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Preserving indigenous languages a priority

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The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples welcomes Bill C-91, the Indigenous Languages Act, and the establishment of an Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages which promises to work toward meaningful solutions to the loss of indigenous language in Canada.

There is a great cultural diversity in Canada; there are 58 unique indigenous languages and some 90 dialects.

However, a House of Commons' report shows the number of people speaking these languages as their mother tongue is on the decline, and along with that, knowledge of them is lessening, as well.

CAP Chief Robert Bertrand commented on the cultural significance of language, and noted that urban and off-reserve indigenous peoples have unique challenges and must be considered in the maintenance and support of indigenous languages in Canada.

“Language is so important to culture," Bertrand said. ”It carries with it the essence and history of a people, and it must not be lost.

The Congress is particularly mindful of our indigenous peoples living off reserve and in cities, often separated from their ancestral homelands and communities," he added.

“Those people must be considered, too," he stressed. "We will fight for them.”

The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, one of five national indigenous organizations, continues to advocate for the people it represents and their language rights, in particular status and non-status indigenous peoples living off-reserve.

The 2016 Supreme Court of Canada's unanimous decision in Daniels v. Canada was a landmark victory for CAP that confirmed Métis and non-status Indians fall under the federal government's jurisdiction.

As stated in the Daniels decision, “[Métis and non-status Indians] are deprived of programs, services, and intangible benefits recognized by all governments as needed.”

The CAP believes the government is responsible for supporting language programming and services for all indigenous peoples.

“We look forward to seeing government funds directed toward the support and promotion of indigenous languages across Canada, and enhanced support for indigenous peoples to create educational material that will allow for language preservation for future generations,” Bertrand said.

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