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Tootoo votes no on federal Indigenous Languages Act

Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo was the sole MP to vote against the second reading of the proposed federal Indigenous Languages Act Feb. 20.
photo courtesy Hunter Tootoo

There was only one vote against the second reading of the Indigenous Languages Act at the House of Commons Feb. 20 – and it was from Nunavut’s representative, Hunter Tootoo.

“This legislation in its present form does nothing to preserve and protect Inuit languages. I will be working with the minister and ITK (Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami) to bring amendments forward before third reading,” said Tootoo.

In his statement, Tootoo quoted ITK president Natan Obed about the glaring lack in the process to develop legislation, as well as the legislation itself.

“I am an Inuk and I have lost my language. I have lost what I am very proud to see in Nunavut right now. People are showing an interest in learning and regaining their languages. In fact, in 2008, we passed our own Nunavut Indigenous languages protection act and pieces of the Education Act that would force the government to offer bilingual education in Inuktitut,” Tootoo said.

Other MPs supported Tootoo, but not with their votes.

For example, Frontenac-Kingston MP Scott Reid had this to say:

“Very briefly, the member reflects some real concerns. I will be voting in favour of the legislation. The things that it does, it does well. However, if I found myself in a situation where if I were representing a constituency where Inuktitut was the predominant language, I would be voting against it. This has simply failed to take into account the needs of that language group completely.”

Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus turned over his question time to Tootoo to complete his statement.

Tootoo used Angus’s time to explain that the next day, at the Nunavut legislative assembly, an unfortunate event would take place.

“(The assembly) is looking at repealing pieces of that legislation (Education Act) because it does not have the resources to provide bilingual education,” said Tootoo.

“Legislation like this should look at providing the territorial government, which has the responsibility for delivering education, with resources and funding so it can develop and deliver a bilingual education. This could be looked at with this legislation.”