Language is at the heart of cultural identity; it shapes who we are and our perspectives. When we speak our languages, we share stories, pass on knowledge and create bonds for generations. Through the Indigenous Languages Act, the Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages (OCIL) will support Indigenous peoples in ensuring that languages grow and prosper so they can be shared and spoken for years to come.
Today, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage, announced the first appointees to the new Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages:
- Ronald E. Ignace, Commissioner
- Robert Watt, Director
- Georgina Liberty, Director
- Joan Greyeyes, Director
The Commissioner and Directors were chosen following an open, transparent, and merit-based selection process. The Government of Canada ensured that the selection committee included First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation representatives who assessed and identified highly qualified individuals for the Minister’s consideration for appointment.
The Commissioner and Directors were selected for their knowledge and understanding of Indigenous communities, cultures and languages, including an understanding of language vitality and endangerment, and for their ability to represent the interests of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. They have unique strengths that will serve the interests, current needs and future direction of the OCIL. Collectively, their knowledge, expertise and leadership will facilitate better outcomes for Indigenous languages.
Engagement sessions on the Indigenous Languages Act and recent consultations with a variety of Indigenous governments, other Indigenous governing bodies and multiple Indigenous organizations helped confirm the role and responsibilities of the Commissioner and Directors and inform the selection process. The OCIL will operate independently from the Government of Canada and support Indigenous peoples in their self-determining efforts to reclaim, revitalize, maintain and strengthen Indigenous languages; promote public awareness of Indigenous languages; undertake research on the provision of funding and on the use of Indigenous languages in Canada; and provide culturally appropriate dispute resolution services and review complaints.
“It is with great pleasure that I congratulate Commissioner Ronald E. Ignace and Directors Robert Watt, Georgina Liberty and Joan Greyeyes on their appointments to the very first Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages. I am confident that they will play a key role in promoting Indigenous languages and supporting efforts and aspirations of Indigenous peoples that will allow these languages to flourish and grow.”
-The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage
“Today, we take an important step forward in the protection of Indigenous languages with the first appointments to the Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages. Protecting, revitalizing and promoting First Nations, Inuit and Métis languages is essential to a secure personal cultural identity. I want to personally congratulate Commissioner Ronald E. Ignace and Directors Robert Watt, Georgina Liberty and Joan Greyeyes. Together with the Government of Canada and the Office, we will continue our progress on the Calls to Action and addressing the Calls for Justice.”
-The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations
“I want to congratulate the new appointees to the Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages: Commissioner Ronald E. Ignace, and Directors Robert Watt, Georgina Liberty and Joan Greyeyes. Indigenous language is an important part of reconciliation, and this office will ensure that all Indigenous languages are protected and supported.”
-The Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Services
“The Government of Canada, working together with partners, will continue to support Indigenous communities across Canada and in the North in protecting, upholding, and strengthening Indigenous languages and cultures. I welcome the appointments of Commissioner Ronald E. Ignace and Directors Robert Watt, Georgina Liberty and Joan Greyeyes to the first office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages.”
-The Honourable Daniel Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs
“We celebrate this day where we breathe new life into all of our Indigenous languages for the future. Our languages will no longer stand in the shadow of other languages here in our land. Let us always honour our Indigenous languages.”
“Le7 pyin te sitq̓t te swumécwilcstem re qweqwelténs re xwexwéyt te qelmúcw wel me7 yews. Ta7 me7 scú7tsems re snecwentém re qweqweltén-kt re sts̓eléwt.s ne swet.s k smenmenúl̓ecws ne7élye ne tmicw-kt. Tikwemtús me7 sucwentwécwmentem re qweqweltén-kt.”
– Ronald E. Ignace, Commissioner
“All Languages on this Earth are uniquely Precious! Let’s mindfully embrace this Diversity.”
