‘Unofficial Languages’

“Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language…and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do… Let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”
–Genesis 11:1-7

UNESCO (U.N.) has declared this the ‘International Year of ‘Indigenous’ Languages’. In Canada, we have only 2 ‘official’ languages and current legislation seems like a backdoor attempt by the federal government to elevate aboriginal languages to a similar status; otherwise, there isn’t justification for spending on unofficial languages:

“…There is the ‘Indigenous’ Languages Act, and recently announced plans for new ‘indigenous’ {aboriginal} child welfare legislation. Both bills need to make it through the House of Commons and the Senate by June and before summer break…

“This is all systems go”,

said Marc Miller, parliamentary secretary to Crown-‘Indigenous’ Relations on Nation to ‘nation’…

“Miller admits time is tight.

“It isn’t ideal but it’s the only way forward if we are going to have a true nation to ‘nation’ relationship.”

“For both to move quickly and be successful, all parties will need to support them…

“Cathy McLeod, ‘Conservative’ shadow minister for ‘Indigenous’ Services said ‘Conservatives’ support the concept of the two bills

“N‘D’P MP Nikki Ashton said the Trudeau government wasted too much time on the ‘indigenous’ rights framework that was promised before December but is now stalled. The framework’s goal was to figure out a way out of the Indian Act…”

–‘All systems go’: Trudeau government pressed to pass Indigenous languages and child welfare bills’,
APTN, January 3, 2019
FEATURE Image: Cree Stop sign


Bill S-212 – ‘Aboriginal Languages of Canada Act’
An Act for the advancement of the aboriginal languages of Canada and to recognize and respect aboriginal language rights

This enactment recognizes the ‘right’ of the aboriginal peoples of Canada to use, preserve, revitalize and promote their languages, and expresses the Government of Canada’s commitment to preserve, revitalize and promote aboriginal languages in Canada by protecting them and using them where appropriate.

“It requires the designated Minister to take measures to implement this commitment, including measures to recognize and support the ‘right’ of aboriginal governments to use and promote aboriginal languages; to encourage and support provincial and territorial governments and municipal, local and educational authorities to support aboriginal languages; to increase opportunities for aboriginal persons to learn and become more proficient in their languages; to increase the number of circumstances in which aboriginal languages are used and supported; and to foster a positive attitude among all Canadians toward aboriginal languages.”


Text of Bill S-212:

Arif Virani (Right), Parliamentary Secretary to the Heritage Minister

“Three-quarters of the 60 to 90 ‘indigenous’ {‘aboriginal’} languages in Canada are at risk of disappearing, said Ari Virani, Parliamentary Secretary to Heritage Minister Melanie Joly.

“Virani is visiting Saskatchewan, consulting ‘indigenous’ {‘aboriginal’} language teachers to inform Canada’s first federal legislation to preserve ‘indigenous’ languages, to be introduced in 2018. It’s an answer to the ‘{Partial} Truth and {One-way} Reconciliation Commission’s “Calls to Action”, he said.

“Discussions with language keepers and teachers across the country are intended to “co-develop” the legislation, a practise Virani said is “not unheard of, but it’s very, very rare{‘only available to aboriginals’}, compared to the standard practice of getting feedback from standing committees on legislation that’s already written.

“Ottawa has bolstered the previous government’s $5 million per year to the ‘Aboriginal Languages’ initiative with a promise of $90 million over three years. That will include $20 million for preserving ‘oral histories’ {‘unverified stories’} and digitizing archives so it can be transmitted in the future.

Once you have a formal legislation, the monies to support it will be significant … We understand that you need to have funding for programs”,
Virani said.
“The magic will be in ensuring that we empower communities as part of that co-development model and giving them the autonomy they deserve in reclaiming the language but ‘reclaiming the authority’ {?} in delivering the programs.”

“The average age of fluent language speakers is increasing, meaning fewer young people can communicate in the language of their elders.

“We don’t want those language speakers dying off before we can preserve those languages. So there’s a sense of urgency there”,
he said.

“Saving ‘indigenous’ {‘aboriginal’} languages is an urgent priority for the government, which is committed to trying to undo some of the ‘harms’ of the residential schools {learning to read and write modern languages, thus giving them access to the modern world}, which systemically prevented children from using their languages {like was done with all immigrant children}, he said.

“Stakeholders are invited to contribute by reaching out through ‘Heritage Canada’s website.”

–‘Indigenous’ language teachers advising government on coming language law’,
Betty Ann Adam, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, August 18, 2017


Found On The Net’:
“These languages aren’t just a disservice to the Native people! They’re teaching it in integrated Public classrooms; therefore, all the time wasted on that is valuable time taken away from ALL the students who should be learning the basics of education, which are crucial to a proper education to prepare the students for entering the workforce!

