Language Education Policy Studies
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Language Education Policy in Canada: 

Indigenous Populations

The First Nation peoples of Canada are little better off than their brethren to the south. (See U.S.- Amerindians). Having not only English as an official language, but also French, there is a greater struggle for language recognition. According to Duff and Li, because Canada's two official languages have been established since “1867 . . . the Official Languages Act (OLA) was designed to highlight and legislate support for national bilingualism” (2009). A majority of the Indigenous languages, however, continue to decline in the number of native speakers every new census. It is common knowledge, with both English and French as official languages of Canada, that both languages are in the media, excluding minority languages such as Ojibwe and Cree from major forms of media.

The population of First Nations amounts to 4% of the total population in Canada (Canadian Census 2011).  A little over a quarter of this population (around 30%) do not speak an indigenous language but rather an official language–see above about media. While children may hear their native language in the home, schools generally use English or French as a medium of instruction. The policy also contributes to the power of the official languages in mainstream media. There is a strong declination in language use due to “anglophone or francophone assimilation and globalization” (Duff et al 2009). Because of this growing advancement of English and French, there have been attempts for children and adults to “(re)learn or reconnect with their ancestral languages.” However, “the Canadian government now recognizes the importance of language revitalization for the health and well-being of individuals and communities.” Likewise, Indigenous peoples of Canada have the highest suicide rate in the country (Bhaia 2010). With the suicide rates of these peoples nearly 11 times the national average, a contribution of linguacide may also contribute as language lost can affect identity. 


Bhaia, Julie. (2010). Canada Aboriginal Youth Suicide Hits Crisis Rate. Global Voices.


Vanishing Voices. Language situation in Southern Alberta, Canada



Preserving First Nations languages




Do You Speak My Language - Mi'kmaw at First Nations School in Nova Scotia




Bhaia, Julie. (2010). Canada Aboriginal Youth Suicide Hits Crisis Rate. Global Voices. Information obtained on 9 November, 2013.


Duff, P. & Li, D. (2009). Indigenous, Minority, and Heritage Language Education in Canada: Policies, Contexts, and Issues. The Canadian Modern Language Review/La Revue canadienne des languages vivantes, 66 (1) 1-8.


Morris, S. V, McLeod, K. A, & Danesi, M. (1993). Aboriginal languages and education : the Canadian experience. Oakville, Ont.: Mosaic Press.


Valentine, R. (2001). Nishnaabemwin Reference Grammar. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 


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This information was originally published on the website of the International Network for Language Education Policy Studies ( as

Kingfisher, B. (2013). Language Education Policy in Canada: Indigenous People. In F. V. Tochon (Ed.), Language Education Policy Studies (online). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin—Madison. Retrieved from: (access date). 

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