(Lheidli T’enneh Territory, Prince George, BC – AUG. 9, 2019) – Globally, Indigenous peoples are observing and celebrating the United Nation’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. This year’s observance is dedicated to Indigenous peoples’ languages in view of 2019 being marked as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. Significantly, in Canada the federal government’s Indigenous Languages Act, Bill C-91 received Royal Assent in June with an investment of $333.7 million over five years, and $115.7 million annually thereafter. In addition, the Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages will soon be established and will protect, promote and revitalize Indigenous languages across the country.
British Columbia is home to an amazing diversity of First Nations languages with approximately 60% of the Indigenous languages of Canada being spoken here. Last year’s Report on the Status of BC First Nations Languages notes the continued decline in the number of fluent speakers but observed the increased number of language learners. Early last year the B.C. provincial government recognized the importance of Indigenous languages with an investment of $50 million toward the protection of these languages.
“We are experiencing rapid growth and change in our communities with increasing demand for language and cultural revitalization. Our youth in particular are seeking to build strong cultural roots which is reflected in the many creative and interesting ways they are engaging with our knowledge holders and Elders. It is important to note that realizing cultural revitalization also must include the recognition and implementation of First Nations’ Rights and Title and self-government. Without this we remain vulnerable to assimilation policies and colonial practices,” stated Regional Chief Terry Teegee.
British Columbia First Nations are seeking recognition of their Rights and Title to traditional lands, territories and natural resources which are key to social, cultural, economic and political traditions that are distinct from those of the dominant Canadian society. First Nations look forward to working with the province of British Columbia this fall as legislation (the first in Canada) will be introduced to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and which will begin the fundamental change toward self-determination, economic equality and cultural revitalization.
In Canada, the population of Indigenous people total approximately 1.7 million and account for almost 5% of the population. There are almost 300,000 Indigenous people in British Columbia making up around 6% of the population.
For further information, contact:
Annette Schroeter, Communications Officer (250)962-1603. BC Assembly of First Nations.