Future of language of instruction lawsuit in Nunavut schools rests with a Nunavut court judge

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It is now up to a Nunavut judge to decide whether Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. will have the chance to plead its case on Inuktut language education.

Last October, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) filed a lawsuit alleging that the Government of Nunavut’s failure to implement Inuktut language education in the territory amounts to a violation of the equality rights of the Inuit of Nunavut.

Wednesday was the second and final day of the hearing, held at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit, on the government’s motion to strike out the case.

A government lawyer argued that section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects against discrimination, does not apply to the language of instruction in schools.

Maxime Faille said in his closing arguments that allowing the case to go to trial would violate section 23 of the Charter, which protects the rights of English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians to attend school in their language. maternal.

“This discrimination, that of granting language rights to English and French, and denying, and not granting, such rights to other language groups, is expressly provided for in the constitution and law of the land. “, he argued.

“It’s not that section 23 doesn’t discriminate but that it does, but that the constitution allows this form of discrimination.”

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)

NTI’s attorney argued against this argument, saying that since teaching Inuktut would not interfere with the right to be educated in English or French, section 23 was irrelevant. .

NTI lawyer Tim Dickson argued that when it comes to the provision of education, Inuit in Nunavut are particularly discriminated against.

“No other racial or ethnic group is in the same situation as the Inuit of Nunavut who constitute such a large majority of the population of the territory, their homeland, but who, when they attend regular public schools to learn, are forced to try to do it in a minority language, in English, the same language that their grandparents were forced to use in residential school,” he said.

NTI seeks to educate K-12 Inuktut

NTI’s lawsuit follows Bill 25, an act of the Nunavut Legislative Assembly that replaced a commitment to provide K-12 Inuktut education by 2020 with one that makes a single Inuktut language arts class available to all students by 2039.

In the lawsuit, NTI asks the court to compel the Government of Nunavut to “provide Inuit language instruction from grades 4 through 12 within five years of the court order” and to develop a plan for teaching of the Inuktut language within six months of the court ruling. order.

Nunavut already offers instruction in Inuktut to students up to grade 3.

Alternatively, NTI is asking the court to repeal Bill 25, which would mean the law would revert to the previous schedule of providing full Inuktut education at all levels by 2019.

Judge Paul Bychok, who heard the case, said that given the complexity of the case, he could not yet give a timetable for when he would have his decision.

“I have absolutely no doubt that this matter is being followed very closely in our 25 communities and I will certainly give you all the attention it deserves, he told the court.

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