Canada's Original Think Tank

Message from the House of Commons concerning Bill C-91, An Act respecting Indigenous languages

Message from the House of Commons concerning Bill C-91, An Act respecting Indigenous languages

Message from the House of Commons concerning Bill C-91, An Act respecting Indigenous languages

Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: 

Honourable senators, I’d like to say a few words. I was inspired by the question that Senator Richards asked. In our committee report, as Senator Patterson said as the critic of the bill, most studies that our committee has undertaken have always been done in a very collegial and respectful manner in almost all cases. Certainly in this case, that was true.

One of the things we talked about at the committee, which is in the report, is specifically with regard to your question. That is: Who is going to do the teaching?

As we know, oftentimes the teachers are those that are certified. We then urged the government to accept fluent speakers. There are a few fluent speakers who are able to pass that language on, but they don’t necessarily have a degree or a Bachelor of Education.

The fluent speakers and the elders are the ones who are going to carry the language forward. In Saskatoon, for example, we have the Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Centre where they have recordings of elders speaking in their language. There are resources available in these community-based organizations.

The committee heard a lot about how it was necessary to utilize elders, resources that are available in the communities and not strictly rely upon universities and academically trained teachers.

I think it’s good that the government accepted a number of our amendments. Without having them all in front of me I can’t make a detailed analysis. I think the bill is good. From what we heard, people were very excited about having this bill, even without the amendments because, as Senator Patterson said, it is acknowledging the right to be taught in your own language, which is a big step forward.

It is a small step, but it’s certainly a significant step. I would not say that the amendments are watered down. I would say that it’s a good bill. It’s a good place to build. I would conclude by saying our committee has always been good at following up. We followed up with Bill S-3. We’re following up with Bill C-45. We need to continue that in the future. I’m sure that the members of this committee will continue to follow what’s happening with this language bill.

I know that people in the community are going to be writing to us, as they do now, to say, “What’s happening here?” and asking to us intervene, to make sure, continue to prod and improve this bill and initiate further actions with the next government.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.