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Indigenous Languages Act (S.C. 2019, c. 23)

Act current to 2021-11-17 and last amended on 2020-10-01. Previous Versions

Indigenous Languages Act

S.C. 2019, c. 23

Assented to 2019-06-21

An Act respecting Indigenous languages

Preamble

Whereas the recognition and implementation of rights related to Indigenous languages are at the core of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and are fundamental to shaping the country, particularly in light of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action;

Whereas the Government of Canada is committed to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which affirms rights related to Indigenous languages;

Whereas 2019 has been proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations as the International Year of Indigenous Languages to, among other things, draw attention to the critical loss of Indigenous languages and the urgent need to maintain, revitalize and promote Indigenous languages;

Whereas the Government of Canada recognizes that all relations with Indigenous peoples must be based on the recognition and implementation of their right to self-determination, including the inherent right of self-government;

Whereas First Nations, the Inuit and the Métis Nation have their own collective identities, cultures and ways of life and have, throughout history and to this day, continued to live in, use and occupy the lands that are now in Canada;

Whereas Indigenous languages were the first languages used in the lands that are now in Canada and those languages have evolved over time;

Whereas Indigenous languages played a significant part in the establishment of relations between Europeans and Indigenous peoples;

Whereas Indigenous peoples have played a significant role in the development of Canada and Indigenous languages contribute to the diversity and richness of the linguistic and cultural heritage of Canada;

Whereas a history of discriminatory government policies and practices, in respect of, among other things, assimilation, forced relocation, the Sixties Scoop and residential schools, were detrimental to Indigenous languages and contributed significantly to the erosion of those languages;

Whereas the status of Indigenous languages varies from one language to another, including with respect to the vitality of those languages, and there is an urgent need to support the efforts of Indigenous peoples to reclaim, revitalize, maintain and strengthen them;

Whereas Indigenous languages are fundamental to the identities, cultures, spirituality, relationships to the land, world views and self-determination of Indigenous peoples;

Whereas efforts to protect the vitality of Indigenous languages contribute to the enrichment of Indigenous knowledge as well as to the prevention of the loss of cultural diversity, biodiversity and spirituality;

Whereas a variety of entities in different regions across Canada have mandates to promote the use of Indigenous languages and to support the efforts of Indigenous peoples to reclaim, revitalize, maintain and strengthen them and there is a need for the Government of Canada to provide continuing support for those entities;

Whereas the Government of Canada is committed to providing adequate, sustainable and long-term funding for the reclamation, revitalization, maintenance and strengthening of Indigenous languages;

Whereas Indigenous peoples are best placed to take the leading role in reclaiming, revitalizing, maintaining and strengthening Indigenous languages;

Whereas Indigenous-language media and lifelong learning of Indigenous languages, including education systems for Indigenous people, are essential to restoring and maintaining fluency in those languages;

Whereas a flexible approach that takes into account the unique circumstances and needs of Indigenous groups, communities and peoples is required in light of the diversity of identities, cultures and histories of Indigenous peoples;

And whereas there is a need to take into account the unique circumstances and needs of Indigenous elders, youth, children, persons with disabilities, women, men and gender-diverse persons and two-spirit persons;

Now, therefore, Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada, enacts as follows:

Short Title

Marginal note:Short title

 This Act may be cited as the Indigenous Languages Act.

Interpretation

Marginal note:Definitions

 The following definitions apply in this Act.

appropriate Minister

appropriate Minister has the same meaning as in section 2 of the Financial Administration Act. (ministre compétent)

Commissioner

Commissioner means the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages appointed under section 13. (English version only)

federal institution

federal institution means an entity that is referred to in any of paragraphs (a) to (b) and (d) of the definition department in section 2 of the Financial Administration Act or a Crown corporation, as defined in subsection 83(1) of that Act. (institution fédérale)

Indigenous governing body

Indigenous governing body means a council, government or other entity that is authorized to act on behalf of an Indigenous group, community or people that holds rights recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. (corps dirigeant autochtone)

