Valerie Galley

The loss of Aboriginal languages was not a product of Aboriginal indifference to their languages, but the result of systematic efforts by governments to discourage their use … The present state of affairs is bleak testimony to the efficacy of those policies. This reality generates special duties on governments to help undo what they have done.1

One way of getting rid of a language is to get rid of all the speakers.2 The governments in Canada had launched efforts to do just that—get rid of all the speakers—from the late 1800s until the 1950s, and this has become a widely accepted fact among Aboriginal peoples, Aboriginal studies scholars, and proponents of social justice, among countless others, over the past 40 years. The Indian residential school system was one of the most profound programs that governments undertook with the co-operation of the churches—namely, Roman Catholic, Anglican, United, and Presbyterian—to rid Indigenous peoples in Canada of their languages and cultural practices. Despite these efforts, the belief of some Indigenous people in themselves, their cultural practices, and their languages remained of paramount importance to them. Some children grew to be adults who spoke their Indigenous language,3 but most others did not. While the deliberate actions of state and church for over 70 years did not obliterate Indigenous languages completely, it did have a dramatic, negative impact on the natural way in which parents and grandparents pass on their languages to their children and grandchildren that resulted in a significant overall decline in their use.

Today, there is neither a piece of federal statutory legislation nor an overarching federal policy for the recognition and revitalization of Indigenous languages in Canada; there were no laws, policies, or programs that could have guaranteed Indigenous languages their rightful place within Canada despite the 1960s movement supporting bilingualism and multiculturalism, the devolution of programs in the 1980s and 1990s, and the 2005 report by the Task Force on Aboriginal Languages and Cultures.4 In 2008, the Government of Canada issued an historic

apology to the former students of residential schools. Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper said:

First Nations, Inuit and Métis languages and cultural practices were prohibited in these schools. Tragically, some of these children died while attending residential schools and others never returned home.
The government now recognizes that the consequences of the Indian Residential Schools policy were profoundly negative and that this policy has had a lasting and damaging impact on Aboriginal culture, heritage and language … We now recognize that it was wrong to separate children from rich and vibrant cultures and traditions that it created a void in many lives and communities, and we apologize for having done this.5

The responses of Aboriginal leaders and people alike have been pretty consistent—the Apology will be rendered meaningless without the appropriate actions on the part of the Government of Canada. The fact that Aboriginal people have been compelling the Canadian government to recognize and support the revitalization of Indigenous languages for years is a clear indication of the commitment to ensure that future generations converse in their own languages. The government’s acknowledgement that they are culpable in this matter demands that appropriate redress for the effects of residential schools on languages and cultures is given. Since it has still not done so, the time for the Government of Canada to rethink and transform its legislative and policy approaches to Indigenous languages is now. Language restoration should be a key component of reconciliation within the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

Precedents for language policy in Canada were established prior to Confederation by governments, churches, missionary societies, and companies. In Canada, issues of language have been addressed in public policy since the eighteenth century when the Québec Act of 1774 explicitly recognized the official use of both French and English within the province of Quebec.6 The fact that language choice is explicitly stated in this statute makes it unique as one of the first pieces of legislation in modern history recognizing specific languages for public use.7 Further, the Québec Act’s recognition of French and English also sets a precedent for the recognition of only two founding languages in Canada with no mention of the 50 or more Indigenous languages being spoken at that time.8 The churches operated the residential schools according to the implicit assumption that Euro-Canadian languages—French and English—and cultural practices would replace Indigenous ones.9 Ironically, the Hudson Bay Company (HBC) is the one institution that had a formal language policy during pre-Confederation times. In 1828, HBC incorporated a ruling into the Rules and Regulations of the Northern Department of the Hudson’s Bay requiring “mothers and children” (who were usually Indian) to converse in either English or French and the “father” (who was usually a Hudson Bay employee of European ancestry) to teach them their alphabet and catechism.10 The reality was that language policy in Canada was destined to focus on English and French.

