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Feds name appointees to commission to protect endangered Indigenous languages

Feds name appointees to commission to protect endangered Indigenous languages
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TORONTO -- The federal government announced on Monday the first four appointees to a newly created commission to protect endangered Indigenous languages.

Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault announced that three directors and one commissioner were chosen to serve on the Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages (OCIL), which was established after the Indigenous Languages Act received royal assent in June 2019.

Manitoba Mtis Federation member Georgina Liberty, who is one of the three new OCIL directors, called her appointment "very exciting.

"It s an excellent opportunity to work with Canada (and) for our Indigenous people to reclaim, revitalize, strengthen our languages that have been lost over the years," Liberty told CTV News Channel on Tuesday.

The OCIL is an independent body tasked with conducting research and offering advice on how to provision funding to protect and revitalize these Indigenous languages and making sure the federal government meets its commitments made in the Indigenous Languages Act.

Languages are an important part of any culture, but through the effects of colonization, Liberty says many Indigenous languages are at risk of becoming extinct.

"(Language is) what makes us the people that we are," said Liberty. "The fact that very little of our children can speak our language is very daunting. It s a very easy way to lose your culture and your traditions if you don t practise your language."

A loss of language is something that Liberty is already seeing in her own community. Fewer people are speaking Michif, a language evolved as a combination of the French and Cree languages, that is spoken by Mtis people in the Prairies.

"Michif language is a very quickly dying language, we have very few speakers who speak the traditional Michif. And so, we re very close to extinction in our language. It s such a sad state of events," she said.

Some Indigenous languages have already been lost altogether, including another traditional Mtis language, Liberty says.

"I know that that very early on there was another language that was spoken by our people, and that language is lost," she explained. "We know that it existed because there have been some literary documents that indicate the speaking of the language by the people. And so, I am not aware of anyone that speaks that language."

Liberty also hopes that her work through the OCIL will also help educate Canadians and raise more awareness about Indigenous languages.

"I think that if we all work towards trying to ensure that we educate and teach people what we know, then I think it s great for all Canadians," said Liberty. "There s so many things that I ve learned over the years from other people and other cultures, and I think we just need to be more open about it and we need to be willing to listen and learn."
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