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Ottawa, Dec 17 (Canadian-Media): Speaking today at UN Headquarters in New York City, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde said many action needed to be taken from the federal government and the wider international community to prevent Indigenous languages facing extinction, media reports said.
Perry Bellegarde. Image credit: Facebook page
Our languages connect us all to our ceremonies, to our lands, to our waters and to our right to self-determination as Indigenous peoples...For our languages to survive they must be taught ... Work with us to help bring Indigenous languages back from the brink of destruction." he told UN delegates gathered for a day marking the end of the International Year of Indigenous Languages.
In the last few years there had been some progress, said Bellegarde, as elders were eager to reclaim part of their identity and started teaching their languages to young people.
More action is needed, added Bellegarde, to repair the damage done by residential schools, where English and French were forced on Indigenous students.
While addressing the UN on Tuesday, Indigenous Service Minister Marc Miller pointed to Bill C-91 as a way forward in allowing for the translation of federal documents into Indigenous languages and interpretation services.
Three out of four of the 90 different living Indigenous languages in Canada are said to be endangered.
"If we do not act now to protect these beautiful languages, many of us will not hear it for ourselves in the years to come..I look forward to seeing the work continue with all Indigenous partners in Canada for the co-implementation of the [languages] act in a spirit of mutual trust and respect," Miller said.