Department of Culture and Heritage
Government of Nunavut
In recent years, the Government of Nunavut has undertaken consultations with Nunavut’s Francophone community to identify its needs in terms of French‑language services. In March 2015, this consultation process concluded with the publication of a report entitled Priorities of the Francophone Community of Nunavut Regarding French Services. This article provides some background on the consultation process and includes highlights from the report, the full version of which is available on the Department of Culture and Heritage website1.
In 2008, the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut passed the Nunavut Official Languages Act (OLA). This Act recognizes three official languages in Nunavut: the Inuit language, English and French.
To prepare for the OLA’s implementation, community consultations were held, particularly with the Francophone population. The final version of the implementation plan, the Uqausivut Plan, was tabled in the Legislative Assembly on October 30, 2012, laying the groundwork for the OLA’s entry into force on April 1, 2013.
To better understand the needs of Nunavut’s Francophone community, the Government of Nunavut held a public consultation on October 5, 2013, and conducted an online survey in the winter of 2014.
Consultation participants established five priority areas: education and early childhood; health and social services; culture; justice and public safety; and economic development. Below are the community’s main observations for each of these areas.
In addition to highlighting the importance of access to elementary and secondary education in French, participants also mentioned the importance of teaching French as a second language, because Francophilia is important to the development of community vitality. Furthermore, support for early childhood is considered a priority because children are the students of tomorrow. It is therefore important to prepare young Francophones by instilling in them a sense of pride through francization and identity building.
Access to French-language health services is a top priority. In an emergency, it is crucial that people receive care in their first language. Improvements must be made immediately to French-language service delivery in hospitals and in the areas of public health, mental health, family health, social services and medical travel.
Culture is intrinsic to the vitality and development of the Francophone community. It is essential for Francophones to have a place to gather and live their culture and also to share the French language and culture with Nunavut’s many Francophiles. A strong culture equals a strong community. The community must therefore have easy access to arts and culture in order to foster a sense of cultural pride among youth.
The area of justice and public safety is important because it has a direct impact on the lives of citizens, whether they are in need of emergency, police or fire services. It is also important to be able to understand the elements of one’s environment, such as road signs and public signage, and to understand municipal officers when they issue tickets. Finally, having access to quality justice services, including legal aid, services to victims of crime and access to courts, is important. Front-line responders must therefore have strong skills in all of Nunavut’s official languages, including French.
Economic development, including employability and services to businesses, is a priority for the Francophone community. Welcoming newcomers is also important because of the high degree of population movement within the territory’s Francophone community. Reaching out to newcomers to facilitate their integration into the Francophone community is essential to building community, as it creates more economic opportunities for local entrepreneurs.
Participants noted the lack of Francophones in the territory’s public service, particularly in front-line positions. Employees who speak French are often called on as soon as there is a request for French-language services, whether it is in their area of expertise or not. Combined with high staff turnover, this practice does not allow for service continuity, let alone access to services of a similar quality to those offered in the other official languages. Without formally identifying bilingual positions, it will be impossible to deliver effective, efficient French-language services in Nunavut.
Participants stressed the need to promote the active offer of services a number of times. It is important that Francophones be informed immediately of the possibility of obtaining services in French. When a service is not explicitly offered, Francophones will tend to address staff members in English. It is also important to promote the French language and to demonstrate its added value in Nunavut. Finally, while the majority of Nunavut’s Francophones reside in Iqaluit, Francophones living in the territory’s other communities must also be included, especially when it comes to health and public safety.
Given the priorities established by the community regarding French-language services during the consultation on October 5, 2013, and the results of the survey on French-language services in Nunavut conducted in February 2014, it is recommended that the Government of Nunavut
In the coming years, the Government of Nunavut will work to develop and deliver effective, efficient French-language services based on the priorities and recommendations established by Nunavut’s Francophone community.