|Very important to speak and understand an Indigenous language||23.5||7.6||58.6|
|Somewhat important to speak and understand an Indigenous language||32.8||28.8||20.5|
|Not very important or not at all important to speak and understand an Indigenous language||39||59||15.5|
Source: CICH graphic created using data adapted from Statistics Canada. Table 576-0013 – Aboriginal Peoples Survey, importance of speaking and understanding an Aboriginal language, by Aboriginal identity, age group and sex, population aged 6 years and over, Canada, provinces and territories, occasional (persons unless otherwise noted).
In 2012, more than half of First Nations youth aged 15 to 24 years (56%) believed it was important to speak and understand an Indigenous language.
Even more (79%) of Inuit felt that this was the case.
Fewer (36%) Métis youth felt that this was the case.
Language is intrinsically linked to the development of strong cultural identity, at both individual and collective levels. It is important to a child’s mental health and well-being,1 to provide him/her with a sense of belonging and self-esteem as a foundation for individual resilience that contributes to the development of strong and resilient communities. In Canada, colonial legislation that aimed to assimilate Indigenous peoples into mainstream society has endangered many Indigenous languages. Of an estimated 450 Indigenous languages and dialects belonging to 11 language families, only 50-70 are still spoken in Canada, and only three (Cree, Inuktitut and Ojibway) are expected to remain and flourish in Indigenous communities.2 Language preservation and revitalization must begin in early childhood.
1Galley, V., Gessner, S., Herbert, T., Thompson, K.T., & Williams, L.W. (2016). Indigenous languages recognition, preservation and revitalization: A report on the national dialogue session on Indigenous languages. Victoria, BC: First Peoples’ Cultural Council. Retrieved September 12, 2017 from http://www.fpcc.ca/files/PDF/General/FPCC__National_Dialogue_Session_Report_Final.pdf
2McIvor, O. (2005). Building the nests: Indigenous language revitalization in Canada through early childhood immersion programs. Unpublished MA theses, School of Child and Youth Care, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC.