Nunavut’s member of Parliament is questioning the federal government’s commitment to reconciliation after learning it doesn’t know how many of its employees speak an indigenous language.
Treasury Board officials recently revealed they don’t track how many federal workers are required to use an Indigenous language at work.
“During this time of reconciliation (with Indigenous peoples), I think the Federal Government needs to make good on it’s promises,” said Lori Idlout (NDP).
“They need to recognize the great work that federal employees do, who are Indigenous and speak Indigenous languages.”
Idlout speaks Inuktitut fluently, and is calling for Indigenous language speakers to be eligible for the same $800 annual bonus provided employees who speak English and French.
“With Canada being founded on Indigenous people’s land, there needs to be better respect for the people the federal government needs to serve,” she said in an interview.
The Public Service Alliance of Canada, the union representing federal workers, says at least 500 federal employees use an Indigenous language at work.
In Nunavut, more than 70 per cent of residents speak Inuktitut.
But many of the government services they need aren’t available in Inuktitut.
For example, it’s not unusual for bilingual Inuit to help unilingual Inuit with a language barrier.
“For a lot of us in Nunavut, we’re forced to interpret wherever we go,” said Idlout. “When I go to the bank, and I see an elder there with no English, I have to help them. At the hospital, always having to make sure that at least the elders are registered, so they know where to wait.”
Idlout isn’t the only voice calling for more support for Inuktitut.
Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., which advocates for Inuit living in Nunavut, spent part of its annual meeting this week calling for the same recognition.