NTI unveils report at UN: Nunavut education a crime against Inuit

811

Nunavut’s education system violates domestic and international laws, according to a new research report commissioned by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) and released at the 18th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York City April 22.

“Education in Nunavut has a history of cultural genocide, linguicide, econocide and historicide, and this continues today,” stated NTI president Aluki Kotierk in a news release.

“Inuit children receive the majority of their education in the dominant languages instead of their mother tongue. This constitutes cultural genocide.”

Read the report.

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. president Aluki Kotierk, second from right, releases a new research report, Is Nunavut education criminally inadequate? An analysis of current policies for Inuktut and English in education, international and national law, linguistic and cultural genocide and crimes against humanity, at 18th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York City April 22.
photo courtesy Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.

In Nunavut, Inuit children have a right to education in Inuktut.

The 83-page report is titled: “Is Nunavut education criminally inadequate? An analysis of current policies for Inuktut and English in education, international and national law, linguistic and cultural genocide and crimes against humanity”.

The report is written by human rights lawyer Robert Dunbar, who specializes in minority rights, and Tove Skutnabb-Kangas and Robert Phillipson, who have co-authored and edited many books on linguistic human rights worldwide, multilingual education policy, including mother-tongue-based multilingual education, and the role of English in the modern world.

“It appears that in Nunavut, despite many good intentions and plans, the formal education of Inuit students is not achieving good results, nor does it live up to the wishes of most parents, or follow principles that research has identified as necessary for good results,” state the authors.

The report outlines the relationship between education in Nunavut and social and economic conditions for Inuit, which are disastrous as compared to those enjoyed by Canadian citizens generally.

“The education system has been used to produce many of the negative social effects listed in this report. It is necessary that the education system be used to redress those effects,” states NTI.

“A strong program of bilingual education must be adopted.”

Yet, the report authors conclude, the current efforts at bilingual education in the territory are failing Inuit.

“Seen from an educational and psychological point of view, and from the social consequences of current practices, there is prima facie evidence of education in Nunavut being involved in processes and practices of linguistic and cultural genocide,” state the authors.

The report also exposes “fraudulent myths” related to the continued dominance of English, and the consequences of buying into those myths.

While the report authors acknowledge cultural genocide relates to physical destruction, they point out that University of Roehampton (UK) professor of human rights law Jeremie Gilbert has concluded: “it appears that although judges are clear that cultural genocide is not part of the (genocide) convention text, cultural attacks against a specific group can serve as evidence to prove the intent to physically destroy a group.”

This latest volley from NTI related to education and Inuktut comes after the Government of Nunavut passed the Interim Language of Instruction Act at the last sitting of the legislative assembly. The bill to amend the Education Act and Inuit Language Protection Act is scheduled to be introduced at the June sitting. These measures continue to defer bilingual Inuktut and English or French education for all Inuit students.

As the report authors state: “In 2016 (this is the latest information we have received, in April 2019), there were 11 schools that had the capacity to deliver Inuktut-medium education from kindergarten to Grade 3; seven schools that could deliver it up to Grade 4, and one up to Grade 5. The rest of the schools were not even delivering the minimum K-3 Inuktut-medium education required by the Nunavut Education Act.”

Meanwhile, the federal government is in the process of passing its Indigenous Languages Act, Bill C-91.

“The absence of any Inuit-specific content suggests this bill is yet another legislative initiative developed behind closed doors by a colonial system and then imposed on Inuit,” said Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed in February when the proposed bill was unveiled.

This federal move came days after the president of the United Nations convened the general assembly for a high-level event to mark the global launch the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages.

“We continue to advocate for Inuit rights and recognize that governments have a responsibility. Urgent, coordinated action is needed now. NTI reaffirms our ongoing commitment to work with relevant governments and other partners,” stated Kotierk.


FACT FILE:

Conclusions from NTI research report, “Is Nunavut education criminally inadequate? An analysis of current policies for Inuktut and English in education, international and national law, linguistic and cultural genocide and crimes against humanity”:

  • Despite the immediate impact of climate change being much greater in the far north of Canada than elsewhere;
  • Despite abundant evidence that the quality of life in Nunavut is unacceptably low as compared with the rest of Canada;
  • Despite the evidence that most of the symptoms of unequal and oppressed neo-colonial societies are present in Nunavut;
  • Despite the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report determining that there is a history of cultural genocide in Nunavut, and recommending changes that can lead to greater social justice;
  • Despite warnings and evidence that Inuktut and the culture that it embodies are at grave risk of not surviving; and
  • Despite measures taken to strengthen Inuktut in the education system in Nunavut:
    • Inuit language is essential to the achievement of the fundamental principles on which the public education system is meant to be based;
    • the use of Inuktut in the wider Nunavut society is declining, especially among the children and young people;
    • the goals for protecting and promoting Inuktut embodied in law are not being achieved;
    • the Nunavut legal requirements to implement bilingual instruction throughout all nine school grades has not been achieved;
    • Inuktut is not used extensively as a medium of instruction in education in Nunavut, especially not after Grade 3;
    • The Interim Language of Instruction Act compromises and for that reason is inconsistent with the Inuit Language Protection Act;
    • recommendations in reports illustrating how bilingual education could optimally be organized have not been followed;
    • the vast majority of teachers are unable to teach in Inuktut; a majority of teachers (almost 80 per cent in 2016) are non-Inuit;
    • most further training after basic education takes place outside Nunavut and entirely in English, which fails to strengthen Inuktut;
    • Inuit youth do not attain the linguistic or educational competencies needed for achieving the official targets of having 80 per cent of jobs filled by Inuit;
    • Inuit youth are not supported in the present education system in developing their capabilities to the full; there is capability deprivation;
    • the federal government spends 44 times more per child on French in Nunavut than it does on Inuktut;
    • fraudulent myths that only English is necessary for ‘development’ and that English is universally relevant and neutral are still largely guiding the education system;
    • Canada violates in the education of Inuit children in Nunavut many of its obligations in international law instruments which Canada has signed and ratified or otherwise accepted;
    • seen from an educational and psychological point of view, and from the social consequences of current practices, there is prima facie evidence of education in Nunavut being involved in processes and practices of linguistic and cultural genocide.

“Urgent action will need to be taken to address the deficiencies we have identified here and in particular to ensure that Canada and Nunavut are in compliance with the various domestic and international legal obligations which we have outlined in these conclusions and in this report.”