Policy Speaks Volumes: How Canada's Bilingual Status Affects Indigenous Languages

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While Canada may be famously recognized as a bilingual country, the reality is that the rich linguistic diversity encountered on this land long predates European colonization. Through centuries of genocide, forced assimilation, and attempted erasure, many Indigenous languages live on despite the best efforts of the Canadian state. Today, as Canada claims to be on a path of reconciliation, the hierarchy of the Official Languages over Indigenous languages is perpetuated through policies that inhibit Indigenous language revitalization efforts. To remedy this, Canada should build a framework that provides Indigenous Nations and communities with adequate support to protect and revitalize their languages. This capstone analyzes select language policies at the international, federal, and provincial/territorial level to identify promising approaches to language recognition and revitalization. It then outlines three policy alternatives to address the legislative gaps: the status quo, granting Cree and Inuktitut Official Language status, and establishing Regional First Languages. These three alternatives are then evaluated according to four important criteria: recognition, access, timeliness and acceptability to Official Language minority groups. Based on this analysis, it recommends the establishment of Regional First Languages, and concludes that the federal government should provide more capacity and resources to Indigenous Nations and communities for Indigenous-led revitalization efforts.
McDonald, B. (2022) Policy Speaks Volumes: How Canada's Bilingual Status Affects Indigenous Languages (Unpublished master's project). University of Calgary, Calgary, AB.