Quebec Solidaire wants legal protection for Indigenous languages, but one chief takes issue

After a flurry of debate over the Legault government's sincerity on Indigenous issues, opposition party Québec Solidaire (QS) is asking it to put its money where its mouth is and give new legal protection to 11 Indigenous languages.

At a press conference in the community of Wendake on Friday, QS spokespeople Manon Massé and Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois urged Premier François Legault to follow up on a unanimous motion from the National Assembly last spring.

However, the leader of Wendake, Grand Chief Rémy Vincent, took to Facebook to say that the party didn't give notice of its plans to hold their press conference there.

The chief also criticized the opposition party for not doing a proper consultation on the language proposal before announcing it. 

"Only communities or nations have the authority to rule on our languages and... on all matters related to our cultures," he wrote, saying that meaningful consultations are, in fact, underway.

Massé has since tweeted that the QS reached out to the Huron-Wendat National Council on Thursday. 

"I should have done it before and I apologize to Grand Chef Vincent," Massé wrote. 

Mon bureau a échangé jeudi avec le Conseil de la Nation huronne-wendat au sujet de notre visite. J'aurais dû le faire avant et je m'en excuse auprès du Grand Chef Vincent. Merci encore une fois à Daniel et Cassandre Sioui de la librairie Hannenorak pour leur accueil!

— Manon Massé (@ManonMasse_Qs) October 8, 2021

Quebec Solidaire is proposing, among other things, that the government pass a law creating the equivalent of an "Office québécois de la langue française," Quebec's French-language watchdog, for Indigenous languages.

The status quo is unacceptable, said Massé, noting that Indigenous languages ​​are "endangered" and that their speakers are "left to fend for themselves in our public services."

"There is an urgent need to act," she said.

QS wants Quebec to draft and adopt an Indigenous Languages ​​Act, in collaboration with the First Nations and Inuit, which would be based on three pillars:

  • Recognizing a special status for Indigenous languages;
  • Establishing the linguistic rights of the First Nations and Inuit, particularly in Quebec public services;
  • Founding a House of Indigenous Languages, led by an Indigenous team, with a mandate to revitalize, protect, enhance and promote the 11 Indigenous languages spoken in Quebec.

This body would be responsible for supporting organizations that offer Indigenous language courses or immersion programs.

It would also have the mission of increasing the visibility of Indigenous languages ​​in public spaces, QS said.

The party also pointed out that the Viens Commission invited the government to improve translation, interpreting, signage and communication in public services, where the size of the population justifies it.

On June 9, the National Assembly unanimously adopted a motion which, for the first time, imposed on the government a share of responsibility for the protection and promotion of Indigenous languages.

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Oct. 8, with files from CTV News.


Breaking News alerts, info on contests, and special offers from partners