Majority of Canadians Support Indigenous Language Legislation

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde - Photo by Annie Wenjack
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde - Photo by Annie Wenjack

OTTAWA – On March 31, National Aboriginal Languages Day, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde released results of a national survey showing that the majority of Canadians support legislation to preserve, protect and revitalize Indigenous languages in Canada.

“It is important and encouraging that the majority of Canadians understand the need to promote and revitalize Indigenous languages,” says National Chief Bellegarde. “Under the Indian Act and through the residential schools, Canada deliberately tried to eradicate Indigenous languages. We must undo the damage done. Our languages are national treasures spoken nowhere else. They are a shared part of our history and an essential element of our right to self-determination. We can work together to support and strengthen our languages, and we must start now.”

There are currently more than 50 Indigenous languages being spoken in Canada, but only three are predicted to survive unless there is drastic action. The survey, conducted by Nanos Research, found that nearly three quarters of Canadians (74%) support the creation of an Indigenous Languages Act with the goal of ensuring the preservation, protection and revitalization of Indigenous languages in Canada. The most common reason given for this support was that language is important to culture and identity.

Following strong advocacy by the AFN and National Chief Bellegarde, the Prime Minister stated at the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly in December 2016 that he would commit to co-developing an Indigenous Languages Act with Indigenous peoples to ensure the “preservation, protection, and revitalization of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit languages in this country.” Budget 2017 included funding to support Indigenous languages.

National Chief Bellegarde states “I want to hear our Elders whisper the ancient words of the ancestors into the ears of our babies. I want to see our young people speaking our languages on school playgrounds. To Indigenous people, wherever you are, I encourage you to seek out our fluent speakers and learn from them. Insist on your right to have your local languages taught in the schools systems and keep working at being able to speak your language.”

National Aboriginal Languages Day was established by AFN Chiefs-in-Assembly in 1989 to create awareness across Canada of the languages of the First Peoples, and to build support for their preservation.

Nanos conducted an RDD dual frame (land- and cell- lines) hybrid telephone and online random survey of 1,000 Canadians, 18 years of age or older, between February 25th and 28th, 2017. The margin of error for a random survey of 1,000 Canadians is ±3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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