In the late 1940s, the Government of Canada began to formally consult with Indians when it held the Special Joint Senate and House of Commons Committee on the Indian Act in response to pressure from veterans’ organizations and church groups that had brought attention to the deplorable conditions on reserves.11 Revisions to the Indian Act were made based upon these hearings, which then resulted in the revised Indian Act, 1951. This version of the Act, similar to its previous ones, did not address Indian languages; however, it did recommend that Indian children be educated with non-Indian children, clearing the path for their integration into Canadian society.12 No recognition of the diversity of Indian languages was reflected in this legislative change; integration was the objective.

By the late 1960s, attitudes toward Indigenous languages in Canada had not changed. From 1963 to 1967, the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism undertook its work. While its final report mentions Indigenous languages, it merely clarifies that the examination of the Indigenous language question is outside the scope of their mandate, justifying why their inquiry focused upon the “two founding peoples”—English and French.13

“They speak of?‘two founding races,’ namely Canadians of British and French origin, and ‘other ethnic groups,’ but mention neither the Indians nor the Eskimos. Since it is obvious that these two groups do not form part of the ‘founding races,’ as the phrase is used in the terms of reference, it would logically be necessary to include them under the heading ‘other ethnic groups.’ Yet it is clear that the term ‘other ethnic groups’ means those peoples of diverse origins who came to Canada during or after the founding of the Canadian state and that it does not include the first inhabitants of this country.”14

In 1966, the Hawthorn Report was released. This report was a national survey designed to uncover how Indians could best achieve parity with other Canadians. The report advocated that Indians be “citizens plus”: Canadian citizens with special rights within the Canadian state.15 Plus referred to “ongoing entitlements, some of which flowed from existing treaties, while others were to be worked out in the political processes of the future, which would identify the Indian peoples as deserving possessors of an additional category of rights based on historical priority.”16 The Government of Canada’s policy on the conservation of Indian languages lacked clarity, and this was mentioned in the second volume of the report in which integration remained an overarching theme. The report recommended that Indian children be actively integrated into English and French schools. Only one recommendation out of 60 relates to Indian languages, which called for the preparation of pedagogical tools relevant to Indian languages.17 As the groundwork was being laid for official bilingualism and multiculturalism in Canada, the focus remained on integrating Indians into Canadian society. No formal acknowledgement of Indigenous languages was even being entertained by the Liberal governments of the 1960s who, in fact, attempted to formalize integration into policy.

In 1969, the Government of Canada (a narrow Liberal majority government) tabled the White Paper, which proposed the termination of special rights for Indians. It also proposed the Indian Act be repealed so that services for Indians could come through the same channels and government agencies as they do for other Canadians.18 Coming from the premise that “ethnic-specific institutions endanger the integrity of the state,”19 Prime Minister Trudeau argued that Indigenous peoples should not be afforded special rights in Canada, a modern society.20 While Indian people did not wish to be governed by the Indian Act, they also did not like the White Paper, mainly because of three main issues:21 first, the federal government had secretly written the paper and disregarded Indian input,22 (not only had Trudeau disregarded Indian input, but he had ignored the Hawthorn Report’s recommendation to afford special status to Indians); second, the policy could affect the loss of lands and reserves; and three, the administration of Indians, notably in the education sector, by the provinces was proposed. In the White Paper, the responsibility of language and cultural preservation was to be left solely to the Indian peoples:

Indian culture also lives through Indian speech and thought. The Indian languages are unique and valuable assets. Recognizing their value is not a matter of preserving ancient ways as fossils, but of ensuring the continuity of a people by encouraging and assisting them to work at the continuing development of their inheritance in the context of the present-day world. Culture lives and develops in the daily life of people, in their communities and in their other associations, and the Indian culture can be preserved, perpetuated and developed only by the Indian people themselves.23

Ironically, this reflects the reasons why Indigenous peoples are fighting for language preservation. The careful wording about Indian languages in the White Paper suggests that the Government of Canada was going to tolerate Indian languages, but would make no formal commitment to preserve them, as this could be done only by Indian people themselves. This is not justifiable given that the Indian residential school system, in which many Indians of that time had been schooled, had actively promoted cultural assimilation. Support from the federal government would be needed in order for Indigenous languages to be languages of daily life, business, service delivery, and education.

