“This level of statutory protection for an aboriginal language is unprecedented in Canada,” said the Government of Nunavut’s Department of Culture and Heritage in an April 2 news release.
The passage of the Nunavut Official Languages Act has been five years in the making. This act takes the place of the Northwest Territories Official Languages Act, which recognized only English and French as official languages. The older act did give “a lesser set of rights to seven aboriginal languages, including Inuktitut,” according to Uqausivut, a comprehensive language plan. But, as the plan points out, “This does not reflect the realities of Nunavut, where a majority of people speak neither English nor French as their first language, but a single Aboriginal language.”