By Marc Lalonde
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Indigenous leaders are calling on the Quebec government to drop plans for a provincial law that would ostensibly protect
Indigenous languages, saying it should be up to Indigenous people and their respective communities to decide how best to protect their languages, Mohawk Council of Kahnawake Grand Chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer said.
“Our pleas fell on deaf ears,’ Sky-Deer said. “Quebec has no jurisdiction on language laws and we want for them to leave it alone and let us handle it.”
The discussion took place largely at the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL) three-day assembly last week in Quebec City.
Sky-Deer said Kahnawake has not yet decided how the community will respond to a request for a reaction to the proposed legislation but that one possibility could be a boycott of government consultations.
“That could be a way we go. Obviously, council will decide, but we feel like this is the government trying to save face over Bill 96 and there’s been a lot of dissension,” Sky-Deer said. “ The government selected certain communities to be consulted, but we want them to know that we are firmly opposed to provincial interference in our communities. We’re telling you `no!’ and they are not paying attention.”
Sky-Deer said discussion in MCK meetings this week will determine the course of action on as possible language consultation.
“We’ll decide whether or not to participate this week,” she said, adding that a lot of the AFNQL caucus is opposed to Quebec
Aboriginal Affairs minister Ian Lafreniere’s proposed language legislation. “He should be listening to the chiefs.”
Sky-Deer is not the only one opposed to any such law.
The First Nations Education Council, which represents eight First Nations communities in Quebec including Kahnawake, issued a statement saying it is “inconceivable that the government legislate unilaterally on languages without their consent.”
The council added that First Nations’ inherent right to self-determination makes language protection an Indigenous matter.
“Let us recall that by virtue of their inherent right to self-government, First Nations elect their own government and have the legitimacy to adopt their own laws,” the council said.
Marc Lalonde/ Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/IORI:WASE. LJI is a federally funded program. Turtle Island News does not receive LJI funding.