A commitment to preserve Indian languages was one of the things that the Indian leadership wanted. In 1970, an organized protest in opposition to the White Paper followed. The Indian Association of Alberta presented the Red Paper, officially entitled Citizens Plus; a presentation by the Indian Chiefs of Alberta to the Right Honourable P.E. Trudeau, Prime Minister, and the Government of Canada. This was spearheaded by Harold Cardinal (Cree), board member for the National Indian Brotherhood (NIB) and President of the Indian Association of Alberta. The NIB adopted this as its official response to the White Paper. The Red Paper focused its proposals regarding Indian language education on the establishment of an Alberta Indian education centre that would feature the best aspects of traditional Western education and Indian education and develop and maintain Indian languages throughout its program.24 Here, the Red Paper’s proposal where languages are concerned is clear; the Indian leadership wanted the Government of Canada to ensure the survival of Indian languages.

In 1972, under the leadership of National Chief George Manuel, the NIB hosted a workshop on education, resulting in a paper called Indian Control of Indian Education that contained proposed goals for language and cultural programs, consistent with those in the Red Paper, which stated that Indian children should learn the languages, cultures, and histories of their peoples. In response to this paper, the federal government began to turn over partial administrative responsibility for education to band councils. At the same time, the government began to fund programs for language and culture preservation through the Department of the Secretary of State.25 Grants began to filter into representative Aboriginal organizations in 1971 totalling $1.9 million. Grant dollars increased for the next several years, some providing financial aid to regionally based Aboriginal communications entities for newspapers, community radio, and media training. In 1972, the Native Friendship Centres program began to assist Aboriginal people in urban centres and provide bilingual services in various Indigenous languages, as well as English and French. By 1975, expenditures increased to $11.3 million,26 with $1.2 million spent on native communications societies and newspapers. In 1976, a program for social and cultural development aimed at cultural expression through cultural festivals, exhibitions, theatre, educational programs, and Aboriginal history and culture also began. This infusion of federal monies into Aboriginal communities was wanted and needed.

While the preservation and revitalization of Indigenous languages have not been advanced through public policy at a federal level, it is useful to highlight some of the Government of Quebec’s actions. In February 1983, the Quebec Provincial Cabinet adopted 15 principles prior to the first Constitutional Conference of First Ministers, in which two of the principles explicitly refer to Indigenous languages: Principle 1 recognizes Indigenous peoples as distinct nations with the right to their languages and cultures and to determine their collective identities; and, Principle 7 recognizes the right of Indigenous peoples to administer institutions in areas of culture, education, and language.27 In 1985, the Quebec National Assembly passed the Motion for the recognition of aboriginal rights in Québec, which had been tabled by the Parti Québecois despite objections by the Aboriginal Task Force members who had co-developed the principles.28 In June 1989, a working paper was written emphasizing the importance of Indigenous languages and recommending that the Québec government adopt a favourable position toward Indigenous language development; however, funding for Indigenous language projects in the early 1990s remained scarce in Québec.29 Regardless, the motion recognizing the importance of Indigenous languages in Québec provided a beginning from which legislation and policy could be developed, which was a welcome but modest initiative.

The Government of the Northwest Territories has undertaken more bold legislative measures. In their 1990 Official Languages Act, six Indigenous languages were granted official status: Chipewyan, Cree, Dogrib, Gwich’in, Inuktitut, and Slavey.30 In the absence of federal legislative recognition, provincial and territorial measures are possible with federal fiscal support. In 1985, the Government of Canada, through the Department of the Secretary of State, began administering a funding agreement that allowed for government services in the legislatively recognized languages and for the development of each of the NWT official languages as working languages.31 The initial five-year agreement, beginning in 1985, was for $16 million and was renewed for $17 million. Then, in 1994, the five-year agreement was renewed once again for $30 million, representing a relatively substantial federal investment into Indigenous languages, albeit for one territory.

In 1982, Canada repatriated the Constitution. While existing Aboriginal and treaty rights were enshrined in Section 35, the meaning of this section remained undefined. The national First Nations, Métis, and Inuit organizations were, therefore, promised four First Ministers’ Conferences to work out the meaning of Section 35. While all the conferences did occur, none had resolved the outstanding constitutional questions.

In 1988, the Assembly of First Nations held a national conference on Aboriginal language policy, which was funded by the Department of the Secretary of State, and adopted two resolutions: first, Indigenous languages should be granted official status in the Constitution; and second, the federal government should place Indigenous languages on par with French where budget allocations were concerned. The resolve of the Assembly of First Nations, however, was met unfavourably by the Government of Canada’s position for Canada as a multicultural society. Instead of approving these resolutions, the government announced plans for a National Institute of Ancestral Languages and further tabled an Act Establishing the Canadian Institute of Heritage Languages, which never came to fruition.32 Although the Canadian Multiculturalism Act (Bill C-93) of 1988 contains sections that could be deemed favourable to Indigenous languages, it is still legislation that fails to recognize Indigenous languages as the first languages of Canada and thereby place them on an equal footing with French and English.

Also in 1988, the Assembly of First Nations finalized a Proposal for an Aboriginal Languages Policy and its accompanying Implementation Policy for the Department of the Secretary of State. According to their research, a total of $6,286,000 had been expended on Aboriginal Language Retention programs from 1983 to 1988 from federal, provincial, and territorial departments such as the Department of the Secretary of State, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Canada Employment and Immigration Commission, and Health and Welfare Canada and from private entities.33 Further, Jamieson projected that $15 million would be needed annually and over the long-term to adequately support language retention for organizations throughout Canada. In 1988, Verna Kirkness developed a report on Aboriginal Languages Foundation where she recommended that a $100 million endowment fund be established to protect and revitalize Aboriginal languages. Explicitly stated was the Assembly of First Nations’ position that First Nations being subsumed into the multicultural mosaic of language policy and funding was an option they were unwilling to entertain at the expense of asserting the distinct place of First Nations within Canada. To ensure language revitalization for all Indigenous language groups, the proposed price was very big. The fact that it was not paid is regrettable given the endangered state of Indigenous languages today.

The Assembly of First Nations persevered with its language revitalization efforts despite the federal government’s insistence on subsuming Indigenous languages into multicultural policies and programs. In 1989, Bill C-269 Constituting the Foundation for Aboriginal Languages was tabled for first reading in the House of Commons. In this bill, the governance structure, administrative structure, mission, and mandate were outlined. In addition, it proposed that the foundation garner additional financing from gifts, donations, and bequests. This bill, however, met with an unfavourable response in the House. In the late 1980s, the Government of Canada, lead by the Mulroney Progressive Conservatives, did not advance the prospects for Indigenous language revitalization nationally. Despite the national dialogue on Aboriginal rights fuelled by the First Ministers’ meetings, the federal government advanced its multicultural policies and gave no credence to the policy and program proposals put forth by the Assembly of First Nations. It is virtually impossible to quantify the cost of doing nothing in the 1980s; however, it is more than plausible that the eventual costs of the inaction will be high.

In December 1990, the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs released its fourth report entitled, “You Took My Talk”: Aboriginal Literacy and Empowerment. In this report, the Standing Committee acknowledges Indigenous languages as “irreplaceable cultural resources”34 and advocates for literacy programs in Indigenous languages as well as in one or both of Canada’s official languages. Three recommendations focus on Indigenous language issues:

  1. advocacy for the federal, provincial, and territorial governments to support Indigenous language literacy and impart this to the Council of Ministers of Education;
  2. an institution be established to promote the survival, development, and use of Indigenous languages; and
  3. Indigenous language versions of self-government legislation be published “along with” the English and French versions.

