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Parliament passes Indigenous Languages Act and An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families

Historic legislation on Indigenous languages and on family and child services came into force on June 21, 2019.

The Indigenous Languages Act is a concrete response to the urgent need for action to prevent the erosion and even extinction of some of the 90 living Indigenous languages in Canada, including Michif, the national language of the Métis Nation. Of these, three out of four are considered “endangered” by UNESCO, which declared 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages.

The legislation recognizes and supports all Indigenous languages in Canada and contains mechanisms which will, among other things:

• recognize Indigenous language rights;
• support the efforts of Indigenous Peoples to reclaim, revitalize, strengthen and maintain Indigenous languages;
• establish measures for the provision of long-term, sustainable funding of Indigenous languages;
• support and promote the use of Indigenous languages;
• advance the objectives of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples with regard to Indigenous languages; and
• establish an Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages.

To support the implementation of the Indigenous Languages Act, Budget 2019 includes an investment of $333.7 million over five years, and $115.7 million annually thereafter.

“Bill C-91 marks an important step forward for the Métis Nation in consolidating its continued existence as a distinct Indigenous nation and culture in Western Canada. This legislation, co-developed with Canada, will enable the Métis Nation to revitalize, promote and practice its national language, Michif, while also enabling those of its citizens who speak other Indigenous languages such as Saulteaux, Dene and Cree to continue using those languages as well”, stated President Chartier.

An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families affirms and recognizes the jurisdiction of Indigenous peoples over child and family services with the goal of keeping Indigenous children and youth connected to their families, communities, and culture. According to Census 2016, Indigenous children represent 52.2% of children in foster care in private homes in Canada, despite accounting for only 7.7% of the overall population of children under 15.

Under Bill C-92, Indigenous peoples will be free to develop policies and laws based on their particular histories, cultures, and circumstances. Through the Act, national principles such as the best interests of the child, cultural continuity, and substantive equality have been established to help guide the provision of Indigenous child and family services. The Act also enables Indigenous peoples to transition toward exercising partial or full jurisdiction over child and family services at a pace that they choose. The Métis Nation will work with the federal government to ensure a smooth transition and implementation of the Act through the creation of distinctions-based transition governance structures.

“Forty years ago, in 1979 as President of the Canadian Indian Lawyers Association I organized the first National Indian Child Welfare Conference held in Regina, Saskatchewan. While it has taken four decades to arrive at this moment in time, Bill C-92 provides a solid foundation from which Inuit, First Nations and the Métis Nation will once again assume full and total control over their children, a very welcome development made possible by the Trudeau government’s reconciliation commitments”, stated President Chartier.

Earlier in the day, MNC President Chartier, National Chief Perry Bellegarde of the Assembly of First Nations, and Natan Obed, President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, met with Prime Minister Trudeau and his Cabinet at a Cabinet Retreat at Meech Lake near Ottawa. See President Chartier’s attached opening remarks. (Download PDF Opening Remarks)

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