[Witness spoke in Mi’kmaq and provided the following text:]
Wela'lioq, ta'n tel pekitimioq.
[Witness provided the following translation:]
Thank you for inviting me here today.
I had certainly hoped to be there in person, but maybe next time.
Mi'kmaq language has been on a decline over the last number of decades.
In comparative studies done in 1999 and 2013 by Mi'kmaw Kina'matnewey, language data in age populations found that generally the population aged 40 and above are not in an immediate threat to their understanding and speaking of Mi'kmaq; however, those 30 and under were faced with a sudden decrease in the population of speakers, but generally had a good range of people who understood Mi'kmaq. They were not able to speak it but were able to understand. Those under the age of 20—from zero to 20—were dangerously low in both the population of speakers and those who understood Mi'kmaq. We projected some linear and exponential data bringing us to 13 years later from 2013, and we predict certainly a bigger decline in those populations of speakers.
We try to project our data and our discussion with community around the realities of this data and where we sit today from where we sat in 2013. I indicated to communities that if nothing changes, this is the predicted decline, and much of it is critical. A lot of it, especially for those zero to 12, is “sleeping”, meaning that there are no active speakers in those age populations.
Mi'kmaw Kina'matnewey, along with communities, implemented quick measures and put them into place, such as teacher development, language planning curriculum and program development, and continue to do so year over year.
Standing here—virtually, of course—is something that I have done in the past as I speak to the benefit of the Indigenous Languages Act. Along with Chief Denny, I helped shape what the act looks like. We were able to receive feedback from our nation and heard engagement from across the nation of Canada, which we bring here today. We sit in favour of the act. We sit in favour of more sustainable funding to implement the measures required to sustain and revitalize languages.
Of course, speaking as a resident of the Atlantic region, and more specifically Nova Scotia, what has this act done for us? It's been a little time since 2019, when the act was passed. We have had our common share of struggles in the last couple of years. It certainly has not deterred us from the work we're doing. Very plainly, what has this done for us? I can explain what we feel: that the Indigenous Languages Act helped us advance here in Nova Scotia as a Mi'kmaq nation. We have benefited from the act. There are sections within the act that prompt provinces and territories to do work to help nations revitalize and reclaim their languages.
I'm very proud to stand here today and let you know that we co-developed legislation called the “Mi'kmaw Language Act”—“An Act to Recognize, Promote and Support the Revitalization and Reclamation of the Mi'kmaw Language”—here in Nova Scotia. We co-developed this last year and submitted it to the bill system in February 2022. In April, we saw the first, second and third readings unanimously pass through the government. As you know, we have a really unique government system.
Currently in Nova Scotia, we have a Conservative leadership, but we really collectively work with all members of government. We recognize our past work with the Liberal government and how we started the advancement of this work and concluded it with the Conservative government, as well as the NDP government. It was quite unique in that it received unanimous support in April 2022.
We're self-determined in our nation and recognize that we have our own functions of laws and our own processes for laws to be passed, so we certainly respect the way Nova Scotia planned to uphold and proclaim their law. We did so in a joint way in July 2022. The law itself came into effect on October 1. It's a significant day for the Mi'kmaq, being Mi'kmaq Treaty Day here in Nova Scotia.
What does this act aim to do for us, and what supports does it give us? For us, being very distinct here in Nova Scotia, we are just one nation. There is only the Mi'kmaq nation here, so we have one language here in Nova Scotia, which is Mi'kmaq. The act recognizes Mi'kmaq as the original language of this land, among other things. Very plainly, it aims to develop a strategy and an action plan to revitalize the language. We have gotten to work, and it's still very fresh, but we're looking forward to the future there.
Aside from that, there is a financial benefit of the act. Currently, through the act, Mi'kmaw Kina'matnewey is a third party manager to the indigenous languages component. We are currently not in any section 8 or 9 deals with the federal government, but we are exploring some options there. We do manage this small pot of money for the indigenous languages component. This allows us to really make the decisions as a collective to fund projects.
What that means in terms of investment is that, with the ongoing funding, without the enhancements of funding, that brings approximately $500,000 to Mi'kmaw Kina'matnewey. That translates to about one and a half projects that communities apply for and that we manage and provide support for, so that is not sustainable.