Indigenous organization

Indigenous organization means an Indigenous entity that represents the interests of an Indigenous group and its members or, other than in section 45, that is specialized in Indigenous languages. (organisme autochtone)

Indigenous peoples

Indigenous peoples has the meaning assigned by the definition aboriginal peoples of Canada in subsection 35(2) of the Constitution Act, 1982. (peuples autochtones)

Minister

Minister means the Minister of Canadian Heritage. (ministre)

Office

Office means the Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages established under section 12. (English version only)

Marginal note:Rights of Indigenous peoples

 This Act is to be construed as upholding the rights of Indigenous peoples recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and not as abrogating or derogating from them.

Marginal note:Inconsistency or conflict

 In the event of any inconsistency or conflict between this Act and a treaty — including a land claims agreement — or a self-government agreement, the treaty or self-government agreement prevails to the extent of the inconsistency or conflict.

Purposes of Act

Marginal note:Purposes

 The purposes of this Act are to

  • (a) support and promote the use of Indigenous languages, including Indigenous sign languages;

  • (b) support the efforts of Indigenous peoples to reclaim, revitalize, maintain and strengthen Indigenous languages, including their efforts to

    • (i) assess the status of distinct Indigenous languages,

    • (ii) plan initiatives and activities for restoring and maintaining fluency in Indigenous languages,

    • (iii) create technological tools, educational materials and permanent records of Indigenous languages, including audio and video recordings of fluent speakers of the languages and written materials such as dictionaries, lexicons and grammars of the languages, for the purposes of, among other things, the maintenance and transmission of the languages,

    • (iv) support Indigenous language learning and cultural activities — including language nest, mentorship and immersion programs — to increase the number of new speakers of Indigenous languages,

    • (v) support entities specialized in Indigenous languages, and

    • (vi) undertake research or studies in respect of Indigenous languages;

  • (c) establish a framework to facilitate the effective exercise of the rights of Indigenous peoples that relate to Indigenous languages, including by way of agreements or arrangements referred to in sections 8 and 9;

  • (d) establish measures to facilitate the provision of adequate, sustainable and long-term funding for the reclamation, revitalization, maintenance and strengthening of Indigenous languages;

  • (e) facilitate cooperation with provincial and territorial governments, Indigenous governments and other Indigenous governing bodies, Indigenous organizations and other entities in a manner consistent with the rights of Indigenous peoples and the powers and jurisdictions of Indigenous governing bodies and of the provinces and territories;

  • (e.1) facilitate meaningful opportunities for Indigenous governments and other Indigenous governing bodies and Indigenous organizations to collaborate in policy development related to the implementation of this Act;

  • (f) respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action numbers 13 to 15; and

  • (g) contribute to the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as it relates to Indigenous languages.

Rights Related to Indigenous Languages

Marginal note:Recognition by Government of Canada

 The Government of Canada recognizes that the rights of Indigenous peoples recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 include rights related to Indigenous languages.

Powers, Duties and Functions of Minister

Marginal note:Consultations — adequate, sustainable and long-term funding

 The Minister must consult with a variety of Indigenous governments and other Indigenous governing bodies and a variety of Indigenous organizations in order to meet the objective of providing adequate, sustainable and long-term funding for the reclamation, revitalization, maintenance and strengthening of Indigenous languages.

Marginal note:Cooperation to support Indigenous languages

 The Minister may cooperate with provincial or territorial governments, Indigenous governments or other Indigenous governing bodies, Indigenous organizations or other entities — including by entering into agreements or arrangements with them for purposes such as providing Indigenous language programs and services in relation to education, health and the administration of justice — to coordinate efforts to efficiently and effectively support Indigenous languages in Canada in a manner consistent with the rights of Indigenous peoples recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 and the powers and jurisdictions of Indigenous governing bodies and of the provinces and territories.