“I say “wasted” because, where we live, our Haida language is known to be one of the most difficult languages to learn, because of all the strange sounds; the fact that the meaning of some words can be changed just by changing voice inflection or the context; and the fact that we have Haida people from Old Masset, Skidegate, and Alaska, with each group having different variations of the language!

“Add to that, the fact that the people who teach it, don’t even know how to speak it properly, but are given the high-paying job because they’re related to somebody in the leadership or Band administration, and it becomes more clear that it’s all about the money, and territorial attitudes — not about the sincerity of preserving a language that has already been lost to time! Nobody who takes the classes learns it well enough to use the language to speak with others, because many of them aren’t even taught how to string the words together into sentences!

“Communication is the priority; therefore if the majority of people speak English, that should be the language taught in schools! Government is just doing more of the same, using Natives to create more divisions, discontent, financial burden, and overall resentment!

I asked an elder who was complaining about the younger Haidas — many of them ‘C-31’s who are doing a hatchet job on the language — if it would make any real difference in people’s lives if the language just faded into the background, instead of trying to make it such a priority! He thought about it, and agreed that it wouldn’t really make any difference in a predominantly English-speaking society! We both agreed that the time and money would be better spent trying to find a place to keep alcoholics and drug addicts busy, to keep them off the streets, and to give them enough self-esteem, to seriously look for jobs!

“Time and money could also be used to train young people to help out at the local hospital, where our people use it more than anybody else! It’s underfunded, understaffed, and slipping further backwards to third world standards, all the time; while the push for cultural reawakening is overfunded, overstaffed and working hard to push people to embrace ancient traditions, which would push them further back than third world conditions! Either Government officials have gone completely nuts, or they know exactly what they’re doing, with this insane language and cultural reawakening!”

–Gloria Tauber

“When Catholique Valpy attempted to register her baby in February of last year, she received a phone call from the Northwest Territories government’s vital statistics department, telling her it couldn’t support the use of the traditional character. In an email to Catholique Valpy, a government representative explained that’s because the glottal stop isn’t part of the Roman alphabet.

“Catholique Valpy, whose mother, Snookie Catholique, is N.W.T.’s official languages commissioner, had a choice to make: change her child’s name, or fight for the traditional spelling.

“I figured I could either drop the glottal, or I could put a hyphen or leave it there”,
she says.
“I wasn’t really sure, so I decided to keep it and as a family, we’re going to try and fight it.”

“Catholique Valpy went more than a year without legally registering her baby as her complaint was processed, paying Sahaiʔa’s medical expenses out of pocket because of her inability to file for a territorial health card. Earlier this week, though, the need for identification — for travel, medical, and tax purposes — became too much, and Catholique Valpy got a birth certificate for her daughter with a hyphen replacing the glottal stop.

“However, she asserts this is a temporary situation and that she will continue to fight for her daughter’s traditional name.

“I want to be able to fight this to be able to have my daughter’s name written the right way, the way it’s supposed to be”,
she says.
“I don’t want to sacrifice my language just because of this. They want to preserve our language. They’re trying to get it back up, so this is my way of helping to break through.”

“The Northwest Territories currently supports 11 ‘official languages’ {At what cost?}, including Chipewyan…

{The eleven ‘official languages’ of the NWT:
–Inuktitut (Inuit)
–Inuvialuktun (Inuit)
–Inuinnaqtun (Inuit)
–Gwich’in (Dene)
–North Slavey (Dene)
–South Slavey (Dene)
–Tlicho (Dene)
–Chipewyan (Dene)
–Cree (Algonquian)
http://www.nwtlanguagescommissioner.ca/ }

“Damien Healy, a spokesperson for N.W.T.’s health department, says the Roman alphabet-only rule is similar in most parts of Canada. Any letters and symbols used on birth certificates have to be recognized by the federal government for a passport or other documents, and using other symbols could create difficulties later in life.

“From a practical perspective, our current vital statistics database and printer do not accommodate glottal stops or other non-standard diacritics and significant resources would be needed to upgrade them”,
Healy writes. But, he says,
“the department will be consulting with the federal government on what it would mean if the N.W.T. birth certificate was to include Dene fonts.”

“It will also look into the cost of accommodating glottal stops or other non-standard symbols.

“Catholique Valpy says that agreeing temporarily to replacing the glottal stop with a hyphen is what pushed her to speak out about her situation. By continuing her battle, she hopes to inspire others to do the same, and hear from those who may be in a similar situation.