While this report reinforces the rationale for Indigenous language literacy and upholds the fundamental recommendations of First Nations, it did not aspire to create the institution that Kirkness had proposed a few years earlier.

In the late 1990s, the Liberal government of Jean Chretien responded to the Final Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP). Released in November 1996, the five-volume, 3,500-page report contains analyses of research studies and Aboriginal perspectives assembled as a vision for Aboriginal peoples in Canada. Gathering Strength, Canada’s Aboriginal Action Plan was announced in January 1998 as the federal government’s response to RCAP’s report. Suggesting a number of programs and structures that were informed by RCAP’s research, Gathering Strength addresses all Aboriginal peoples—First Nations, Métis, and Inuit. A First Nations-specific action plan was developed in collaboration with the Assembly of First Nations and the federal government.35 Its main objectives support a renewed relationship between First Nations and the Government of Canada.

Gathering Strength is a plan that outlines roles for several federal departments, including the Department of Canadian Heritage, for language, heritage, and culture initiatives. The Statement of Reconciliation is included among the initiatives to renew the partnership between First Nations and the federal government by affirming treaty relationships; establishing mechanisms for decision making; establishing mechanisms for regional protocols; healing from the intergenerational effects of Indian residential schools (i.e., the Aboriginal Healing Foundation); and building support for languages, heritage, culture, and communications in the form of public education. Gathering Strength created a common agenda for First Nations that crossed departmental lines, which signified the commitment of First Nations, other Aboriginal groups, and the federal government to engage in a renewed relationship.

In June 1998, the Minister of Canadian Heritage announced the creation of a four-year Aboriginal languages initiative for the preservation, protection, and teaching of Aboriginal languages in Aboriginal communities and homes. A total of $20 million was made available, which meant that each year $5 million was distributed for First Nations languages (receiving 75%), Michif (receiving 10%), and Inuktitut dialects (receiving 15%). This funding allowed for a range of activities from the development of language strategies and plans to language resources creation and to the instruction of students in Indigenous languages. In its 2003 evaluation of the Aboriginal Languages Initiative, the Department of Canadian Heritage states “Expected long-term outcomes include the preservation and revitalization of Aboriginal languages. This goal will take considerable time and more funds than are now available through the program.”36

During the late 1990s until the time the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement was ratified, the federal government was addressing the mounting cases of former students for physical and sexual abuse they experienced while attending residential schools. While legal, policy, and programs were being explored toward the legal resolution of abuse issues, the federal government was developing a “programmatic response,” a form of restitution for the loss of language and culture. Indian Residential Schools Resolution Canada (which has been subsequently subsumed into Indian and Northern Affairs Canada) and the Department of Canadian Heritage were partnering on this initiative. The buzz, within the federal government at least, was that a programmatic response would be forthcoming following the finalization of the report by the Task Force on Aboriginal Languages and Cultures,37 which was released in June 2005.

Written in the wake of the settlement process for legal claims by former students of Indian residential schools, the Task Force proposed a national strategy to preserve, revitalize, and promote Indigenous languages and cultures within Canada. Needless to say, the Task Force was comprised of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis. In 2002, while the Task Force’s work was underway, the Liberal government committed $172.7 million over 11 years towards the revitalization and preservation of Aboriginal languages and cultures. This meant that more than $15 million per year would have been available for language revitalization over the course of 11 years, which would have made this the largest federal allocation in history for Indigenous languages in Canada. The change in political leadership within Parliament meant that this allocation would not come to fruition. In December of 2006, the new, Conservative Minister of Canadian Heritage, Bev Oda, announced that the allocation of $160 million had been removed from the fiscal framework. This removal was so untimely given the critical state of Indigenous languages.

