AFN INDIGENOUS LANGUAGES UPDATE
STATISTICS CANADA – ABORIGINAL LANGUAGES IN CANADA, 2011
OCTOBER 25, 2012
Statistics Canada released the 2011 Census of Population on October 24, 2012, and recorded over 60 Aboriginal languages grouped into 12 distinct and diverse language families in Canada.
Despite strong support for bilingualism in English and French, Canada is characterized as a country where Indigenous languages are dying.
The traumatic impacts of the residential school system on First Nations languages, cultures, and traditions have led to the ongoing decline and, in many cases, loss of Indigenous languages in Canada.
Today, First Nations schools and communities become the critical vehicles for language revitalization.
An AFN survey shows that in 2011, 88% of First Nation schools were able to provide some exposure to Indigenous language programming. However, it is when First Nation children and youth have access to full language immersion schools, similar to what is available for the French and English language in Canada, where true language revitalization will occur.
Despite the lack of funding for First Nation schools to provide such funding, 58 First Nation schools across Canada are finding a way to provide Indigenous language immersion programming to their children.
The 2011 Census results tell us that despite a decline in Indigenous language speakers across Canada, there are communities and regions where First Nation languages are seeing some revitalization.
It was especially encouraging to see that in 2011 more than 31,500 First Nation children (aged 5-14) reported they were speaking their First Nation language at home – a growth of 19%, or approximately 6,000 more children since 2006.
Greater support for First Nations language immersion, both in formal school settings and in community-based settings, would be an appropriate way to build a new way forward following the apology for residential schools in 2008.