Canada’s Shame

In 1998, the Canadian government established the Aboriginal Languages Initiative (ALI) to fund projects aimed at preserving and protecting Aboriginal languages. Initial funding was CAD 5M per year. In Dec. 2002 the government announced funding of $175M for a proposed Aboriginal Languages and Cultures Centre (ALCC), which would replace the ALI. The Task Force on Aboriginal Languages and Cultures was also established, with a mandate “to make recommendations to the Minister of Canadian Heritage on the preservation, revitalization and promotion of Aboriginal … languages”. The Task Force submitted its recommendations in June 2005.

The election of Jan 23rd this year saw the rejection of the long-reigning left-of-centre but corrupt Liberals and the installation of a shiny new right-of-centre Conservative government.

On Nov. 3, the new government cut the remaining $160M of funding for the ALCC and reinstated the ALI for 8 years, with funding at the original level of $5M per year. The change has been condemned by various Aboriginal groups, including the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and the First Peoples’ Heritage, Language and Culture Council of British Columbia. On Nov. 14, the Ontario-based Native radio station CKRZ aired a discussion of the situation with representatives of Aboriginal groups, including the Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Phil Fontaine. The reinstatement of language funding was among the demands of a national protest in Ottawa on Dec. 5, sponsored by the Assembly of First Nations.

Letters of concern may be sent to The Honourable Beverley J. Oda, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women, House of Commons, Ottawa, Ont., Canada K1A 0A6 Oda.B@parl.gc.ca and to Ms. Judith A. LaRocque, Deputy Minister of Canadian Heritage, Aboriginal Affairs, Les Terrasses de la Chaudière, Room 12A14 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec, Canada K1A 0M5 Judith_A_LaRocque@pch.gc.ca

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