Hope for the revitalization of Indigenous languages in Canada lies in the potential of the TRC. The Settlement Agreement was approved on 10 May 2006 by all parties involved—Government of Canada, legal counsel of the former students, churches, Assembly of First Nations, and Inuit representatives—and is the largest class-action settlement in Canadian history. The TRC is the companion piece to the common experience payment (CEP), independent assessment process (IAP), commemoration activities, and health and healing support measures as part of the Settlement Agreement. The Commission’s goals embody the commitment to reveal the many truths about the Indian residential school system and its impacts upon not only the former students, but their children and grandchildren and possibly Canadian society-at-large. Granted, former students have been receiving monetary compensation through the CEP and IAP programs. Will this monetary compensation being given to individuals fuel the revitalization of Indigenous languages? It is unreasonable to expect that monetary compensation for individuals be spent on collective interests such as language and cultural revitalization initiatives. Besides the federal government’s obligation to undo what it has done, is it reasonable to expect that funds for language and cultural revitalization reflect the amount of money invested by the Government of Canada to remove Indigenous languages from the Canadian landscape for more than 70 years remain?

Canadian politicians created the expectation for reconciliation in 2008 when they apologized for the Indian residential school system and its legacy. The words of the Official Leader of the Opposition and then leader of the Liberal Party, the Honourable Stéphane Dion, merit some attention:

For too long, Canadian governments chose denial over truth, and when confronted with the weight of truth, chose silence. For too long, Canadian governments refused to acknowledge their direct role in creating the residential schools system and perpetrating their dark and insidious goal of wiping out aboriginal identity and culture … As the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, a party that was in government for more than 70 years in the 20th century, I acknowledge our role and our shared responsibility in this tragedy. I am deeply sorry. I apologize.38

The fact that the Liberal leader acknowledged the significance of his party’s role in perpetuating the Indian residential school system, and all that it did, is encouraging. Let us work together to remind the Prime Minister and the opposition party leaders of their words of apology, regardless of which party forms the Canadian government. Addressing the issues at hand, particularly language revitalization, must remain at the forefront.

Canada cannot undo what it has done as it gears up a reconciliation process while gearing down funding efforts to revitalize languages. A substantial long-term and sustained investment for language revitalization would be in keeping with the spirit of reconciliation as would official recognition in the form of federal statutory legislation. This preliminary examination reveals that, primarily, there has been a lack of long-term sustainable federal legislative, policy, and program initiatives for Indigenous language revitalization. In the context of reconciliation, it is unconscionable that any government in Canada would continue to oppose these substantive initiatives.

Garnering support of the Canadian public, politicians, and public servants requires widespread public education so that they may learn the history of residential schools and what their legacy means, not only for Aboriginal people, but for Canadian society as well. What lies before Canada through the TRC is the opportunity to reveal the truth of the Indian residential school system with respect to Indigenous languages and to make corresponding recommendations for revitalization. Granted, the prediction of Indigenous language extinction is one of a number of concurrent challenges now being faced in the aftermath of the Survivors’ experiences. What is known is that the abuses were inflicted in a system designed to rid Canada of Indians. Nevertheless, the historical realities and the recent apology necessitate the appropriate redress by the federal government. One major appropriate action to be undertaken as strongly and as swiftly as possible is to revitalize Indigenous languages. Let us continue to work together to transform the discord between Canada and its Original Peoples.


Valerie Galley is of Ojibwa and Canadian ancestry and a member of the Nipissing First Nation. She maintains ties with her mother’s home and with a large extended family in northern Ontario. In 2005, she graduated from Trent University with her Master of Arts degree in Canadian Studies and Native Studies.

Over the past two decades, she has worked as a policy analyst, researcher, and writer on Aboriginal issues in policy and program implementation at the local, regional, and national levels. In the early 1990s, she worked with the Kwak’waka’wakw, Nuu-chah-nulth, and Coast Salish peoples on their welcoming ceremony for the XV Commonwealth Games in Victoria—a hands-on experience learning about their protocol, ceremonies, languages, and histories. Also in the 1990s, Valerie was honoured to work on the team that implemented the Aboriginal Head Start Urban and Northern Initiative, an early childhood education program with a culture and language component. She has also researched and written presentations and policy papers for various national Aboriginal organizations on topics such as partnership approaches with the Government of Canada and matrimonial real property rights. She held a position at Indian Residential Schools Resolution Canada during the launch of its alternative dispute resolution option for former students of Indian residential schools. In April 2008, Valerie co-wrote the Indigenous women’s caucus statements about Indigenous language revitalization for the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York City. Currently, she is an independent researcher and writer.

