February 21, 2022 – Ottawa, Ontario
Today, on International Mother Language Day, the Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage, National Chief RoseAnne Archibald of the Assembly of First Nations, President Natan Obed of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and President Cassidy Caron of the Métis National Council unite their voices to mark the beginning of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022–2032), declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), a key outcome of the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages.
In addition, the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages, Dr. Ronald E. Ignace, is pleased to underscore the importance of the Decade bringing focus and awareness to Indigenous languages and Indigenous language rights.
The aim of the Decade is to draw global attention to the loss and current risks to Indigenous languages, and to mobilize stakeholders and resources for the urgent need to preserve, revitalize and promote them.
Indigenous languages are at the heart of First Nations, Inuit and Métis culture, identity and self-determination. They are used to share our history through storytelling, to connect with the natural environment and to create familial bonds.
As part of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages, we recognize that the many Indigenous languages passed down from one generation to the next are each a thread in Canada’s rich cultural tapestry. Indigenous languages must be well cared for to keep this tapestry vibrant and varied.
As they are traditionally transmitted orally from Elders to youth, languages are a pillar in their respective communities, yet they are fragile. While they hold immense value and knowledge, they are at increasing risk of being lost to history. Three-quarters are in fact endangered. We have a collective role to play in supporting Indigenous peoples in revitalizing their languages. The Government of Canada continues to work with national Indigenous organizations to implement legislation designed to help revitalize, maintain, and strengthen First Nations, Inuit and Métis languages, including through the Indigenous Languages Act and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, as well as through the first appointments to the Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages.
The work of the Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages will also be important in, among other things, helping to promote Indigenous languages and supporting Indigenous peoples in achieving their language revitalization goals.
But we need to do more.
Throughout this Decade, we will collaborate to share their stories, and support events and activities that highlight the important role of Indigenous languages in Canada and the work underway to revitalize and maintain them. Our goal is to plan for the Decade and create a legacy we can leave for our children and for our children’s children. They are the ones who will keep Indigenous languages alive.
Join us in honouring, promoting and celebrating the cultural richness of all Indigenous languages in Canada and around the globe.
“For each of us, our language is central to our identity, community and culture. Language is essential in how we share our stories and our history, and how we connect with one another. That is why Canada is proud to support Indigenous language revitalization. We will mark the International Decade of Indigenous Languages by accelerating the implementation of the Indigenous Languages Act in a co-developed and cooperative manner with Indigenous partners. We must support First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in their efforts to revitalize their languages and build the next generations of speakers of Indigenous languages.”
—The Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage
“The Canadian government and numerous religions, particularly the Catholic church spent, by today’s standards, billions of dollars destroying First Nations languages and cultures. In the Decade ahead, I look forward to their re-investment and support as we undo the damage that they have done. The first step is a fully funded Indigenous Languages Act. Today and throughout the Decade ahead, we can walk the healing path forward as we lift up Language Champions and every single First Nation person re-learning to speak their language.”
—National Chief RoseAnne Archibald, Assembly of First Nations
“As Inuit, our language is a foundation of our culture and identity. As we embark on this International Decade of Indigenous Languages, we reflect on the resilience of Inuktut, which remains among the strongest Indigenous languages in Canada. Inuit have experienced significant language loss, however, and the task of protecting Inuktut can’t be ours alone. Our hope is that the next ten years will bring renewed support and revitalization efforts to help Inuktut become a dominant language in Inuit workplaces, schools and homes.”
—Natan Obed, President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
“Colonization has led to the near eradication of the Michif language, and, because language, culture and identity are inextricably linked, has had a devastating impact on Métis identity. The United Nations Decade of Indigenous Languages gives us an opportunity to highlight the work that our Michif speakers and Métis Governments are doing to reclaim and revitalize the use of Michif in our communities.”
—Cassidy Caron, President, Métis National Council
In addition, the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages, Dr. Ronald E. Ignace, is pleased to underscore the importance of the Decade in bringing focus and awareness to Indigenous languages and Indigenous language rights.
The work of the Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages will also be important in, among other things, helping to promote Indigenous languages and supporting Indigenous peoples in achieving their language revitalisation goals.