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Language and listening in Canada’s North

On June 29th, 2017, Prince Charles and Camilla Duchess of Cornwall began their Canadian visit in Iqaluit, Nunavut. First visiting Iqaluit in 1970 (Frobisher Bay, N.W.T. at the time), Prince Charles has an appreciation for and vested interest in Canada’s North. “He knows what’s going on in Nunavut and in the Inuit communities across Canada; he also knows the issues here,” Jeannie Arreak-Kullualik, an Inuit language advocate commented in Inuktitut.

In line with the four themes of Canada 150 – diversity and inclusion, reconciliation with Indigenous people, young people and the environment – Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly stated the royals’ trip would “showcase . . . efforts towards reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and the achievements of our dynamic youth.”

Prince Charles’ charitable influence provides direction, oftentimes, in his visits, as it did most recently. The Prince’s Charities Canada (PCC) lists education and young people as one of its four themes, supporting the revitalization of Indigenous languages as a primary initiative. This initiative is aligned with a significant current Indigenous issue, and, as suggested by Arreak-Kullualik, the most important part of the royal visit to the community would be discussions around the preservation and revitalization of Inuktitut. His charity recently connected an Inuit language committee devoted to their language’s revitalization to a Welsh project further along in their own preservation.

We are the guests
Capt. Mark Stanley, Alberta & Northern Territories Divisional Secretary for Public Relations & Development of the Salvation Army, articulates the necessity of understanding priorities of the Indigenous people. As a global church, the church needs to operate in and acknowledge the languages that are native to the locale and culture it finds itself in, “be that in the North [or] throughout the world. A way of respecting people is speaking to them in their language; they have identified this [language revitalization] as important; how do we then respond?” he told Christian Courier.

In the age of truth and reconciliation, a listening ear from the church and those in government leadership is necessary. Stanley observes that, “If the church is coming in stating we have all the answers, it is not only disrespectful but inaccurate . . . At best it is when we are invited, and we respond to that invitation.”

“The church has an important role to play, through truth and reconciliation. We need to ask for forgiveness, accept responsibility, regardless of denomination . . . [W]hat will we do to ensure [the perpetuation of Colonization] won’t happen again?” Working towards reconciliation with Indigenous brothers and sisters will have many faces and facets in Canada’s future, but the future can be hopeful. “The church [and government too], while perhaps well-intentioned, say this is what we see as a problem with little or no consultation; this is just not acceptable anymore. We need to be in dialogue . . . where the church is operating. Instead of saying here’s what we can do for you, asking all communities, ‘What are your priorities and how would you like to see the church involved?’ We can contribute, [but] we are the guests.”

Prince Charles, next in line to the throne, said, “Each time I visit Canada, I see the strength and resilience of the people who live here, the importance of their Indigenous traditions and the vision and drive that helped shape this extraordinary nation. I pray that the celebration of 150 years of Confederation will encourage all Canadians not just to look back with pride, but also to look forward with hope and inspiration.” 

  • Candice is a teacher by trade, stay-at-home mom of two boys, and foster mom. She likes reading the news, breathing in the forest, and dabbling in art when she gets the chance.

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