In 2000, the Assembly of First Nations awarded Valerie with the Tommy Prince Award for merit in Native Studies. Her formal education, the guidance of Elders, her participation in ceremonies, and her childhood experiences have made Valerie a woman determined to contribute to Indigenous cultural and language revitalization.

  1. MacMillan, Michael C. (1998:185). The Practice of Language Rights in Canada. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press (endnote removed). MacMillan references Peter Christmas (1989) in “How Can We Preserve Our Native Language?” Canadian Issues 9:172. The widespread adoption of such goals in various nations is documented in Skutnabb-Kangas, Tove and Robert Phillipson (1989). Wanted! Linguistic Human Rights. ROLiG-papir 44. Roskilde, DEN: Roskilde Universitetcenter, Lingvistgruppen.
  2. Walsh, Michael (2005). Will Indigenous Languages Survive? The Annual Review of Anthropology 34:293–315.
  3. See: Mary Jane Norris (2007). Aboriginal Languages in Canada: Trends and Perspectives on Maintenance and Revitalization in Jerry P. White, Susan Wingert, Dan Beavon, and Paul Maxim (eds.), Aboriginal Policy Research: Moving Forward, Making a Difference, Volume III. Toronto, ON: Thompson Educational Publishing, Inc.: 197–226.
  4. The Official Languages Act was first adopted by Parliament in 1969, making English and French the two official languages of Canada. In 1971, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau announced in the House of Commons that Canada was adopting a multiculturalism policy. The Canadian Multiculturalism Act was later adopted by Parliament in 1988, which acknowledges that “the Constitution of Canada and the Official Languages Act provide that English and French are the official languages of Canada and neither abrogates nor derogates from any rights or privileges acquired or enjoyed with respect to any other language … that Canada is a party to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which Convention recognizes that all human beings are equal before the law,… and to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Covenant provides that persons belonging to ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities shall not be denied the right to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion or to use their own language.” While this Act allows for equality in the use of languages other than English and French, the Indigenous languages of Canada’s First Nations, Inuit, and Métis do not enjoy the official status that English and French have under the Official Languages Act.
  5. Harper, Stephen (2008). Prime Minister Harper offers full apology on behalf of Canadians for the Indian Residential Schools system. Retrieved 18 February 2009 from:
  6. The Québec Act of 1774 states the following: “Provided always, and be it enacted, That nothing in this Act contained shall extend, or be construed to extend, to make void, or to vary or alter any Right, Title, or Possession, derived under any Grant, Conveyance, or otherwise.”
  7. Battarbee, Keith (2007). Aboriginal Languages in 21st-Century Canada. In Martin Howard (ed.), Language Issues in Canada: multidisciplinary perspectives. Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing: 40–63.
  8. The Task Force on Aboriginal Languages and Cultures recognizes that there are 53 Indigenous languages groups in Canada. Task Force on Aboriginal Languages and Cultures (2005) Towards a New Beginning: A Foundational Report for a Strategy to Revitalize First Nation, Inuit and Métis Languages and Cultures. Ottawa, ON: Department of Canadian Heritage> Retrieved 27 October 2008 from:
  9. Milloy, John S. (1999). A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System • 1879 to 1986. Winnipeg, MB: The University of Manitoba Press.
  10. The Champlain Society (1940). The Publications of the Champlain Society: Minutes of Council Northern Department of Rupert Land 1821—1831. Toronto, ON: The Champlain Society.
