AFN National Chief Welcomes Indigenous Languages Act

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde

OTTAWA – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde today welcomed the tabling in Parliament of the federal Indigenous Languages Act, saying it deserves the support of all Parliamentarians and all Canadians.

“This is landmark legislation to protect and strengthen Indigenous languages, the original languages of these lands, that embrace our identity, our worldview and our nationhood,” said National Chief Perry Bellegarde. “No Indigenous language in Canada is safe. But now there is hope. This legislation will support First Nations efforts to keep their languages alive, vital and strong. Canadians and all parliamentarians must support this Bill because we all understand that language is identity, languages is culture, language is life. There is no better way to mark 2019 – the International Year of Indigenous Languages – than to see the country that once tried to eliminate our languages enact a law to protect, promote and revitalize our languages.”

The Indigenous Languages Act was tabled today in the House of Commons with the aim of it becoming law before the end of the current Parliamentary session. The initiative to co-develop legislation to “protect, promote and revitalize Indigenous languages” was first announced by Prime Minister Trudeau in December 2016 at an AFN Assembly. The announcement was a response to years of advocacy by the AFN, National Chief Bellegarde and First Nations. The AFN helped co-develop the legislation to ensure that First Nation perspectives, priorities and rights were included in the legislation.

Last week on February 1st, National Chief Bellegarde spoke about the legislation in his remarks to the United Nations General Assembly as the North American Indigenous Representative: “We need legislation to ensure sufficient, sustainable and long-term funding toward the revitalization of our languages. We need schools on-reserve as well as in urban and rural settings to create and implement effective bilingual and immersion education programs beginning with pre-school age children. And we need programs that inspire all of our people to speak our languages, regardless of age, to renew the vibrancy of our communities as our cultural places. We want our languages to be our living languages – sourced from our lands, expressing our creation stories, and alive in our ceremonies and daily lives.”

The text of the National Chief’s remarks at the UN are available on the AFN website at www.afn.ca. The United Nations declared 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages to encourage urgent action to preserve, revitalize and promote Indigenous languages.