Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Building a case for the Inuit Language Authority (in Nunavut)

I heard on the radio this morning an Inuk host introducing what happened yesterday in Ottawa with the Conservative's federal budget. Basically, it was:

"Our Government was attacked yesterday by its enemies during the announcement of its budget" and soon after, the federal health Minister came on and said that she is not "done with her work",

which gave a distinct impression of the whole process in somewhat biblical terms. "Work" is often used in Inuktitut in the sense of "destiny" or what we are born to do as mandated by God, our life's work.

The democratic process, such as our parliamentary system of government, is inherently "adversarial" which to uniligual Inuit with no real understanding of the legitimate political process is biblical in a sense. Add to that a history without party politics to draw upon and the IQ principle of "never question authority". Party politics (and secular democracy) is not something obvious. A "government" is a Government with a privileged position such as the Church does for the faithful.

The political parties, in a federal election say, assume a basic understanding of their respective philosophies when it comes to Inuit Nunaat therefore nothing of the contrasts in approach, however subtle, are never explicitly mentioned. To most unilingual Inuit all the fuss doesn't make much sense (grown men trying to shout over each other). This is not informed consent: This is not informed decision-making. This is not democracy - not in any of the sense which the concept entails.

What we need is an authoritative body (perhaps outside of Nunavut Government's control and in the hands of ITK) to allow common definitions and explanations of these important concepts to be used in Inuit Nunaat in a negotiated and non-partisan manner. We need such a body to have a solid all-purpose research unit and ties with universities and international bodies (such as Inuit Circumpolar Council) to support it in its work.


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