Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, one of the things that makes the Northwest Territories unique is the variety of aboriginal lifestyles and languages. There is a very real concern about the possible extinction of some of our aboriginal languages. The efforts we have been making are not enough. Before it is too late, it is important that we step back and find a better way to preserve and in some cases revitalize the languages.
Keeping your language is an important part of keeping your culture. We need to recognize the role of family and communities in sustaining language and culture. Our language should be something that you learn on your mother's knee. Schools can support that language development but cannot replace what a child can learn at home.
I met this morning with the participants at the Aboriginal Languages Communities Conference. They include representatives from the Department of Education, Culture and Employment and the language communities as well as the Languages Commissioner. I have asked this group to put their thoughts over the next two days towards the development of a language strategy. While it should address all official languages, the heart of the strategy must focus on the preservation of aboriginal languages. This strategy cannot be developed in isolation by any one group. The department, Languages Commissioner and the various language communities must all be active participants in its development and in making it a reality.
The strategy needs to look at how we have tried to support languages, Mr. Speaker. We need to determine what has been effective, what has not worked and how we should redesign activities to promote language use and prevent any further loss of language. As a government, we need to make sure our legislation, policies and strategies support the preservation of language. Efforts at the community level also have to focus on preservation and on the family as the key player.
I have asked the conference participants to think about three key issues:
1. How we focus on keeping our unique languages alive and vibrant;
2. How we keep our actions based on family and the community; and
3. How to ensure that government is in tune with language communities.
Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the strategy is not to justify the need for more funding. The strategy will be developed within the budget parameters of the current government budget and any other funds that other interested parties may wish to bring to the table. The people at the table this morning have years of experience and a strong interest in preserving and revitalizing aboriginal languages. They need to be realistic and find what is do-able.
Mr. Speaker, if work goes as planned, we will have an initial draft of the strategy by the fall for comment and consideration. The government and the language communities are really two sides of the same coin trying to preserve languages. We need both parts to work together if we want to be effective and to make a lasting difference. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.