Petty mendacity, in all its glory

When an election looms, no turd is so smelly that you’re not ashamed to pick it up and hurl it at your enemies it seems, especially when one’s gullible constituents must be pandered to and manipulated.

Here’s the unedited text of Leona Aglukkaq’s mendacious reaction to the Senate’s vote of concurrence on Nunavut’s new Official Languages Act, which replaces a similar law inherited from the Northwest Territories.

When you read it, bear in mind that the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut, dawdled over the language law issue for most of the past decade. Their process started in February, 2001, then crawled along for seven and a half years.

The Senate, on the other hand, got its work done in nine days:

Message from the Minister of Health, and MP for Nunavut

Nunavut Official Languages Bill

I am pleased the Senate has adopted the Nunavut Official Languages Act.

I introduced a motion in support of the Act in Parliament on June 2nd. But it was held up by the Liberals in the Senate.

When Nunavut was created in 1999, Nunavut inherited the Northwest Territories Official Languages Act. English, French and six aboriginal languages had official language status. This did not reflect the unique, linguistic reality of Nunavut. Over 70 per cent of the Nunavut population speak Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun. Very few speak other aboriginal languages.

Nunavut adopted a new Official Languages Act in June 2008. It recognizes English, French, Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun as official languages of Nunavut, and establishes official language requirements for the Legislative Assembly. This will help to preserve the Inuit language and culture and to establish mechanisms so that Inuit will eventually proudly control their institutions, speak their language and manage their future. It’s unfortunate the Liberals tried to stop this.

However, yesterday, the Liberals finally accepted the motion. Our Conservative Government will continue to work with Nunavummuit to support our culture and heritage.

The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq
Minister of Health Canada – Santé Canada,
Minister Responsible for the North,
Nunavut M.P.

Note the shameless distortion of reality: “It’s unfortunate the Liberals tried to stop this.”

The statement doesn’t, of course, acknowledge the Senate’s constitutional role as a chamber of sober second thought. When senators voted June 2 to delay their vote of concurrence on the Nunavut Official Languages Act, they simply did the work we pay them to perform on our behalf.

The Senate standing committee on legal and constitutional affairs did what they’re supposed to do. They took a second look at the bill. They invited a  long, predictable list of Nunavut office-holders to comment on it.

In just seven days, the committee produced a decent report, which contains a useful section on the history of language legislation in the northern territories. They also made five recommendations. The first four are pretty bland but the fifth, a recommendation that the Governor General of Canada also concur with the bill, would, if carried out, appear to make the act even stronger.

Download the Senate committee report here.

Senators then voted to concur with the bill. Shame on them. They actually took the time to understand what it said before they voted.

Senator Joan Fraser, chair of the committee and one of those big bad “Liberals who tried to stop this,” had this to say:

“The committee unanimously supports Nunavut’s vision in protecting the Inuit language to ensure the survival and improvement of the Inuit social, economic and cultural well-being.”

It’s entirely possible that Leona’s statement was dictated for her by some wanker in the PMO — “Nunavummuit” is a common misspelling. All the same, I don’t know why she needs to play mean-spirited, boot-in-the groin party politics on this particular issue.

She’s a formidable politician who now has a job for life, if she wants it. The Conservative Party of Canada has realized, finally, that Nunavut is the kind of rural, socially-conservative, blue-collar riding that should have been represented long ago by a Conservative. And Leona knows how to sell the kind of populist message that Inuit voters love to hear and it doesn’t hurt that her government is spraying money over the territory with a fire-hose right now.

You would think then, that Leona should feel secure enough to be able to take the high road once in a while. Real leaders actually do that.

This entry was posted in Arctic, Inuktitut, language, Leona Aglukkaq, News, Nunavut, Politics and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Petty mendacity, in all its glory

  1. Frances Wheatlyiegh says:

    Nunavut’s language law may be doomed to failure. I can fill many pages of reasons why I think it will veritably fail however I am just going to address one issue and that is the NEU (Nunavut Employees Union).