” ᐅᖃᐅᓯᓕᒫᑦ ᐊᓐᓂᓇᕐᐳᑦ ᓄᓇᕐᔪᐊᓕᒫᒥ! ᑕᒪᓐᓇ ᐃᑉᐱᒋᑦᓯᐊᒪᕆᒋᐊᓕᕗᑦ
Uqausilimaat anninarput nunarjualimaami. Tamanna ippigitsiamarigialivut “
-Robert Watt, Director
“It is my honour to be the representative to preserve, revitalize and strengthen our Michif Language. I am also honoured to serve with my fellow Indigenous Partners.”
“Si te moon oneur shi piikishkwetamaakeyaan chi kenawehihtamihk ,pimatishitamihk pi shoohkihitaak notr Laang Michif. Meena si te aen oneur chi pamihihweyaan avek mii naasaayii Indigene. “
-Georgina Liberty, Director
“I am looking forward to keeping our First People’s languages alive.”
-Joan Greyeyes, Director
“Language is life and central to our identities and cultures. Our languages must be living languages-sourced from our lands, expressing our creation stories and alive in our ceremonies and daily lives. Revitalizing languages strengthens overall health, wellness and success and is fundamental to First Nations’ self-determination. I lift up Commissioner Ron Ignace for his leadership over many years to revitalize and reclaim First Nations languages and his efforts to help secure ground-breaking federal legislation. I commend accomplishments to date of the newly appointed Directors who will support Commissioner Ignace. I look forward to all efforts toward the full implementation of the Indigenous Languages Act. What I want most is to hear our old people whispering our ancient stories into the ears of our young people in our languages.”
-National Chief Perry Bellegarde, Assembly of First Nations
“I welcome today’s announcement of the Commissioner and Directors of Indigenous Languages and the creation of this independent office entrusted to support Inuit through research and monitoring, dispute resolution services, and expert advice regarding the adequacy of funding as well as other mechanisms to ensure the protection, revitalization, maintenance and promotion of Inuktut.”
“ᖁᕕᐊᓱᒍᑎᒋᕙᒃᑲ ᐅᓪᓗᒥ ᑲᒥᓯᓇᐅᔪᑉ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᓄᓇᖃᖅᑳᖅᓯᒪᔪᑦ ᐅᖃᐅᓯᓕᕆᔨᑦ ᑲᑎᒪᔨᒋᔭᖏᑦ ᑐᓴᖅᑎᑦᓯᔾᔪᑎᖏᑦ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᐱᒋᐊᖅᑎᑕᐅᓯᒪᓕᓚᐅᕐᓂᖏᑕ ᑖᒃᑯᐊ ᐃᓛᒃᑰᖓᓪᓗᑎᒃ ᐊᓪᓚᕝᕕᒻᒥᒃ ᐃᑲᔪᖅᑎᐅᓂᐊᖅᓱᑎᒃ ᐃᓄᓐᓂᒃ ᖃᐅᔨᓴᐃᓂᖅᑎᒍᑦ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᓇᐅᑦᓯᖅᑐᐃᓂᖅᑎᒍᑦ, ᐊᐃᕙᔾᔪᑎᖃᓕᖅᓯᒪᓂᖏᓐᓄᑦ ᑐᑭᑖᕈᑎᑎᒍᑦ ᐱᔨᑦᓯᕋᕈᑎᒃᓴᓂᒃ, ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᖃᐅᔨᒪᔨᒻᒪᕆᐅᓪᓗᑎᒃ ᐅᖃᐅᔾᔪᐃᒋᐊᖅᑎᐅᔪᓄᑦ ᐱᔾᔪᑎᒋᓪᓗᒋᑦ ᑮᓇᐅᔭᖁᑎᒃᓴᕆᔭᐅᔪᑦ ᐊᒥᒐᓕᖅᐸᓐᓂᖏᓐᓄᑦ, ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᐊᓯᖏᓐᓄᑦ ᐱᓕᕆᔾᔪᑎᒃᓴᕆᔭᐅᔪᓄᑦ, ᒥᐊᓂᕆᔭᐅᓯᒪᓕᖁᓪᓗᒋᑦ, ᐆᒻᒪᖅᑎᑕᐅᒋᐊᒃᑲᓐᓂᖁᓪᓗᒋᑦ, ᐱᓕᕆᐊᖑᓕᖁᓪᓗᒋᑦ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᖁᕝᕙᖅᑎᑕᐅᒋᐊᖁᓪᓗᒋᑦ ᐃᓄᒃᑐᑦ.”
