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Inuit Language

The promotion and protection of the Inuit language has long been a major priority for the Inuit Circumpolar Conference. In 2002, when the Kuujjuaq Declaration was adopted by the General Assembly delegates, it was no different. However, despite the strong direction given by the Assembly for the Inuit Language Commission to consider the recommendations of the Commission Chair, it never in fact met during 2002 2006. In the early part of the 4-year term, the ICC Executive Council made a decision to merge the Communications Commission and Language Commission. This was done due to the reasoning that Inuit language revitalization and standardization can be most successful if promoted through media such as the internet, television, radio, and film. Only two countries nominated members to the Inuit Language and Communications Commission and, as such, it never met.

In spite of the difficulty of bringing together the Commission, much work was undertaken on several of the recommendations contained in the report. This included ICC council members working with and through bodies and conferences, which had indigenous language programmes. These included the Inuit Studies Conference, the Arctic Council, an international youth and elders symposium, the Arctic Human Development Report, the Second International Conference on Arctic Research Planning, and the pan-Arctic, multi-year Survey of the Living Conditions in the Arctic (SLICA).

ICC has initiated discussions with several bodies within each country and inter-nationally. These include the International Polar Year (IPY), the Greenland Writers Union, and Canadian Heritage. Canadian Heritage, for example, has indicated its interest in working with ICC in planning an international language symposium.

ICC was also very supportive and involved in a joint ArcticNet/Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) project that developed Inuit climate change terminology; and a CD ROM glossary in Inuktitut has been made available.

Former Canadian Justice Thomas Berger prepared a conciliation report for the governments of Nunavut and Canada and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. in March 2006 with the aim of improving implementation of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement in Canada. Based upon input from Inuit and others, Bergers key finding was that it was language, and more specifically bi-lingual education, which needed massive support for the land claims agreement to be successful. It is ICCs view that this recommendation, although regional in scope, is generally applicable across the Inuit homeland. While not formally part of the conciliation process, ICC representatives in Canada monitored the conciliation exercise.

There are other country specific language activities that Inuit are engaged in, which are important to note. The Greenland Language Committee and the Nunavut Language Commissioners Office communicate regularly on several language policy matters. ICC is involved in authorizations regarding geographical naming and is collaborating with the Nordic Division of the UN Group of Experts on Geographical Naming. In addition, ICC has been supportive of other projects related to computer-assisted linguistics involving IPY and the University of Toronto, for example. In Alaska, the Catanal (Computer Assisted Linguistics on Alaskan Native Language) has much promise and is supported by ICC. More work needs to be done in Chukotka, but despite the small numbers of Yupik speakers, language development is alive and well.

Finally, ICC has participated in the development of the Draft Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity by the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

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ICC Canada Office
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Ottawa, Ontario
Canada
K1P 5E7

+1 613 563 2642
Email: icc@inuitcircumpolar.com