The Official Languages Act of the NWT
In 1984, the GNWT first introduced the Official Languages Act of the Northwest Territories. This Act recognized the Aboriginal languages of the NWT as official languages. In 1990 changes to the Act gave equal status to all eight official languages (six Aboriginal languages, English and French). The NWT and Nunavut are the only places in Canada that recognize Aboriginal languages as official languages. The Task Force on Aboriginal Languages made recommendations that, in many ways, supported implementation of the Official Languages Act.
At present, a Special Committee of the Legislative Assembly is asking people for help to revise the Official Languages Act. As part of the process, the Committee invited the Literacy Council to attend its first languages assembly, along with members from the Aboriginal language communities, and to make a submission at the public hearing. The recent progress report includes a number of ideas for change that the second territorial languages assembly will discuss in October 2002. Many of the suggestions are designed to strengthen support for revitalizing the languages.
Standardizing the written languages
In the 1970s and 1980s, several different groups proposed using a standard set of characters and writing conventions to represent spoken Dene. They believed it would encourage widespread Aboriginal language literacy, as well as the development of written materials in the languages. Ultimately, people believed it would help preserve their languages. In 1987, following a recommendation from the Task Force on Aboriginal Languages, the GNWT began a process to standardize the writing system. The work on this project is complete, although not everyone has adopted the standardized system.
People—Our Focus for the Future: A Strategy to 2010
In 1994, the Department of Education, Culture and Employment (ECE) consulted widely on language issues as it developed its fifteen–year strategic plan. Community members repeatedly said that Aboriginal language communities should be responsible for and have ownership over language activities. In People—Our Focus for the Future: A Strategy to 2010, the department said it would begin to transfer responsibility for languages to language communities. Along with this responsibility, it would also provide resources and support.
In 1996, it consulted again with people to develop a process for transferring the funding. As part of the process, language communities had to develop multi–year plans for their languages. At the same time, the language bureau was disbanded. While language communities are pleased to have control over their languages, adequate resources and support from the GNWT continue to be issues.
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