The Aboriginal language of the
Northwest Territories have rights that are recognized in international,
national, and territorial law.
In Article 27 of the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, it states that: "In those states in
which ethnic, religious, or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to
such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with other members
of their own group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their
own religion, or to use their own language."
In other documents such as the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on
Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights prohibit discrimination on the basis of
language or race.
According to these international
laws and covenants, Aboriginal people in the Northwest Territories,
particularly at the community level (which includes home, work, and school)
have the fundamental human right to use their language and practice their
Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution
guarantees "Aboriginal and treaty rights". Aboriginal rights have been
interpreted to include the rights of language and culture. The Charter of
Rights and Freedoms also guarantees equality for all before and under the law,
with equal protection and benefit.
However, the speakers of
Aboriginal language do not have the same rights in national law as do members
of French speaking minorities, whose rights are guaranteed in Section 23 of the
The law that has the most immediate
impact on Aboriginal languages in the Northwest Territories is the Official
Languages Act. Along with English and French, this act presently recognizes six
official Aboriginal languages Chipewyan, Cree, Dogrib, Gwich'in,
Inuktituk (including Inuvialuktun), and Slavey. This law, which was enacted in
1988, is based on the belief that "legal protection of languages will assist in
preserving the culture of the people as expressed through their language".
Under the Official Language Act,
"the Official Language of the Territories have equality of status and equal
rights and privileges as to their use in all institutions of the Legislative
Assembly and Government of the Territories". People have the right to receive
government services in their own language:
- where there is significant
demand for the use of such services (such as in their home community),
- where it is reasonable that
these services can be made available in the Aboriginal language (there are
readily available Aboriginal language speakers or translators).