Marginal note:Agreements or arrangements — purposes of Act

 Taking into account the unique circumstances and needs of Indigenous groups, communities and peoples and the research or studies referred to in section 24 and in a manner consistent with the rights of Indigenous peoples recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 and the powers and jurisdictions of Indigenous governing bodies and of the provinces and territories, the Minister and an appropriate Minister may enter into an agreement or arrangement to further the purposes of this Act with a provincial or territorial government, an Indigenous government or other Indigenous governing body or an Indigenous organization.

Marginal note:Other agreements

 For greater certainty, sections 8 and 9, and any agreement referred to in those sections, are not to be construed as preventing

  • (a) any person or entity from relying on a provision relating to the reclamation, revitalization, maintenance or strengthening of an Indigenous language that is contained in a treaty — including a land claims agreement — or a self-government agreement; or

  • (b) an Indigenous government or other Indigenous governing body from entering into, with the Government of Canada or the government of a province or territory, a treaty — including a land claims agreement — or a self-government agreement that provides, among other things, for the reclamation, revitalization, maintenance or strengthening of an Indigenous language.

Federal Institutions

Marginal note:Access to services in Indigenous languages

 A federal institution or its agent or mandatary may, in accordance with the regulations, provide access to services in an Indigenous language, if the institution or its agent or mandatary has the capacity to do so and there is sufficient demand for access to those services in that language.

Marginal note:Agreements and arrangements

  •  (1) An agreement or arrangement may be entered into under section 8 or 9 for the purpose of allowing a federal institution or its agent or mandatary to provide access to services in an Indigenous language.

  • Marginal note:Inconsistency or conflict

    (2) In the event of any inconsistency or conflict between an agreement or arrangement referred to in subsection (1) and the regulations made under paragraph 45(1)(a.2), the agreement or arrangement prevails to the extent of the inconsistency or conflict.

Marginal note:Translation and interpretation

 A federal institution may cause

  • (a) any document under its control to be translated into an Indigenous language; or

  • (b) interpretation services to be provided to facilitate the use of an Indigenous language in the course of the federal institution’s activities.

Office of Commissioner of Indigenous Languages

Establishment

Marginal note:Office established

  •  (1) There is established an office, to be known as the Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages, consisting of the Commissioner and up to three directors.

  • Marginal note:Status

    (2) The Office is neither an agent of Her Majesty in right of Canada nor is it an entity governed by the Financial Administration Act, and its Commissioner, directors and employees are not part of the federal public administration.

Marginal note:Appointment of Commissioner

 On the recommendation of the Minister made after the Minister has consulted with a variety of Indigenous governments and other Indigenous governing bodies and a variety of Indigenous organizations, the Governor in Council is to appoint a Commissioner of Indigenous Languages to hold office during good behaviour for a term not exceeding five years, subject to removal by the Governor in Council at any time for cause.

Marginal note:Advisory committee

 The Minister may establish a committee to provide the Minister with advice on the appointment of the Commissioner.

Marginal note:Chief executive officer

 The Commissioner is the chief executive officer of the Office and has the control and management of the Office and all matters connected with it.

Marginal note:Commissioner absent or unable to act

 If the Commissioner is absent or unable to act or if the office of Commissioner is vacant, the Minister may designate a director to act as Commissioner, but that director may act as Commissioner for a period of more than 90 days only with the approval of the Governor in Council given on the recommendation of the Minister made after the Minister has consulted with a variety of Indigenous governments and other Indigenous governing bodies and a variety of Indigenous organizations.

Marginal note:Appointment of directors

  •  (1) On the recommendation of the Minister made after the Minister has consulted with a variety of Indigenous governments and other Indigenous governing bodies and a variety of Indigenous organizations, the Governor in Council is to appoint up to three directors to hold office during pleasure for a term not exceeding five years.

  • Marginal note:Interests of First Nations, Inuit and Métis

    (2) Before making recommendations under subsection (1), the Minister must seek comments in order to ensure that the Governor in Council appoints persons who have the ability to represent the interests of First Nations, the Inuit and the Métis.

