February 20, 2013
Re: Follow-up of letter of request for a meeting dated October 22, 2012
To: Premier Pauline Marois
Dear Premier Marois;
This letter is a follow-up to a letter dated last October 22, 2012, requesting a meeting with you and your Ministers regarding the impact of Bill 101 on Indigenous languages. While I have called your office several times and received confirmation of the receipt of my letter, I have yet to receive a response to my request for a meeting.
I am therefore compelled once again to write you to request a meeting in order to discuss the impact of Bill 101 on Indigenous languages. I would also like to respectfully request that several of your Ministers whose files are relevant to language and education, be included in this meeting.
The major concern we have is in regards to your statement following your election in September in which you stated that you would be amending Bill 101 to have an even stricter enforcement of the French language. While we empathize with the need of Francophone Quebecers to protect French within the province, it is necessary to inform you that language laws in Canada, have long had a negative impact on Indigenous languages since the onset of the Indian Residential Schools system.
It is important to stress that Indigenous peoples have a right to provide education to their children and youth in their own languages. This right also includes the teaching of our history and cultures and is reinforced in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The UN Declaration is one which the Parti Québeçois endorsed in a 2009 press conference which included myself as then president of Femmes Autochtones du Québec and Ghislain Picard of the Assembly of First Nations of Québec and Labrador. It is hoped that you as Premier of Québec continue to endorse this historic international human rights instrument for Indigenous peoples’ rights.
Education, language and culture are amongst the many articles of the UNDRIP which promote and protect the self-determining rights of Indigenous peoples and which constitute the minimum human rights standards for Indigenous Peoples. The support of the UN Declaration by the Parti Quebeçois is deeply appreciated, but the next step is its implementation and this requires that all state actors, including provincial and territorial governments to participate in its realization. The implementation of the Declaration requires dialogue and political will based upon trust and fairness. The UN Declaration is the framework for reconciliation based upon an equal partnership for the peace and progressive evolution of society.
It is important to stress that Indigenous peoples are not minorities as we do not share the same history of the Indian Residential School system and of colonization, with that of minorities.
Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination and as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states in Article 13:
“1. Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literatures, and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places and person.”
UNESCO has stated that Indigenous languages in Canada are the most endangered in the world. As the First Peoples of this land, our languages have consistently been marginalized in the education curriculum and been forced aside in order for our community members to work within Québeçois and Canadian society.
As Koichiro Matsuura, director-general of UNESCO, stated that ”.. languages are key to cultural identity.. linguistic diversity is closely linked to cultural diversity, and languages play an important role in the fight against poverty, hunger and disease.” Indigenous languages in particular, he says, are crucial to preserving indigenous knowledge.
I believe we share a common passion for the protection of our respective languages. It is time to change the status quo of colonialism that has attacked the identity of Indigenous peoples for centuries and instead, work together for the enrichment and well-being of society. Indigenous peoples collective human rights and freedoms are important in our survival, dignity and well being. I hope that this vision of justice is one that can be shared by the Government of Québec and that we can discuss this important issue in the near future.
I look forward to your response and trust that our meeting may be arranged within the next month at your office in Montreal.
With sincerity and respect
Kontinonhstats – Mohawk Language Custodians Association
cc. Minister Élizabeth Larouche, Secrétariat des Affaires Autochtones
Minister Maka Kotto, Ministère de la Culture et des Communications
Minister Marie Malavoy, Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport