learners.
    It’s not that hard.

  3. The Premier says ask for Inuktitut speaking and you will get service in Inuktitut. Yes only by the good graces of Inuit. How many times have I been asked to interpret because you cannot speak my language? I now refuse because I want Inuktitut to become the language of Nunavut. It is possible. We have a counsellor training in Clyde River that is completely in Inuktitut, I was so impressed. As a GN employee meetings were in English because of one person who didn’t know Inuktitut. Workshops were in English because my cotrainers didn’t speak Inuktitut. We have to stop allowing or accommodating English only speakers from the rest of us conducting meetings in Inuktitut. After all Inuit were informed in English without a care that they didn’t understand.

    I agree with Paul.

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