February 8th, 2019

NDP Statement on the International Year of Indigenous Languages

Jagmeet Singh, Leader of Canada’s NDP, issued the following statement:

New Democrats welcome the UN designation that 2019 will be the International Year of Indigenous Languages.

According to the most recent census data, there are more than 70 Indigenous languages in Canada today, reflecting the rich diversity of Indigenous peoples across this land. These include Algonquian languages, Inuit languages, Athabaskan languages, Siouan languages, Salish languages, Tsimshian languages, Wakashan languages, Iroquoian languages, Michif, Tlingit, Kutenai and Haida.

Regrettably, three out of four Indigenous languages in Canada identified by UNESCO are endangered. In 2016, 15.6% of the Indigenous population reported being able to conduct a conversation in an Indigenous language, down from 21.4% in 2006. These trends are often a direct result of the residential school system, in which Indigenous children were not permitted to speak their mother tongues, the 60s scoop, and the current child welfare system that disproportionately removes Indigenous children from their communities. Chronic underfunding of Indigenous services and programs has also contributed to the loss of Indigenous languages.

The Indigenous languages bill tabled by the government is a positive step in the right direction. While we are hopeful this truly leads to the protection and revitalization of Indigenous languages in this country, we must always strive to do better and fully protect the language rights of Indigenous peoples, as clearly stated in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. After centuries of colonialism, Indigenous peoples deserve no less.