“You can stand up and rise to see what will happen”,
she says.
“You know, you have the right. You’re aboriginal{?}

–‘Chipewyan baby name not allowed on N.W.T. birth certificate’,
Erin Brohman and Garrett Hinchey, CBC News, Mar. 06, 2015


COMMENT: “The glottal stop icon is shorthand invented by ‘settler’ {Canadian} linguists at universities to maker their lives easier when doing fieldwork. Any number of existing letter and punctuation combinations achieve the same end. In this instance, a simple hyphen will suffice.”
This difficulty is only the beginning. As the girl ages she will constantly find applications, and forms for various activities, will come back as “rejected”, or “incomplete”. Names like this are best left for celebrities, and other who seek the controversy. Remembering you past culture is fine, but burdening your children with trying to revive that culture will start them off at a disadvantage. The world has been adopting English culture for a reason.”
I don’t get it. Maybe because I am not a native, but the Chipewyan alphabet is not the Latin Alphabet. So, using it to name her child is not keeping with the culture. It is simply a “translated” written form.
Secondly, If you have to use the Latin alphabet, then you must also realize the headaches it will give the child, later in life, when trying to fill forms for jobs, benefits, income tax, etc., when the web sites will reject a name with “?” in it. I know, because my name has a simple hyphen in it, and there are many sites that refuse my first name, so I sometimes have to drop the hyphen.”
I wasn’t aware that FN people had a written language pre-contact. I’m aware of hieroglyphs, but wasn’t aware that any written language existed. Hence the always tricky concept of oral history.”
I ask, where did the written Chipewyan language originate? It did not exist amongst the people themselves. Early Missionaries came up with a couple of different methods of writing it. One method used the Latin Alphabet, another used syllabics, which are also the most common means of writing the Inuit tongues. The 8 Native languages are only “Official” in the NWT, & spoken by a comparatively few people. Is it realistic to play the race card, or the “they were here first”, & allow syllabics on passports, etc?
Do we then make the next step, & ensure all legislation, court, & education documents be provided in those languages?
From a social perspective, if the federal or territorial government spends a penny on accommodation, I’ll be somewhat upset when we have people living below the poverty line – especially in NWT.”
Here is what I find funny about this whole thing. With the exception of an ideographic system used by the Mayans and their neighbors near the Yucatan peninsula, none of the native languages of America had a writing system until the arrival of Europeans.”
While I respect and admire her for keeping to her traditional language and customs, we don’t allow names in Arabic or Hebrew, either. The Chinese have a solution, they give the child a Chinese name and an English one. The Roman letters thing is just for bureaucratic convenience, it isn’t really a slap in the face of culture.”
“A second mother from the Northwest Territories says she had to change the spelling of her daughter’s name after the vital statistics office wouldn’t allow her to use a glottal stop, part of her traditional language…

“Andrea Heron says Dene languages are dying and need to be preserved.

“I found it frustrating that they had the resources to support the French culture and the French [language] but they didn’t have the resources to support the Dene [languages], which they acknowledge as an official language of the N.W.T.”

–‘2nd N.W.T. mother demands traditional name for daughter’,
CBC News, Mar. 09, 2015


COMMENT: “Nobody is preventing her from calling her child any name she wants. If she wants a Canadian birth certificate she has to register a name with English and French alphabet characters. She can pronounce it anyway she wants to. Aboriginals had no written language until European immigrants made one for them, so her protests are meaningless. Europeans invented the written language, all Canadians have to play by the same rules. Anything otherwise would be racist, n’est-ce pas?
Gov’t should not allow the glottal stop. At first glace the glottal stop looks like a question mark and I suspect that many people will spell the name with a question mark. There will be many errors in spelling and pronouncing the name, therefore the child will probably end up choosing to legally change her name in the future. Parents should think of what is best for their child and not what is best for the parent, including keeping a language around that is disappearing, because the younger generation wants to use English which is the main language in Canada.”
So she may perhaps win the battle, but is it worth it if she thereby subjects her daughter to a lifetime battle trying to explain and spell her name throughout schools and later life, jobs, gov’t services, banks… everything…..Not really worth subjecting your child to that just to satisfy your own issues…well, at least I wouldn’t.
Really ?? Nowhere else in Canada can you use a symbol in your name. Nor should they be allowed. Only Roman Alphabet characters can be used to get a health card and birth certificate.”
Aboriginals did not develop an alphabet, so any spelling of a name, traditional or not, uses the alphabet Europe introduced to them. So why the silly question mark, when clearly, the so-called traditional spelling was never traditional, since they didn’t have an alphabet? This is nothing but more demands from people who feel entitled to make demands.”

See also:
Rebuilding The Tower of Babel’ (Indigenous Languages) {December 7, 2016}:
“The greatest barrier between people is language and the Government of Canada isn’t doing anyone any favours – particularly aboriginals – by erecting more barriers, none of which will help aboriginal youth find success in the modern world… The attempts to preserve aboriginal languages only serves the interests of the linguists of the ‘Aboriginal Industry’; they are a disservice to native people.”

Still Apologizing…{August 9, 2018}:
“Ten years after it was delivered on the floor of the House of Commons, Canada’s apology to residential school ‘survivors’ {‘former students’} has been translated into seven ‘indigenous’ {aboriginal} languages.”
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