  11. Special Joint Committee of the Senate and the House of Commons Appointed to Examine and Consider the Indian Act (1946). Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence: Vol. 1-21. Ottawa, ON: Edmond Cloutier, Printer to the King’s Most Excellent Majesty Controller of Stationery; Dickason, Olive Patricia (2002). Canada’s First Nations: A History of Founding Peoples from Earliest Times (Third Edition). Toronto, ON: Oxford University Press.
  12. Indian Act, 1951, c. 29, s. 1.
  13. Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism (1967:xxii, xxvi). Report of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, Book I: The Official Languages. Ottawa, ON: Queen’s Printer and Controller of Stationery.
  14. Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism (1967:xxvi).
  15. Hawthorn, H.B. (ed.) (1966). A Survey of the Contemporary Indians of Canada: A Report on Economic, Political, Educational Needs and Policies In Two Volumes. Ottawa, ON: Queen’s Printer and Controller of Stationery.
  16. Cairns, Alan C. (2000:12). Citizens Plus: Aboriginal Peoples and the Canadian State. Vancouver, BC: University of British Columbia Press.
  17. Hawthorn, H.B. (ed.) (1967). A Survey of the Contemporary Indians of Canada: A Report on Economic, Political, Educational Needs and Policies, Part 2. Ottawa, ON: Queen’s Printer and Controller of Stationery.
  18. Government of Canada (1969). Statement of the Government of Canada on Indian Policy, 1969 (The White Paper, 1969). Presented to the First Session of the Twenty-eighth Parliament by the Honourable Jean Chrétien, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Ottawa, ON.
  19. Weaver, Sally M. (1984:217). A Commentary on the Penner Report. Canadian Public Policy 10(2):215–220.
  20. Weaver, Sally M. (1981). Making Canadian Indian Policy?: The Hidden Agenda 1968-1970. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press, see page 179.
  21. Weaver (1981).
  22. Manuel, George and Michael Posluns (1974). The Fourth World, An Indian Reality. Don Mills, ON: Collier-Macmillan Canada, see pages 168–69.
  23. Government of Canada (1969:14–15), see note # 17.
  24. Indian Chiefs of Alberta (1970). Citizens Plus; a presentation by the Indian Chiefs of Alberta to the Right Honourable P.E. Trudeau, Prime Minister, and the Government of Canada (unpublished document).
  25. Trudel, François (1996). Aboriginal Language Policies of the Canadian and Quebec Governments. In Jacques Maurais (ed.), Quebec’s Aboriginal Languages: History, Planning and Development. Toronto, ON: Multilingual Matters Ltd.: 100–128.
  26. Secretary of State (1975). Annual Report for the year ending March 31, 1975. Ottawa, ON: Secretary of State.
  27. SAGMAI (Secrétariat des activités gouvernementales en milieu amérindien et inuit) (1981). Vers des négociations avec les Indiens attikameks et montagnais. SAGMAI Rencontre 2(2):4.
  28. Joffe, Paul (2000). The 1985 Québec National Assembly Resolution on Aboriginal Rights: A Brief Commentary. Submitted to the Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission.
  29. Trudel (1996), see note # 24.
  30. Official Languages Act, R.S.N.W.T. 1988, c. O-1.
  31. Trudel (1996), see note # 24.
  32. Trudel (1996), see note # 24.
  33. Jamieson, Mary E. (1988). The Aboriginal Language Policy Study, Phase II: Implementation Mechanism. Ottawa, ON: Assembly of First Nations.
  34. Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs (1990:iv). “You Took My Talk”: Aboriginal Literacy and Empowerment: Fourth Report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs. Ottawa, ON: Queen’s Printer for Canada.
  35. Indian and Northern Affairs (1998). Agenda for Action with First Nations. Ottawa, ON: Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada.
  36. Consilium (2003:5). Aboriginal Languages Initiative (ALI) Evaluation Final Report, prepared for Department of Canadian Heritage. Ottawa, ON: Department of Canadian Heritage.
  37. These were my observations while working on contract with Indian Residential Schools Resolution Canada in 2003.
  38. Dion, Stéphane (2008). Leader of the Official Opposition Residential School Apology. Retrieved 18 February 2009 from: