Our languages are central to our ceremonies, our relationships to our lands, the animals, to each other, our understandings, of our worlds, including the natural world, our stories and our laws.

National Chief Perry BellegardeOpening Remarks to the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Ministers Responsible for Culture and Heritage, Orford, Québec. August 22, 2017

Bill C-91

Indigenous Languages Initiative Sessions

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Indigenous Languages Initiative Background and Resources

Report on the National Engagement Sessions

In preparation for the co-development of legislation for an Indigenous Languages Act, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) held a series of engagement sessions across the country from June to October, 2017 with more than 500 Regional Chiefs, Chiefs, Councillors, Elders, fluent speakers, knowledge keepers, language champions and activists, Indigenous scholars and linguists attending. The Assembly of First Nations undertook the AFN Indigenous Languages Initiative Engagement Sessions in keeping with the Assembly of First Nations Executive Motion, supported by the AFN Chiefs Committee on Languages and resolutions 06-2015 and 01-2015. This report provides a brief synopsis of the extensive feedback received at those sessions and summarizes the key points which emerged. The report will be used to guide those at the AFN who will be co-developing the legislation with the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Métis National Council.


Canada’s Official Languages Act

S-212 An Act for the advancement of the aboriginal languages of Canada and to recognize and respect aboriginal language rights

There is currently a private member’s bill in progress through the Senate that aims to provide recognition, but not official status, for Aboriginal languages.

Existing Legislation on Indigenous Languages


Official Languages Act 2008 General Information The Act gives official status to the Inuit language, English and French. It provides for the following rights:

  • Use of any official language in the Legislative Assembly and the Nunavut Court of Justice and appeal court proceedings.
  • Anyone can communicate with or receive services in an official language from the head or central office of any territorial institution and non-head offices also have a duty to provide a service in an official language where there is demand.

Nunavut also has the Inuit Language Protection Act 2008

  • Children in grades K-3 have the right to receive instruction in the Inuit language.
  • A new Language Authority is created to establish language standards.
  • Inuit will have the right to work for the government in their own language.
  • Municipalities must offer services in the Inuit language.
  • By 2019, all school grades will have the right to an Inuit language education. However, this will likely be delayed: [click here]

New Zealand

  • Declares the Māori language to be an official language of New Zealand
  • Gives people the right to speak Māori in certain legal proceedings
  • Establishes a commission to oversee the implementation of policies, procedures, measures, and practices designed to give effect to the declaration of Māori language as an official language.

Read the Māori Language Act 1987


French and English are the official languages but services may be provided in Aboriginal languages (Language Act 2002).


The Aboriginal Languages Recognition Act 2010 The languages of Cree, Dakota, Dene, Inuktitut, Michif, Ojibway and Oji-Cree do not have official status, but are recognized as the Aboriginal languages spoken and used in Manitoba.

Northwest Territories

Official Languages Act 1988

  • Chipewyan, Cree, English, French, Gwich’in, Inuinnaqtun, Inuktitut, Inuvialuktun, North Slavey, South Slavey and Tłįchǫ are the Official Languages of the Northwest Territories (along with English and French).
  • Grants equal rights and privileges for their use in government institutions (legislature, courts).
  • People can receive government services in a language where there is a significant demand for that language.
  • There is a language commissioner and an Aboriginal Languages Revitalization Board.


In 1978, Hawaiian is made an official language of Hawaii (along with English) and the study of Hawaiian is accorded special promotion by the State.

United Kingdom: Wales

Welsh is not an Indigenous language, but has faced many similar challenges as a minority language native to Wales.

  • The Welsh Language Act 1993 and the Government of Wales Act 1998 provide that the Welsh and English languages be treated equally in the public sector, as far as is reasonable and practicable.
  • The Welsh Language (Wales) Measure was passed in 2011 confirming official status, creating a language commissioner and new provisions for the language.
  • Detailed language strategies and related information

Sweden, Norway and Finland

The Sami language has official status in Sweden and also in some municipalities of Norway and Finland.

  • For example, the Swedish legislation applies to areas where Sami has a long tradition and entitles individuals to use Sami in their dealings with administrative agencies and courts.
  • The legislation also gives the right for pre-school and elderly care to be partly or completely in the minority language.
  • Swedish National minorities and minority languages policy

Contact Languages Staff

Miranda Huron

Ken Medd
Policy Analyst

Justin Lovegrove
Administrative Assistant

Julia Stockdale-Otárola
Senior Policy Analyst

Crystal Ireland
Executive Assistant

Ashley Keays
Senior Policy Analyst

Angie TurnerLanguages and Culture
Assembly of First Nations