-ᓇᐃᑖᓐ ᐆᐱᑦ, ᐊᖏᔪᖅᑳᖅ, ᐃᓄᐃᑦ ᑕᐱᕇᑦ ᑲᓇᑕᒥ
“Quviasugutigivakka ullumi Kkamisinaujup ammalu Nunaqaqqaaqsimajut Uqausilirijit Katimajigijangit tusaqtitsijjutingit ammalu pigiaqtitausimalilaurningita taakkua ilaakkuungallutik allavvimmik ikajuqtiuniaqsutik Inunnik qaujisainiqtigut ammalu nautsiqtuiniqtigut, aivajjutiqaliqsimaninginnut tukitaarutitigut pijitsirarutiksanik, ammalu qaujimajimmariullutik uqaujjuigiaqtiujunut pijjutigillugit kiinaujaqutiksarijaujut amigaliqpanninginnut, ammalu asinginnut pilirijjutiksarijaujunut, mianirijausimaliqullugit, uummaqtitaugiakkanniqullugit, pilirianguliqullugit ammalu quvvaqtitaugiaqullugit Inuktut.”
-Natan Obed, President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
“The appointment of the first Commissioner and Directors of Indigenous Languages comes at a crucial moment for Indigenous languages in Canada. Michif, the national language of the Métis Nation, is critically endangered and all the other languages spoken by Métis Nation citizens are also at risk. The Métis Nation is pleased that this important new office will be led by a Commissioner and Directors who appreciate the urgency of Indigenous language protection and revitalization, and who bring their expertise, experience and personal commitment to this vital work.”
“Metis Nationale Council Prizidaan Clement Chartier itew,” Li aapwaenmaa por li Promii Commissaire pi li Directers peyaamakun daan li critique taan por lii Laang Indigene daan li Kanada .Michif,La Laang Nationale daan li Naasyoon di Michif,mitooni aan daanzhii chi nipoomaaka pi kahkyuw li zoot laang piikishkwecihk li moond daan la Naasyoon di Michif mina aan riskii aashtewa.
La Naasyoon di Michif takaakeyitam li aenportaan offis neu ka niikaaniikatew ooschi aen Commissaire pi lii Directors,awaanikik ka kishkeyhitakihk li Laang Indigene mitooni sapraan chi kenawechikatek pi kihtwaam chi piimatisikatek pi aaanikik peytachik kishkeyitamoowin,pi kashchiwak asotamowin por oma kishci kahkwe oovraazh.”
-Clément Chartier, President, Métis National Council
The Indigenous Languages Act received Royal Assent on June 21, 2019. The creation of the OCIL and the appointment of the Commissioner and Directors is part of the implementation of the Act.
The Commissioner, supported by the Directors, will act as a champion for Indigenous languages and lead the independent Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages.
The Commissioner and Directors will work with Indigenous peoples and their respective governments; other governing bodies, communities and organizations; the governments of Canada and the provinces and territories; and all Canadians to support the self-determined work of Indigenous peoples in reclaiming, revitalizing, maintaining and strengthening First Nations, Inuit and Métis languages.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples affirms the right of all Indigenous peoples “to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations” their languages. Article 13 of the Declaration calls on states to take “effective measures” to uphold this right.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action 15 calls on the federal government “to appoint, in consultation with Aboriginal groups, an Aboriginal Languages Commissioner. The Commissioner should help promote Aboriginal languages and report on the adequacy of federal funding of Aboriginal languages initiatives.”
The Government of Canada hosted a series of virtual consultations with Indigenous peoples across Canada in 2020 on the appointment of the Commissioner and Directors of Indigenous Languages and co-development of an Indigenous Languages Funding Model.