January 3, 2018 – The chief of the largest First Nations community east of Montreal is leading an initiative aimed at gaining official language status for Mi’kmaq in the province of Nova Scotia.
Eskasoni Chief Leroy Denny said in an interview he has already discussed the idea with Premier Stephen McNeil and members of his cabinet during a meeting the province’s chiefs had with them prior to Christmas and they seemed receptive to the concept.
Denny said he expects to have a meeting this month with Education Minister Zach Churchill. As part of the process, Denny said they intend to review legislation that is in place in other parts of Canada.
“We’re going to look at those documents and see what they’re doing,” he said.
Federally, an Aboriginal languages act was among the 94 calls to action that arose from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“One of the things that came out of it, the country has to revitalize the language, work towards working with First Nations in the country,” Denny said.
“We’ve got to protect the language for the next generation and protect it under legislation.”
The traditional relationship among the English, French and Mi’kmaq in Nova Scotia should continue to be respected, Denny said
Exactly what the designation would entail — such as what services the province may be required to provide in Mi’kmaq — still has to be discussed, Denny said. Currently, translation services are available within the province’s court system for those who require them.
The only officially bilingual province in Canada is New Brunswick, where both English and French are official languages.