Government of Nunavut asks judge to dismiss Inuktut education lawsuit

The Nunavut government is asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit over students’ rights to be educated in Inuktut.

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI), which represents the Inuit of Nunavut, filed a statement in October accusing the territorial government of discriminating against Inuit by not providing education in Inuktut to the same degree as English and French. — although Inuktut is the dominant language. language in Nunavut.

On April 4, the government filed a motion to have the case dismissed, saying the basis of NTI’s challenge — which rests on section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms — is flawed.

Section 15 deals with equality rights. The government says the NTI lawsuit is trying to use it to “expand” education and language rights in other parts of the charter – something it says is not allowed.

“Language rights, including rights relating to the language of instruction, do not fall within the scope of section 15 of the Charter and are not protected by it,” the motion states.

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. President Aluki Kotierk, center, appeared in the Nunavut Court of Justice to file a lawsuit against the Government of Nunavut last October. (Nick Murray/CBC News)

“Constitutional authority over education, as well as the preservation, use and promotion of Inuit languages, is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut,” the motion reads.

Students expelled, not dropout

Aluki Kotierk, president of NTI, said the government’s motion to have the case thrown out felt like a punch in the stomach.

“It made me realize how pervasive the colonial approach continues to be in our territory,” she said. “Inuit children must leave who they are when they enter the school system, and at the gate must speak English and excel in the curriculum that is not based on their culture.”

Kotierk says that’s why students don’t finish high school.

“These kids don’t drop out…they’re driven away by a system that doesn’t meet them where they are.”

Inuktitut symbols in a classroom in Nunavut. (Cludiane Samson/Radio-Canada)

Kotierk says the Government of Nunavut’s interpretation of the Charter is “misguided” and that the Legislative Assembly has “a duty and responsibility to provide services and programs that meet the needs of the public.” An audience which, she says, is mostly Inuit.

Waiting for the next steps

NTI is asking the Nunavut Court of Justice to intervene and force the territorial government to offer a full range of Inuktut subjects and courses, at all grade levels, and to do so within five years of the end of the litigation .

Currently, instruction in Inuktut is primarily available up to Grade 4 only, with the subject being taught primarily in English and French thereafter.

The lawsuit follows the passage of Bill 25 in the Nunavut Legislative Assembly last year, which NTI said “has further curtailed Inuit language instruction in Nunavut schools.”

NTI alleges the government passed Bill 25 after the Government of Nunavut failed to meet the legally binding commitment it made in 2008 when it passed legislation requiring the teaching of Inuktut for all years by 2019-2020.

Bill 25 amended this law to only require the government to provide an Inuit language course, rather than full school materials in Inuktut. This also pushed the implementation of the course to 2026 for Grade 4 and 2039 for Grade 12.

And while the territorial government quarreled publicly developing a program to provide Inuktut language instruction in various subjects, NTI’s lawsuit alleges that the passage of Bill 25 “harms Inuit students by causing [their] the loss of Inuit language and culture and the weakening [their] ability to realize their educational potential. »

Kotierk said the Inuit organization is now waiting for the courts to decide the next steps in the case.

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