Jackson Lafferty: Aboriginal Languages Programs and Progress

4 mars 2015
Déclarations et discours de ministres

Mr. Speaker, Aboriginal Languages Month is an opportune time to reflect on past successes and the work that lies ahead in continuing to promote, revitalize and preserve our nine official Aboriginal languages. We are all burdened by the truth that some of our Aboriginal languages are struggling, not because we are not doing enough to support them, but because the challenges they face are complex.

Residential school and colonialism have left some deep scars behind and are largely responsible for Aboriginal people struggling to keep their languages alive. Adding to this reality is the fact that English has taken over as the predominant language of our society. This history can never be forgotten nor can its impact be reversed quickly.

Mr. Speaker, the good news is, however, that the Government of the Northwest Territories is partnering with Aboriginal governments, schools and the federal government to make a difference and reverse this trend. This collaboration is vital as success can only be achieved by working together, each doing our part. That is not about duplicating efforts and creating bureaucracy. It is about sharing in the responsibility and helping build one another’s capacity.

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the NWT invests 15 million dollars each year to support and promote Aboriginal languages through:

• Building the capacity of Aboriginal governments to implement their 5-year regional language plans;
• Funding culture and language programs in schools;
• Funding language nest programs in daycares;
• Supporting Aboriginal broadcasting;
• Funding programs that increase the number of Aboriginal language instructors;
• Developing Aboriginal language terminology;
• Supporting specific Aboriginal language initiatives; and
• Providing government services in Aboriginal languages where possible.

Mr. Speaker, these are the highlights of our actions, providing evidence that we are firing on all cylinders. Key to all of our efforts, however, is parents speaking their Aboriginal language at home with their children, and children embracing the learning of that language. Without that key ingredient our efforts can only go so far.

Mr. Speaker, administering support for Aboriginal languages is complex. To simplify our approach and provide the funding in the most straightforward way, as of April 1st, 2014, all Aboriginal governments now have the control and flexibility to decide where best to allocate their funding. They have done their homework and have developed very rich regional language plans. Our job is now to support them in their efforts to implement them and give them time to assess what has worked best and where improvements can be made.

We are helping them in developing monitoring and evaluation plans for their accountability and measuring their efforts.

Mr. Speaker, we have listened to the advice of the Aboriginal governments and our Elders; they are the ones on the ground in the communities. They see the decline happening before their eyes. But they also see pockets of progress – there are the children working with Elders to create a dictionary; there are youth teaching others what they’ve learned, there are children sitting with community Elders and learning from them, and there are communities rallying from the youngest to the oldest to ensure that everyone on the ground is reaching beyond their communities to share their languages with the world.

Masi, Mr. Speaker.