Many may want to see Bill 37 – An Act to Amend the Education Act and the Inuit Language Protection Act – die when in the legislative assembly’s last sitting, which starts Sept. 12. But the premier is not ready to give up.
“Even though at this point, it’s something that the standing committee (on legislation) and Inuit organizations have indicated that their wish is to let it fall off (the order paper),” said Premier Peter Taptuna, “as Inuit and government for a small jurisdiction, we pride ourselves on working together, and we feel as a government that there’s still room for compromise.
Bill 37 has had a tumultuous time in the legislative assembly at past sessions, culminating in an hour-long speech June 7 by Education Minister Paul Quassa. The minister was replying to the Commissioner of Nunavut’s June 1, 2015 opening address, in which she noted education, language and literacy is a priority for this, the fourth assembly.
“There’s no magic wand out there that everything’s going to be perfect,” Taptuna said. “We have 25 communities and some communities don’t agree with what’s at the table. At the end of the day, as representatives of all of Nunavut, as MLAs we’ve got to try and make compromises where the best Education Act of the time is available to use for educating our children.”
Quassa described the work of his department in the areas of literacy, reading materials and kindergarten to Grade 6 Inuktut language arts. He described how Bill 37 was developed, then revised, and spoke on its benefits, such as providing a mechanism for standardized instruction minutes and more standardized school calendars, and ensuring that there are clear rules and responsibilities for everyone working in the educational system.
“At a minimum we should be able to say to Nunavummiut that we made an effort as a legislature to improve the Education Act,” Quassa said.
“It came across as a final plea to Inuit,” Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. president Aluki Kotierk told Nunavut News/North at the time. “He went through all the different areas – he talked a lot of Inuktut language arts, he talked a lot about guided reading. NTI is appreciative of all the work they’re doing on that. But, and but is the operative word, that needs to be happening for all subject areas from kindergarten to 12.”
Kotierk says there is a big distinction to be made between Inuktut language arts, which is one school subject, and Inuktut language of instruction.
Asked if departmental staff, MLAs and cabinet have been discussing Bill 37 and looking at ways to work on it between sessions, Taptuna said, “Yes, at the administrative level, there’s always work taking place to ensure that we come up with the best possible case scenario.”
He adds: “At the end of the day, we’ve tried our best.”
There are four other bills to pass: Bill 27 Waste Reduction and Diversion Act, Bill 40 Corrections Act, Bill 47 An Act to Amend the Legal Profession Act and Bill 48 An Act to Amend the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
The session is anticipated to conclude Sept. 19 though, as Taptuna notes, the session can be extended.
“Although this will be the final sitting prior to the dissolution of the current assembly, it will not look particularly ‘different’ in terms of procedures and processes,” said clerk John Quirke.
“The daily routine of business will be the same, statements, question period, etc. As usual, it is anticipated that a number of supplementary appropriation bills will be introduced during the sitting.”
The assembly will be dissolved Sept. 24 by order of Commissioner Nellie Kusugak.
The territorial election will be held Oct. 30. The declaration of candidacy period runs from Sept. 25 to 29 at 2 p.m. local time, and the deadline to withdraw is Sept. 29th at 5p.m., according to Elections Nunavut.