Marginal note:Reappointment

 The Commissioner and directors may be reappointed for a second or subsequent term of office.

Marginal note:Status

 The Commissioner and directors are to be appointed to hold office on a full-time basis.

Marginal note:Remuneration

  •  (1) The Commissioner and directors are to be paid the remuneration determined by the Governor in Council.

  • Marginal note:Expenses

    (2) The Commissioner is to be reimbursed for reasonable travel and other expenses incurred in performing duties while absent from the Commissioner’s ordinary place of work. The directors are to be reimbursed for such expenses incurred in performing duties while absent from their ordinary place of residence.

Marginal note:Employees

 The Office may hire any employees that are necessary to carry out the activities of the Office and determine the duties of those persons and the conditions of their employment, including their remuneration and benefits.

Marginal note:Conflict of interest

 The Commissioner, directors and employees of the Office must not accept or hold an office or employment that is inconsistent with their duties or take part in any matter that involves the Office and in which they have an interest.

Marginal note:Head office

 The Office’s head office is to be in the National Capital Region, as described in the schedule to the National Capital Act, or at any other place in Canada that may be designated by order of the Governor in Council.

Mandate and Powers, Duties and Functions

Marginal note:Mandate

  •  (1) The mandate of the Office is to

    • (a) help promote Indigenous languages;

    • (b) support the efforts of Indigenous peoples to reclaim, revitalize, maintain and strengthen Indigenous languages;

    • (c) facilitate the resolution of disputes and review complaints to the extent provided by this Act;

    • (d) promote public awareness and understanding in respect of

      • (i) the diversity and richness of Indigenous languages,

      • (ii) the inseparable link between Indigenous languages and the cultures of Indigenous peoples,

      • (iii) the rights of Indigenous peoples related to Indigenous languages,

      • (iv) the significance of those rights for Indigenous peoples, as well as for the general public,

      • (v) the negative impact of colonization and discriminatory government policies on Indigenous languages and the exercise of those rights, and

      • (vi) the importance of working toward and contributing to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples; and

    • (e) support innovative projects and the use of new technologies in Indigenous language education and revitalization, in cooperation with Indigenous governments and other Indigenous governing bodies, Indigenous organizations, the Government of Canada and provincial and territorial governments.

  • Marginal note:Consultation and coordination

    (2) In fulfilling its mandate, the Office must, where appropriate, consult and coordinate with any Indigenous, provincial or territorial entity that is responsible for the promotion, revitalization or protection of Indigenous languages.

Marginal note:Research or studies

  •  (1) The Office may undertake research or studies, or cause research or studies to be undertaken, in respect of

    • (a) the provision of funding for the purposes of supporting Indigenous languages; or

    • (b) the use of Indigenous languages in Canada, including for the purposes of measuring the vitality of those languages or identifying measures to restore and maintain fluency in those languages.

  • Marginal note:Community assessments

    (2) The research or studies referred to in paragraph (1)(b) may take into account a community assessment, with the consent of the Indigenous community in respect of which the assessment was undertaken.

  • Marginal note:Availability — research or study

    (3) The Office must make the results of any research or study referred to in subsection (1) available to any Indigenous community, Indigenous government or other Indigenous governing body or Indigenous organization that contributed to that research or study. Subject to any law, the Office must also make any document used in or produced for that research or study available to that Indigenous community, Indigenous government or other Indigenous governing body or Indigenous organization.

  • Marginal note:Copy or use free of charge

    (4) The Office must authorize the Indigenous community, Indigenous government or other Indigenous governing body or Indigenous organization to copy or otherwise use the research or study free of charge for the purpose of reclaiming, revitalizing, maintaining or strengthening Indigenous languages. Subject to any law, the Office must also authorize any document used in or produced for that research or study to be copied or otherwise used by that Indigenous community, Indigenous government or other Indigenous governing body or Indigenous organization free of charge, for that purpose.

 
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