Minister Rodriguez and Canadian Indigenous Leaders Take Part in the Launch of the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages
GATINEAU, February 1, 2019
The Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism, today took part in the United Nations General Assembly launch of the International Year of Indigenous Languages in New York. He was joined by Indigenous leaders including National Chief Perry Bellegarde, Assembly of First Nations; President Clément Chartier, Métis National Council; President Natan Obed, Inuit Tapiriit Katanami; and Grand Chief Ed John, Tl’azt’en Nation, Co-Chair of the Steering Committee for the International Year of Indigenous Languages.
Minister Rodriguez used this opportunity to address other nations and Indigenous leaders to reaffirm Canada’s commitment to renew and strengthen its relationship with Indigenous Peoples. The reclamation, revitalization, strengthening and maintaining of Indigenous languages is paramount to advancing reconciliation with our Indigenous partners. These languages are fundamental to expressing world views, identities, cultures, spiritual beliefs and connections to the land.
The Government of Canada has already committed $89.9 million over three years to support this work.
In collaboration with Indigenous partners, we are co-developing new legislation to support the reclamation, revitalization, strengthening and maintaining of Indigenous languages. The legislation is a historic step toward the healing and rebuilding of Indigenous identities, pride and communities across Canada.
These are all important actions that further the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Calls to Action presented to Canada by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
During his visit to New York, the Minister also met with Canadian Indigenous leaders and international representatives to discuss the important work being done in this area.
“Today’s launch shows a global commitment to Indigenous Peoples. No relationship is more important to our government than the one with Indigenous Peoples. Reclamation, revitalization, strengthening and maintenance of Indigenous languages are essential components of reconciliation, and there is no better time to focus on this important issue than during this special year.”
—The Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism
- In 2016, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages.
- The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has designated three quarters of Canada’s approximately 90 living Indigenous languages as “endangered.” UNESCO also found that there are no Indigenous languages in the “safe” category.
- In 2016, only 15.6 percent of Indigenous people could converse in an Indigenous language, compared to 17 percent in 2011 and 21 percent in 2006. Of those overall numbers, 21 percent of First Nations people, 64 percent of Inuit and 2 percent of Métis could converse in an Indigenous language.
- In 2016, only 12.5 percent of Indigenous people declared their mother tongue was an Indigenous language, compared to 14.5 percent in 2011.
- In 2016, 13.3 percent of Indigenous people declared that they spoke an Indigenous language at home, either most of the time or on a regular basis.
- In the 2017 budget, the Government of Canada invested $89.9 million over three years to preserve, promote and revitalize Indigenous languages and culture.
Office of the Minister of Canadian Heritage and