    It is logical the Assembly will lead by example and will require a flagship and might go after what is closest to what they can exert enormous control over and that is their own civil service. I have no doubt that it will be very soon they will make the language of work Inuktitut being the most predominate of the official languages. Which of the roughly twenty dialects they will use will be a bone of contention? Enter the NEU. As the working conditions will have substantially changed (notwithstanding a phase in period) you can bet language training will be an issue and the Contract will be reopened. If they (NEU) follow the old Federal model (long since phased out) the GN might be forced into establishing full time schools with duration of at least two years of full time attendance: all expenses paid and full salary. Considering half the civil service is from the ‘South’ how would the GN plan to run the service with half the employees in school and how would they plan to back fill? With a decentralized government it could get pricy on airfares alone sending employees home every two weeks as their Contract will most likely call for it if it doesn’t already or will they open a school in each of the 27 communities?

    I speak from experience: it is very difficult if not impossible to learn a second language with out being fully immersed in it. I am going to stop right here because I am sure readers are smart enough to get the picture and fill in the blanks themselves and will add that I spent many years in the Arctic including Nunavut so I do not speak from a ‘tourists” point of view.

  2. jamesbell5 says:

    Inuktitut has been an official language in the Nunavut regions since 1984. So the replacement Official Language Act and its companion law, the Inuit Language Protection Act, represent an evolution, not a revoution.

    The new laws, including the language protection act, make it illegal to discriminate against workers who wish to use the Inuit language at work or to deny employment to people if they only language they know is Inuktitut.

    But it doesn’t make knowledge of the Inuit language a mandatory requirement for government employment

    You should also know the GN has already rejected the idea of making Inuit language training mandatory for non-Inuktitut speakers.

    So while parts of the new language law package may be difficult to implement, don’t you think it’s a little premature to say it’s “doomed to failure?”

  3. Frances Wheatlyiegh says:


    I didn’t say the exercise was doomed…I said it” may “ be doomed expressing doubt. Here is a para from an article in the Globe and Mail Saturday June 12/09 by Katherine O’Neill which I found interesting:

    “That law, which Mr. Tapardjuk had said was partly inspired by Quebec’s strict language law, Bill 101, will require the Inuit language on all signs and for all services, both public and private. Most street signs in the massive but sparsely populated territory of 31,400 are already written in English and Inuktitut.”
    That is a far ranging statement and could be interpreted by some as meaning anything from providing a translator to requiring all staff to have the ability to communicate in Inuktitut. I know what the law says but law is always open to interpretation and challenges not to mention legislative amendments.
    Here is an other from the same piece that clearly expresses some question of far this might go.
    “The language laws will be slowly phased in and it’s currently unclear how wide-reaching both will end up being, according to Stéphane Cloutier, Nunavut’s special adviser for languages”

    Even though I express doubts for success it is fully understandable if the vast majority of the population speaks Inuktitut they should be able to communicate in their own language. However it was only three generations ago the language spoken by my great grand parents was Gaelic and we both know how that ended up.

  4. jamesbell5 says:

    I know what you mean, Frances. My maternal grandmother spoke Gaelic but raised her children in English. My mother knew only a few words…

    Language laws don’t always guarantee that a minority language will survive. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.

    By instinct, I don’t generally like the idea of government using its coercive powers to regulate or influence private decisions, such as the language one chooses to use.

    But at the same time, it was always inevitable and necessary that Nunavut would make its own language laws. I think the package they passed was pretty moderate compared with Bill 101. But there’s no doubt the GN will have to cope with some of the potential problems you pointed out when they get around to implementing it.

    Thanks for your post, Frances…

  5. Throbbin says:

    So I’m guessing you two are no fans of Bill 101?

    I don’t think NEU members should be paid to go for language training, any more than I should be paid to learn how to use a Word Processor on the Government payroll.

    One way to promote Inuktitut learning and use, and stimulate local economies at the same time – would be to drop a GN policy stating Inuktitut use as mandatory for civil service. Allow 3 years for compliance while the RIA Bidness Development Arms and the GN jointly fund small business development grants for private Inuktitut instructors.

    If you’re a civil servant and you want to keep your job – you then know what you have to do.

    While I’m usually supportive of unions, the NEU, like any democratic organization, is reliant on an ‘informed citizenry’ (or in this case, an informed membership). If you don’t understand my meaning, check out the NEU Executive and Staff webpage, and tell me if anything looks funny. If you don’t see it, ask someone with a beneficiary card – they’ll tell you.

    And regarding Leona – anyone want to wager on whether or not she crosses the aisle sometime over the next year?

  6. Throbbin says:

    Also, I should mention I say these things as an Inuk who is not fluent in Inuktitut. I’d be in the same boat as many others.

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