Colonialism has not been kind to Indigenous languages. There’s a reason why the goal of “taking the Indian out of the child” at residential schools relied so much on forcing Indigenous children to speak English. Language is at the heart of culture.
While many beautiful Indigenous languages across Canada, North America and the world are threatened or dying out, there are also many efforts to preserve them, to reclaim and strengthen culture. So many people know that preserving language is at the heart of preserving culture.
And while every effort is valuable, a big effort is needed from government, according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. One of the TRC Calls to Action is for the federal government to create an Aboriginal languages act to preserve languages for generations to come and undo past harms.
Thankfully, the government is doing just that. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an Indigenous languages act, to be implemented sometime in the future, at the Assembly of First Nations special chiefs assembly this week. The legislation will work to preserve First Nations, Métis and Inuit languages.
“We know all too well how residential schools and other decisions by governments were used as a deliberate tool to eliminate Indigenous languages and cultures,” Trudeau said. “If we are to truly advance reconciliation, we must undo the lasting damage that resulted.”
Many believe the Liberal government has been a lot of talk and a little action on Indigenous issues and Aboriginal groups are frustrated with the government over pipelines and for not delivering, so far, on commitments.
It isn’t clear yet what the act will entail but any legislation meant to preserve Indigenous languages is a good thing. It can have big, lasting and positive effects for Aboriginal people because it aims directly at damage caused by government to dismantle Aboriginal cultures.
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