(New York City, NY) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde today addressed the United Nations (UN) General Assembly as the North American Indigenous Representative at the UN Launch Event for the 2019 International Year of the Indigenous Languages. National Chief Bellegarde marked the day by urging Canadians and all parliamentarians to support the work underway in Canada to revitalize, reclaim, and protect First Nations languages, including the Indigenous Languages Act that is expected to be tabled soon in Parliament.
“Indigenous languages are the founding languages of this land, embracing our identity, our worldview and our nationhood,” said National Chief Perry Bellegarde. “But in Canada, no Indigenous language is safe. Now there is hope. The Indigenous Languages Act that we co-developed will help ensure our languages survive and thrive. Canada will be a stronger, richer country when we hear First Nations children and families speaking their languages. It will be a historic way to mark the International Year of Indigenous Languages when this country – that once tried to eradicate our languages – passes a bill that was developed with us to protect, promote and revitalize our languages.”
In December 2016, the Prime Minister responded to years of advocacy by the AFN, First Nations and the National Chief to create an Indigenous Languages Act. The AFN helped co-develop the legislation to ensure that First Nation perspectives, priorities and rights were included in the legislation. The bill is expected to be introduced in Parliament in the near future with the aim of having it become law before the end of the current session.
In his remarks to the UN General Assembly as the North American Indigenous Representative, National Chief Bellegarde spoke of the upcoming Indigenous languages legislation: “We need legislation to ensure sufficient, sustainable and long-term funding toward the revitalization of our languages. We need schools on-reserve as well as in urban and rural settings to create and implement effective bilingual and immersion education programs beginning with pre-school age children. And we need programs that inspire all of our people to speak our languages, regardless of age, to renew the vibrancy of our communities as our cultural places. We want our languages to be our living languages – sourced from our lands, expressing our creation stories, and alive in our ceremonies and daily lives.”
The text of the National Chief’s remarks are available on the AFN website at www.afn.ca.
The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nation citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on @AFN_Updates.